Saturday, July 2, 2016

Rioja: Old versus New in Laguardia

Laguardia is a picturesque walled village perched on a hill surrounded by Rioja vineyards. In addition to the walls, Medieval inhabitants built tunnels under the town for protection during battles, and these tunnels have now become wineries and wine cellars. Because there is so much hollow space under the town, no cars are allowed--and all the better for tourists. It is a beautiful place to explore and learn about wine.

Carlos San Pedro showed us four of his wines at Bodegas Carlos San Pedro--two vintages of his Vinasperi Reserva and two vintages of a signature wine, Vinasperi Collection Familiar. All were very good but not at all as traditional as the village from which they come. Modernization of the winery took place in the early 1990s, Carlos explained. And what does he think about the changes? I asked. Does he like the traditional style or the new, international style? He never really answered my question but talked instead about the advantages of modernization. Now, we can control temperature more easily during fermentation, he said. Now we worry less and work fewer hours to get our finished product.

In a tourist destination, the Collection Familiar sells for about 40 to 50 Euros--three times as much as the more traditional Marques de Riscal Reserva from the nearby village of Elciego. The wines are very good and could sit comfortably beside a similarly priced Napa Cabernet. Taste blind, and you might never know which wine came from a walled Medieval village.

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