The wines that first got me truly interested in following wine were Riojas. I remember enjoying several cases of Rioja Vega, Domecq Domaine, and Olarra Riojas in the late 1970s--all priced around $2 to $3 a bottle and offering so much more than anything I could find in New World wines. But Rioja wines started changing in the early 1980s, and so did my taste in wines. But I have a few old bottles lingering in the cellar, and, for a family gathering tonight, I decided to bring out a couple.
1978 Cune Rioja is darker in color and seems much younger than its years. The smell of vanilla-tinged American oak barrels is prominent, as it was 35 years ago. Creamy mouthfeel. Dark fruit and oak. A real delight to drink.
1975 Ramon Bilbao Vina Turzaballa Rioja: When first opened, this wine seems a bit precarious. The bouquet is fabulous, but the color has faded to amber and the flavors seem a bit rustic. After an hour or so, however, this wine starts to show its stuff. The American oak is still there but integrated nicely with the herb-tinged Temperanillo fruit. The complexity is remarkable. This is why you age wines; magic has happened in the bottle and this wine has many stories to tell. I love it.