A few years ago, we had a phone call from a friendly Spanish winemaker named Pedro, who happened to be in the area and wanted to pop by and share with us a few of his aged Riojas. Not wishing to be rude (or indeed miss an opportunity), we agreed to meet with him. Trouble was, Pedro was flying home and could only spare 10am Friday morning, particularly grim because it was the morning after a family wedding…!
Years ago, a 10am tasting after a night on the town would not have daunted me. But 25 years in the trade and you really start to feel it! Suffice to say, this was one tasting I wasn’t looking forward to.
And so it was, a couple of Alka Seltzer and here we were, at the beginning of a fabulous new trading relationship with the most charming of winemakers. Pedro rocked up (he is a bit of a rock star to be fair) with his basket of goodies and, well, the rest is history.
Boy, were we impressed and stunned with excitement. Pedro Urbina has an impressive handle on the English language – one of those people in life that you simply like to sit back and listen to. He has a simple manner and within moments of meeting him, we were captivated by his angle on winemaking in the Rioja region. Pedro is the current winemaker in this old family winery – he may be young, but he certainly knows what he’s doing.
The Urbina family enjoy a unique stance on Rioja wines, preferring to keep them in their cellars for considerably longer than most Rioja producers, releasing only when their wines begin showing real maturity.
That day, Pedro brought with him a selection of his older wines, very old to be precise. In all my years in the wine trade, I had never experienced such old Riojas. We started with a 2008 Crianza. 2008!!! Most Crianza in today’s market is 2018! It was a golden/brick colour, to be expected given its age, yet deliciously fresh as a daisy on the palate.
Next was a 1999 Crianza – yup nigh on 18 years old, fruit-driven with vanilla tones and once again fresh and zippy. Then came my favourite – a 1998 Reserva Especial. Its colour was almost orange, its flavours gamey and herbaceous in one. The wine had complexity and sure enough, every sip took on a different angle. Pedro suggested pigeon as a food accompaniment.
We followed this with a 1996 Gran Reserva. This wine had spent significantly longer in tank before barrel age and bottling. It was noticeable how much more depth and weight there was here. Beef was the food suggestion here or a very tangy Cheddar.
Finally, Pedro’s ‘piece de resistance’, the 1994 Gran Reserva Especial. He had enjoyed this himself the previous night with truffle-infused cheese. Exquisite, enough said.
A few years on and we still have stocks of the 1994 Gran Reserva and the ’99 Crianza, whilst the ’98 Reserva Especial has been superceded by the 2006 vintage – I find myself jumping up and down whenever I mention the 2006!
Make no mistake, Urbina wines are something very, very special. Always top of the class and hugely respected across the wine trade. What more to say than thank goodness for Alka Seltzer!
If you’d like to learn more, be sure to join us live in conversation with the maestro himself on Thursday 8th October 2020 for a Lockdown Live! special event.
Details about the event are available HERE>