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WINE REVIEW: Ramon Bilbao 2016 Rioja Reserva, Spain ($27)

by Andrew Chalk

This wine has some age (7 Years) and so is starting to develop. There is so much intensity that it would be best cellared away for a decade, at which time it should be softer and more resolved. Recommended.


Rioja D.O.Ca wines are known for complex and bold flavors, stemming from the specific oak aging requirements in the region and the opportunity for additional bottle aging. Ramón Bilbao, founded in 1924, has built a reputation for crafting elegant wines that embody notable characteristics of Rioja with a twist, by following nine principles (learn more here).

From utilizing traditional ingredients with a re-envisioned approach, to incorporating a racking system, cement vats, and conducting extensive yeast research, the winery is always seeking innovation. Ramón Bilbao is spread across single vineyard sites that are unique for their altitude, proximity to the mountainsides and the Atlantic Ocean. These optimal location factors allow the harvest to occur at the tail-end of the summer, maintaining fresh fruit flavors in the wine.

Winemaker Rodolfo Bastida, who joined Ramón Bilbao in 1999, has made it his mission to emphasize two essential qualities in the portfolio: freshness and fruit-forward. Rodolfo mastered crafting robust wines that maintain powerful aromatics by aging wines for a maximum of five years in premium American and French oak barrels and avoiding the typical filtration step in the production process. Rodolfo and his team deliver classic Rioja reds with a twist that embody healthy levels of acidity and fruitiness that harmonize with tannins over time and underscore the true expression of their grapes.

For example, we have the Ramón Bilbao Reserva 2016 ($27) that is made with mostly Tempranillo and a 10% blend of Graciano and Mazuelo. Grown from 40 year old vines in the Rioja Alta sub-region, the wine bursts with flavors of both red and black fruit (think raspberries, blackberries). On the nose there are notes of vanilla, tobacco leaf, biscuit, and cinnamon, evident from the 20 months of aging in American oak barrels. The blend is then aged in the bottle for additional months, resultings in a refreshing medium-bodied Reserva wine with creamy tannins and a persistent finish


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