How do I describe the 2011 Valenciso Rioja Blanco, a wine that tastes like no other? With great difficulty, I’m afraid, since Valenciso’s remarkable barrel aged white Rioja has few peers and it doesn’t conjure many memories of white Rioja from bygone years, and for that we are thankful. Perhaps, the best descriptor of this golden hued, bone dry white wine comes from a panel member who uttered “At last, a white wine for red wine drinkers.” And although some might take issue with that remark or totally miss the point he was trying to make, the comment is not altogether offbeat. Valenciso’s 2011 Rioja Blanco acts very much like a young red wine, which means this authentic white Rioja needs time to breathe and evolve in the glass to release its enchanting melon, citrus, and floral components. But what is already present and front and center are the vivacity, refinement, and pinpoint precision in Valenciso’s white Rioja that shine through the spicy patina of oak that provides texture as well as ample backbone and structure for ageing. Having tasted previous vintages of Valenciso’s beautiful Rioja Blanco in Spain last year, I believe this wine is capable of evolving successfully in bottle for years to come, but it will be utterly amazing with just a few more months of bottle age. Consequently, I would opt to hold this rare white Rioja (only 15 small barrels were produced) just a bit longer in bottle because what is already very good will get even better. For optimal enjoyment we suggest moderate chilling (40°-45° F) and at least 10-15 minutes of aeration before consuming.
As the epitome of barrel aged white Rioja, the 2011 Valenciso Rioja Blanco deserves culinary accompaniments of similar stature. Undoubtedly, the best white Rioja can be used as a substitute for the finest Chardonnay, but why stop there? For starters, consider pairing Valenciso’s 2011 Rioja Blanco with stuffed mushroom caps; this match got our mouths watering. However, remember to save some of the wine or plan to have a second bottle on hand, as it would be a shame to run out of this rare offering before the main course. Fish and shellfish provide excellent accompaniments. Salmon and tuna make especially great companions to Valenciso’s flavorful but refined Rioja Blanco. Salmon with a rich fennel sauce pairs exceptionally well. For even more punch, consider pairing the Valenciso Rioja Blanco with tuna served with a piquant mango salsa replete with a bit of heat. For many, this dish will provide an ideal pairing. Couscous with grilled chicken and white raisons makes a fine showing, too. And a plate full of lobster or crab legs with a touch of warm drawn butter offers another truly stellar pairing. Enjoy!
The Compania Bodeguera de Valenciso is run with great care and precision by the gracious Luis Valentin and his partner Carmen Enciso. A visit to this meticulous winery provided one of the highlights of a recent trip to Spain, as this bodega’s winery and vineyards raise the bar for everyone else in Rioja interested in making world class wine. This month’s offering – a rare and highly allocated release of outstanding white Rioja – comes on the heels of Valenciso’s extraordinary 2006 red Rioja Reserva that we featured earlier in the year. Normally, The International Wine of the Month Club does not feature the same winery to members during the course of any calendar year, but this rare, first time offering has received such rave reviews that we felt compelled to break with tradition. We trust you will agree.
The name Valenciso, a combination of the proprietors’ two last names, was born when Luis and Carmen left their respective positions at one of Rioja’s oldest and most prestigious bodegas. With a shared vision of creating a truly boutique Rioja in their own cellar, Luis and Carmen have created two of the finest and most seductive of all Rioja wines. Their dream comes to life each vintage in the outstanding Rioja Reserva and now in a rare Rioja Blanco, too, that flow harmoniously from their bodega into our glasses.
The secret to the nearly instantaneous success of Valenciso is the passion Luis and Carmen apply to making wines. They first established their reputation by coaxing greatness from old vine Tempranillo, the quintessential Spanish grape varietal that steals the heart and defines the soul of Rioja. Recently, Valenciso has embarked on fashioning an equally impressive white Rioja from Viura and White Grenache, Rioja’s traditional white grape varieties. Yields in the vineyard are kept draconically small in order to fashion wines of finesse, flavor, and symphonic harmony. In addition, all of Valenciso’s wines are made in very small lots or cuvees in the cleanest, most impeccably run winery we have ever visited. Moreover, only small barriques are used for aging, a third of which are renewed annually. French oak predominates, and all of their cork is of “flor” quality, the highest level possible. Yet, without expert winemaking, all of these measures would be of marginal value at best. With a string of successes that began with Valenciso’s inaugural vintage in 2000, Luis and Carmen have made their dream come true. Only one Rioja Reserva and very limited quantities of an exceptional white Rioja are made at Valenciso.
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