An exploration of wine

Roda: original modern face of Rioja and beyond

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Bodegas Roda entrance

Roda. Just in case you didn’t know which bodega you’d arrived at…

With a first vintage in 1992, Bodegas Roda were pioneers of the ‘modern’ Rioja style that emerged in that decade. Every aspect of their set-up epitomises this approach, from branding to bodega and of course the resulting wines.

Roda rear view to Tondonia

The Tondonia bodega is a literal stone’s throw away, as indicated by the windmill direction vane

In fact, there is no better contrast than to visit ultra-traditionalists Tondonia, then walk 3 minutes up the road to Roda, directly next door in the Barrio district of Haro. One, old vats, cobwebs and long-aged, classic Riojas; the other a cool, clean, pristine, designer bodega with richly-oaked, modern Rioja wines. Utterly different, yet both producing good and great wines.

Since rising to prominence in Rioja, mainly through their Roda Reserva and Roda I Reserva pair, followed by super-premium Cirsion bottling, the company has expanded into a Ribera del Duero line of wines: Corimbo from Bodegas La Horra. It also added the entry-level Sela to its Rioja range.

I have enjoyed a number of Roda wines, particularly Roda I, including their debut 1992, their fine 2001 and more recently their 2004 – though it is showing quite robust tannins at present, as I discovered at ProWein 2018.

This short profile is primarily built around going to the bodega in 2014, which included a fair amount of technical depth given that it was ‘just a tourist visit’, and supplemented by my ProWein notes.

 

In the Vineyard

Roda have access to 28 vineyard plots across 110km of the Rioja region, at 600-800m altitude. These are from 30 years of age, up to 75 years that typically goes into Cirsion and 90% Tempranillo, with the remainder Graciano and Garnacha.

Green harvesting is applied to limit yields somewhat, to 5t / Ha vs 6.5t / Ha permitted for Rioja as a whole. From these 28 parcels, the best 17 plots are selected for the Roda range, and hand-harvested into 15kg crates.

These are then transported to the bodega in Haro. Given the distances involved, SO2 is added in the vineyard to help preserve the fruit during transportation.

 

In the Winery

French oak fermentation vats Roda

Roda’s array of cuve close French oak fermentation vats

As might be expected, bunches pass through a sorting table before being 100% destemmed and crushed. Each parcel is separately vinified in one of 17 20,000 and 10-12,000L closed French oak vats. Fermentation with natural yeast lasts 20-30 days, with 5 at 14-15°C, followed by the remainder controlled at 28°C, with twice-daily pumpovers. A week of maceration follows fermentation.

Malolactic barrel room

Roda’s immaculate, climate-controlled, glass-lined, dedicated malolactic room

These 17 vats remain separated when the wine is transferred to barriques in the MLF room. Here, at 80% humidity, temperatures are controlled to 21°C and MLF takes place over a month (typically December) without inoculation. Once completed, the temperature is dropped to 4°C, to stabilise the wine.

Roda barrel maturation room

Roda’s logo – back-lit as adopted by other bodegas – branding their maturation room

Both Roda and Roda I wines are designated Reserva, so all 17 plots – still separate – go to different French oak for 14-18 months’ maturation in Medium toast Allier barriques, which are replaced every 3 years. These are racked every 3 months, and samples of the 17 plots are analysed.

Plots yielding red fruit profiles are designated for Roda Reserva; those with black fruit go to Roda I Reserva. These are then blended after maturation, in the original fermentation vats, then egg-white fined.

Roda bottle maturation cellar

Dust and cobweb-free bottle maturation cellar

After a 20-day rest, they are bottled, then bottle-matured for 2 years, to meet the Reserva requirements for 3 years’ total maturation in oak and bottle.

 

Wines

Bodegas Roda Rioja Sela 2015 (15.5 / 20)
Tasted at ProWein 2018. 95% Tempranillo, 5% Graciano.
A: Mid-ruby
N: Primary, almost some carbonic. Red & black fruits
P: Quite rustic, firm tannins. Spicy. Background oak spice

Bodegas Roda Rioja Sela 2010 (?? / 20)
Tasted at the bodega in 2014. 15-30 year old vines. 95% Tempranillo, 5% Graciano. 14% ABV. Not designated as Crianza or above.
A: Medium-deep ruby, with a narrow, cherry rim
N: Bright, red cherry fruit, with a slight bramble jam tinge. Spice and black pepper. Some bready, yeasty notes
P: Fruity with a savoury, granitic mineral undertow. Some background spice. Some degree of tannic firmness, but very fine-grained

Bodegas Roda Rioja Reserva Roda 2014 (16+ / 20)
Tasted at ProWein 2018. Some Garnacha and Graciano.
A: Mid-deep ruby
N: Mocha. Cedar. Cinnamon and clove
P: Red cherry. Firm, fine tannins (M+). M+ slightly warming

Bodegas Roda Rioja Reserva Roda 2008 (?? / 20)
Tasted at the bodega in 2014. 90% Tempranillo, 6% Graciano, 4% Garnacha. 13.5% ABV.
A: Medium-deep ruby-garnet
N: Vanilla, meaty cinnamon-toast, oak spice. Ripe (not sour) red cherry. Savoury but with sweet fruit underneath. Slatey mineral note
P: Fuller than Sela. Ripe, savoury, oaky palate. Blackberry fruit. Rich. Fine, but firmer tannins

Bodegas Roda Rioja Reserva Roda I 2011 (17.5 / 20)
Tasted at ProWein 2018.
A: Mid-deep ruby
N: Deep, cedar-clove. Refined. Ripe black cherry and crushed rock minerality beneath. Dense
P: Full-bodied, ripe spicy, smoky black fruit. Rich, but not super-powerful. Fairly-firm, very fine-grained tannins. Long

Bodegas Roda Rioja Reserva Roda I 2010 (17 / 20)
Tasted at ProWein 2018.
N: Tobacco tones. Some VA tiredness of sample (bottom of the bottle)? Toasty oak
P: Dense black fruit. Rich. Dense, compact, fine, firm to high tannins. Power. Flinty / smoky. Pretty long. Nice

Bodegas Roda Rioja Reserva Roda I 2004 (17.5 / 20)
Tasted at ProWein 2018.
A: Mid-deep Garnet
N: Attractive, integrated cedar, fresh tobacco and dried red & black fruits. Some earthy, forest tertiary character. Toasty. 100% clean?
P: Medium body. Truffle and earth tones over dried black fruit, mocha oak and spice. Very firm, fine tannins. Still needs 5 years before it’s ready

Bodegas Roda Rioja Reserva Cirsion 2015 (17+ / 20)
Tasted at ProWein 2018. Unusually 14% Graciano for acidity as a hot year; normally 100% Tempranillo
N: More floral, elegant and aromatic red and black cherry. Subtle caramel and vanilla oak
P: Black, ripe, slightly jammy fruit with vanilla overlay and spicy, mineral undertow. Firm, slightly grainy tannins. Needs 10 years

Bodegas Roda Corimbo Ribera del Duero 2013 (16 / 20)
Tasted at ProWein 2018. 100% Tempranillo, but younger vines
A: Mid ruby
N: Ripe, slightly jammy black cherry. Torrified oak tones and caramel. Sweet. Some cordite / minerality. More than entry level
P: Red fruit and oak spice. Some freshness, but in a ripe style. Spice. Firm, grainy tannins a little jarring

Bodegas Roda Corimbo I Ribera del Duero 2012 (17+ / 20)
Tasted at ProWein 2018.
A: Deep ruby-purple
N: Much richer, torrified and clove oak. Rich and dense
P: Full body, rich black, smoky fruit with weighty overtones of clove and spicy oak. Powerful. High, chalky tannins. Warming, but not overly so

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