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Wine Legend: Bodegas Roda, Roda I Reserva 1994

'A fresh, linear wine, with a lively palate...'

Wine Legend: Bodegas Roda, Roda I Reserva 1994, Rioja, Spain

  • Bottles produced 83,000
  • Composition 83% Tempranillo, 17% Garnacha
  • Yield 40hl/ha
  • Alcohol 13.5%
  • Release price £45
  • Price today £100 approx

A legend because…

Roda was founded in 1987 by drinks distributors Mario Rotllant and Carmen Daurell, after a long search for the ideal base for their winemaking project. They eventually settled on the Rioja Alta region. They located their winery in the historic Haro Station District, and it soon made an impact with modern-style wines. The focus was on old vines, especially those cultivated as bush vines. Roda also differentiated between wines with a predominantly red-fruit character – labelled simply as Roda – and those with more balsamic black-fruit character, which were released as Roda I. This is a stylistic choice on the part of the winery, the goal being to create two different interpretations of Rioja.

Looking back

Although the company was established in 1987, the winery in Haro wasn’t completed until 2001. By then it had gained its reputation as one of the top producers in the region. Rotllant had deliberately assembled a viticultural and winemaking team that had extensive experience outside Rioja and very little within it. The idea was to approach the region with a clean slate and no preconceptions, hence the release of cuvées based on style rather than location.

The vintage

The 1994 growing season in Rioja was very dry, and the grapes matured in perfectly healthy conditions. Rainfall was low, but a downpour in late September refreshed the grapes and allowed them to complete the maturation cycle without too much stress. The harvest took place from 1-25 October.

The terroir

Roda owns 70ha of vines, but controls a further 50ha through agreements with trusted local growers. The 20 vineyards from which grapes are sourced are located at elevations between 380m-650m, and the vines are all more than 30 years old. They are dry-farmed, and although the viticulture is sustainable, Roda does not claim to farm organically, as the climate makes that approach too risky.

The wine

The fermentation took place with indigenous yeasts in oak vats at temperatures no higher than 30°C, and malolactic fermentation was completed in barriques. Then the wine continued its ageing in 33% new French oak for 24 months. The toasting was light to medium, to ensure that the oak did not dominate the wine – recent vintages are only aged for about 16 months, but in 50% new oak. Before bottling, the wine was fined with egg whites, but not filtered. After bottling it was left undisturbed for a further 12 months before release.

The reaction

In 1998, Thomas Matthews noted in Wine Spectator: ‘This polished red marries extraction and elegance, with a firm structure and well-balanced flavours of plum, toast and spice that linger on the clean, fresh finish. Drink now through 2005.’

In 2017, Sarah Jane Evans MW attended a vertical tasting of Roda wines in Rioja and noted: ‘It’s a fresh, linear wine with a firm and lively palate. It may not be fleshy, but it is bold and intense, with black plums, dark chocolate and tobacco. Its age has endowed it with a silky texture.’

In 2018, Tom Cannavan reported on the same tasting on www.wine-pages.com: ‘Lovely edge of brick to the colour. Dry, mineral, a touch of iron oxide, a touch of dried blood. Beautiful fruit on the palate, very dry, the tannins coating the mouth, but such a delightful cherry and blackcurrant intensity of fruit. Racing acidity adds to the wiry, tense feel of the wine. Fabulous length.’

Decanter Premium members can see Sarah Jane Evans MW’s full tasting note and score below:

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