2005 Arzuaga Ribera del Duero Crianza

Hello friends. Our list has dibs today on a price drop for a lovely, well-aged Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero:

This wine began its life at a $35 price point on release in 2008. Now, nearly five years later, as the wine is entering peak drinking window, we’re able to massage the tariff down under $25.

It’s a time-limited deal that was offered to our list after I expressed enthusiasm for the wine at a recent tasting. I need to send numbers on Monday morning, so please try to submit order requests by the end of the weekend. We may be able to fulfill some reorder requests, but those will likely be at something closer to a $30 tariff.

I had a few reasons for expressing enthusiasm after tasting this. For one thing, while we have offered a good chunk of Spanish Tempranillo, most of it has been from Rioja. I had been looking for a good, typical bottle from the Ribera, and this fit the bill. Another reason is bottle age, and that’s a reason to love Spain generally. How many 2005s do you see on the shelves as current releases? It’s a real pleasure to let someone else do the cellaring for us, so that we can access the wine when it’s meant to be accessed, at the peak of its powers to please.

And finally, I wanted to offer this particular Ribera because it provides an opportunity to talk about oak. Most fashion trends in wine tend to be binary affairs. “I like” or “I don’t like.” Oak is no different. In the ‘90s, it was cool to be pro-oak (“I just love this buttery Chardonnay”). Nowadays, the anti- camp is ascendant.

But like most things in wine (and, I suppose, life), a binary evaluation does not do justice to the myriad shades of grey. Spain is a fine example. Good producers in Spain make judicious use of American oak. In a cruel twist, it seems more challenging for domestic producers to use our homegrown oak, where it frequently imparts aggressive aromas of dill and other pickling spices.

In Spanish hands, however, and swaddling Spanish Tempranillo, it can really sing, especially when it has as much time to integrate as this wine has. You can see the evolution in the aromatics, where what was once more overt woodsmoke and vanilla bean has now softened into notes still woodsy but now more subtly fungal (like fresh-dug chanterelles) or leafy (like pipe tobacco). It’s the perfect complement for Tempranillo’s core of red- and black-cherry fruit. On the palate, that core of cherry fruit continues, surrounded by maturing notes of mushroom and leather and soil. The structure here – citrus-pith acids and softening, fine-grained tannins – is in fine balance with the fruit and the alcohol (14%).

Bodegas Arzuaga is located here, on the western edge of the Ribera, with 370 acres of estate vineyards (planted about 90% to Tempranillo, and the remainder to Cab and Merlot) interspersed with a wild game reserve. Wild boar is the most populous animal on the reserve, and if you’re thinking that they like to serve a wild boar shoulder roast with a pitcher or two of this Crianza, you’d be correct.

First come first served up to 12 bottles, and the wine should arrive in about a week, at which point it will be available for pickup or shipping during the autumn shipping window.

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