After several decades of wine writing one of the things that this reporter knows is that there is always something new to be learned about vineyards and wine making. This was evident, once again, when we attended a seminar luncheon conducted by Bodegas Beronia of Spain's famed La Rioja region.
The seminar was conducted by Matias Calleja, Beronia winemaker and Technical Director with over thirty years of experience.
He opened by explaining that with winemaking there always must be experimenting to see how it can improve the style, taste and aroma of a wine. At Beronia Caleja has long recognized the importance of the barrel in producing a superior wine. To this end he uses both American and French oak and uniquely has combined the two in a single barrel by using American staves and French tops. This concept was completely new to this Writer.
Beronia was founded in 1937 and in 1982 the Gonzalez Byass Family added it to their firm which has become a major factor in marketing the wines of La Rioja world wide. There is a close relationship with over two hundred growers giving Matias Calleja large choices in selecting the right varietal from the right vineyard.
Tempanillo is the major varietal used in these wines but other native varietals include Graciano, Mazuelo, Garnacha and Viura.
Some of the wines we tasted included a 2006 Beronia Rioja Gran Reserva which received high points on our card. We also had the opportunity to taste the same vintage that had been in American oak, French oak and the combined Beronia barrel. It was most interesting to taste the unique characteristics that the different barrels produced in the vintage.
Highlight of the tasting was 1973 Beronia Rioja Gran Reserva. This wine, at 43 years of age, still produced remarkable flavors, intense color and long finish. The event took place at Boa Steakhouse of West Hollywood which served a memorable luncheon to go with the Beronia wines.
After the event we had the opportunity to meet and chat with Christopher Canale-Parola, western manager for Gonzalez Byass Famila de Vino and Matias Calleja. They told of their experimental program using 200 barrels from many sources and countries to see how they effect the aging of a vintage. Four barrels from the same source and with the same degree of toast is used with each experiment. For aging of their wines Beronia has nearly 30,000 barrels for aging wines in an underground cellar with natural temperature and humidity.
One last note on the Beronia wines we tasted. They were all of exceptional quality and most moderate in price. In fact we thought most of them a true bargain.
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