Meeting James Bond and the Sundance Kid in Rioja

I recently got to hang out with two real characters, one effortlessly smooth and charming, the other more studiously serious but cultivated, but they both impressed me.

colourful woods

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

The first reminded me of Robert Redford. Smooth. Beguiling. Charm radiating at all times, though with hints of a dark passionate streak too. Despite being more mature, the same character shows through that one imagines was there even in youth, but now with added interest and experience.

The second was harder to read, but could have been a Sean Connery type. Here too there was charm and elegance with the maturity, but some of the imposing effect is really muscle, which is impressive in youth but doesn’t necessarily last.

The two characters were related wines from Bodegas Roda in Rioja. The first, a Roda 1 from 2004, and the second, its ‘brother’ from 2005. Two results from the same source, brought up in a very similar way, both recognised stars in their own way, with plenty of familiar characteristics, but quite different from each other.

Tasting the Roda 1 2004 my impression was not just of fruit and tannins of a young wine, it immediately brought to mind something more earthy and mature. Someone at the table suggested that this was “a little rustic, like taking a walk in the woods”. I totally got that, yet it didn’t seem right, or fair. This was far too polished and cerebral for the aromas of autumn leaves, distant wood fires and the hassles of bundling up in old leather jackets to protect yourself from the fresh air. No! This was like reading a poem about taking a walk in the woods. It was all about the impression of that moment, but presented in a way that as you drank it, you were imagining the whole thing whilst simultaneously relaxing in a comfortable, protected environment. Poetry and wine, combined.

Tasting the Roda 1 2005 the impression, to me, was subtly different. This wasn’t poetry in a glass, this was more direct experience of something exciting, dark and smooth. The wine still seemed to have two layers, an outer, impressive, well structured body with velvety tannins that were wrapped around the dark fruit inner layer. This is where I got the image of an individual that had a strong character, that had also spent years toning his body. This character was not defined by that outer strength yet it was undoubtedly there, and it still leaves you wondering how that body will ultimately age. This wine created a strong impression yet also liked to play-up the bad-boy  image and be a bit more of an enigma.

If I had to choose, I’m more inclined to the poet, and in an interesting little twist I remember visiting the winery in 2008 for a regular “tourist” visit at a time when both the 2004 and 2005 were on sale as the current vintage. Interestingly enough … I chose the 2004 even then.

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I tasted these wines at a dinner organised by the winery as part of a wine blogger visit to the RODA winery and vineyards during the Digital Wine Communications Conference (DWCC) and I am very grateful to RODA and Agustin Santolaya for the hospitality. I shall write separately about the rest of the visit.

‘Roda 1′, is a wine made from a selection of the wineries’ 17 parcels of old vines that are made and blended, then selected for this wine because they show more dark fruit, mineral character and great length. This wine’s partner is simply labelled ‘Roda’ – the same wines, from the same vintage, but where the wine making team decide they show more red fruit style, are more rounded and approachable. These are all well polished wines, but the character of each is still allowed to show through in each vintage.