Thankfully I have saved a lot of items over the years, I don’t think that I am a hoarder, but there are items that I have forgotten about and then I remember the moment. I was going through a folder, to see if I did not need anything that was there. There were two pamphlets and a short note from “The Rioja Wine Information Bureau” in New York, and when I went online I could not find that they are still there, but there is a website from Spain handling the information. A wine buyer had given me this information when I was in high school and I wrote to them. One of the pamphlets was “Tempting Spanish Recipes to be enjoyed with the Wines of Rioja” and the other was “Discovering the Wines of Rioja.” For a couple of years I enjoyed a lot of Rioja wines, especially since they were a fourth of the price of a Claret, back then, and as a student I was not rolling in money, that part is still true.
As I was rereading this little pamphlet, one thing I noticed right away, that is so different from today’s publications; there was not a single mention of varietals, and all the emphasis was on the wine region and the type of wines offered. Today it seems that the varietal is at the forefront, as compared to the easy going days of the Sixties and Seventies about wine. They mentioned the different wines from the district, a Rose, a Rioja, a Rioja Clarete, and a Reserva, They also talked about the how the Rioja vintners formed an association back in 1560 to regulate and guarantee the quality and origin of their wines. To this day, there is a little emblem that looks like a small postage stamp on the labels of Rioja wines. The only thing I was surprised that wasn’t mentioned in the pamphlet was the curious “chicken-wire” mesh wrap around a lot of the bottles. Originally this was a way to prevent unscrupulous people from tampering with the wines, and now it is continued more as a trademark and perhaps a marketing tool.
When I red about the different wines, I remembered there being a Rose wine that is made from red grape varietals, but I never tried one, because back in the day I was not into lighter or anything that I thought would be sweet. The Rioja Clarete listing threw me for a loop, and I had to go back to my wine labels to see if I had ever had one, and there it was, I had tried one. I had bought two bottles produced by La Rioja Alta, S.A. a winery that was founded in 1890 in Haro and they are still in existence, still producing wines. I had a bottle of Rioja Clarete 1966, and it was an orange colored wine, and after some research I discovered that it is made from red and white grapes, namely Garnacha and Viura. While the Rose (Rosado) wines even though they are made from red grapes are made like a white wine, the Clarete is made like a red wine, even though it has white wine grapes. After I looked at the label, I remembered that I was not impressed with the wine, so I never had another, but I am sure that it was my youth and inexperience that caused that decision, and I hope that one day I shall try the wine again.
The other wine that I had from the same producer was a Reserva 904 1959, and the two wines were probably bought at the same time or at least within the same year. For years vintages were not a big deal in Rioja, and their finest wines were always considered for long cellaring time. The “904” actually refers to 1904, which was a stellar vintage year for the Rioja district in general, and a big business year for the firm, and they have been labeling the wine Reserva 904 for years, the only change is that now it reads Gran Reserva 904. This wine is historically made from the two varietals Tempranillo and Graciano, and I am sure that it is the case for the wine that I had. Looking back, for all the Rioja wines that I have enjoyed, there are only a few Gran Reserva wines that I have had.