Spain’s Rioja region has long been one of my favorite wine producing regions. Even before I knew much of anything about wine, I enjoyed Rioja tintos – red Riojas – particularly Tempranillo. In fact I’d say that Tempranillo’s from Rioja were the first grape and geographic combination that I knew to look for on wine lists.
I was recently invited to an online tasting of Campo Viejo’s line of red wines. I ended up having a work conflict and couldn’t make the live chat with assistant winemaker Roberto Vicente, but recently went through and did the vertical tasting with some friends. Founded in La Rioja in 1959, Campo Viejo has three different bottlings, each with the same ratio of grapes, but with varied fermentation, maceration, and aging methodology. The result are three distinct, enjoyable, well-priced entries that show the talents of their winemakers and the quality of their fruit.
The Campo Viejo 2007 Crianza is their entry-level wine, priced at $10 a bottle. Like all three of their wines, it is 85% Tempranillo, 10% Garnacha, and 5% Mazuelo. It was fermented at 77 degrees, mascerated for 12 days, and aged for 12 months in American and French oak, then finished in bottles for five to six months before release. It has a dark red-purple hue which was common across the three bottlings. On the nose is dark stone fruit, berries, oak and a mild hint of alcohol. The taste is lead by cherry, then followed by vanilla. The fruit flavor is slightly sour. The wine has fairly light tannins and the finish is long, with a hint of leather. For $10, this is a great deal, as the Crianza is enjoyable and extremely drinkable.
The Campo Viejo 2008 Reserva has the same grape ratio as the Crianza, though how the fruit is used is different. The Reserva is fermented at 82 degress, then aged for 18 months in French and American oak, followed by 18 months in bottles before being released. It has a similar deep ruby red color, but the nose shows a marked different. While there’s still cherry, there’s also orange and baking spices like clove and allspice. The taste begins with sweet cherries and there’s a noticable smokiness from the oak. The Reserva has a great textured mouthfeel, with a medium amount of tannins and some spice. It’s well balanced and has lovely body, though the tannins fade a bit fast for my preference on the finish. It retails for $14 and is another very good value.
The Campo Viejo 2003 Gran Reserva is the high-end offering from the winery. Though it is made from 85% Tempranillo, 10% Garnacha, and 5% Mazuelo, it’s fermented at 82 degrees like the Reserva, but is aged for two years. During that time, it is 80% in French oak and the remaining 20% in American oak. It is then aged in bottles for another three years prior to release. The color is slightly more deep purple than the other bottlings. The nose is incredibly complex and layered, with a thin cherry scent giving way to vanilla, spice and oak. The taste is balanced, with a lot of the oak character coming through and a mid-level amount of smooth tannins. The finish is bright, with some more spice coming through. While I’d say this was the best bottling on the merits, it seemed to lack the body I was hoping for. At $21, it’s still a good deal, though.
Tasting these three wines together was really special. The commonality of the grapes that go into each bottle allows for the difference between different fermentation and aging methods to show themselves. The result is that the craft of the winemakers shows through, all at once. It was a fun way to do a tasting and all of my guests had a good time with it. Opinions varied about which was their favorite, but I think all three wines acquitted themselves well.
Disclosure: This post was made possible because I received free bottles of Campo Viejo Crianza, Reserva & Gran Reserva for the purposes of sample and review.