The better Spanish Riojas are categorized according to the length of time they are aged before release into the market. A crianza spends one year aging in oak barrels. A reserva is aged one year in oak followed by a year in the bottle. A gran reserva spends two years in oak and three years in the bottle prior to release.
All of these time frames have been shortened from earlier historical standards in the main because the marketplace has changed. The modern palate does not lean toward extended time in oak and most definitely not to the open concrete fermentation tanks that predominated in the early twentieth century. The cruder old world practices often resulted in a product that could be oxidized to an unacceptable extent.
Today about half of the producers in Spain and Rioja particularly are using state of the art modern wineries and have embraced at least some modern winemaking practces. The rub lies in knowing which historical practices to discard and which to keep, being mindful and respectful of the history and culture of europe and knowing the difference between trendiness and truth.
So with that in mind Bodegas Bilbainas (est. 1859) offers us Vina Zaco, a young vine 100% Tempranillo red that deliberately discards the traditional aging process designations in favor of winemaker Diego Pinilla's independent declaration of readiness for market. Have they deserted Spanish tradition with this wine? Hardly. The wine's profile has the dusty earth and black cherry typical of the model but moreover adds nuances of coffee, smoke, chocolate, violets, minerals, and an herbaceousness within its medium body format with zippy acidity and pleasant tannins. Kudos to a textbook effort plus. Let's learn more.
Bodegas Bilbainos is a 250 hectare estate in the Haro Station district, the finest region in the Rioja Alta. The soil is a calcareous clay; the climate is continental. The mountains to the north and the Ebro River basin contribute to this most ideal of terroirs. The wine features 100% estate grown fruit.
Diego Pinilla is the extra factor perhaps as essential to any of the others for the quality in the bottle. He has trained in France and worked on three continents including a stint at Clos du Val in Napa California. His contributions to Vina Zaco include maximizing the freshness and fruitiness of the wine through a cold pre-maceration fermentation. This "cold soak" is a non-alcoholic acqueous extraction process which increases color intensity while softening the astringency of the grapes while extending the capabilities of the phenolics inherent in the grapes.
Vino Zaco has earned a 90pt Wine Spectator rating and the 2006 vintage was a WS Top 100 designee. This Friday we will be tasting the 2007 vintage currently offered here at $13.99/btl. Mention this article and get a 10% discount on the wine and a 20% discount on Entlebucher Schwingerkase Raw Milk Swiss Mountain cheese, an ideal mate for Zaco.