Some of the wines I was most looking forward to trying at the Cuatrogatos Wine Fest last weekend were new (and old) wines from an old name: Antonio de la Riva. It is the name of a maker established in the 19th Century, absorbed by Domecq in the late 20th Century and which disappeared as a label not long afterwards, but whose bottles are highly prized by collectors and fans of the older wines. I am neither a collector (except to the extent that winemakers persuade me their wine will improve in the bottle) or particularly big on the bottle aged wines, but even so I was excited about these, because the famous old brand – together with some regal old butts and a supply from some handy soleras and vineyards – has recently been revived under new ownership. And you have to say it could not be in better hands: the Sobrinos de Haurie themselves, Ramiro Ibañez and Willy Perez.
The wines, which up to this weekend had only been tried by a select few, are expected to be released soon. They include a white wine, from pago Macharnudo (and specifically, the corner of the Majuelo vineyard known as “El Notario”), a fino from wines sourced from Balbaína Alta, and two very senior citizens in the form of a very old oloroso and a very very old moscatel. On the day the lads had brought the fino, the oloroso and the moscatel and given the tiny quantities that were available their presentation in public was discreet – as the photographs above show.
The good news is that the wines are absolute belters.
First, the fino is a classic “Jerez” style (I have written “Jerezano twice in my notes”), with a very mineral, compact structure and sapidity. The nose is stoney and weedy, not big and aromatic haybales but more like the overgrown wall of a churchyard. Then it has a sharp zing to it broadening out into a decent mouthful of slightly bitter almonds before a fresh finish. Closer in style to a Camborio than an Inocente but in that same neighbourhood in terms of class with a good ten years under flor.
After the fino, the oloroso, which according to my notes is from Balbaina Baja and is spectacular (double underlined in the original text). Sawdust and alcoholic sweetness on the nose (I have hazelnut vinegar written here), then all the right kind of woody flavours across the palate: walnut and cedar cigar boxes, bitter chocolate and extremely black, salty and peppery coffee. And an unbelievable concentration and acidity – holding even a small sip in your mouth the heat is incredible.
And then the moscatel, which is another absolute beast. More of the same only possibly even more so. Incredibly dense and dark to look at – took an eternity for the drop above to make its way to the tasting receptacle – but just amazing on the nose and the palate, full of ginger and spices, nuts, chocolate and coffee. Enough acidity to keep it honest and balance up its sweetness and incredibly long. Sensational, and being honest, well beyond my powers of description even if I had taken decent notes.
Remember the name: Antonio de la Riva.