Purple Palate Blog

Day 7 – Solar Viejo and the Bilbao Guggenheim

Woke refreshed, and starving. We made our own breakfast (only vegetables for the day).

We organised ourselves for a meeting at Bodegas Solar Viejo in Laguardia (with much thanks to Greg Pithers-The Wine Traveller).

We were met by Vanesa Perez, who’s command of English was impeccable, surpassed only by her knowledge of their wines.

Okay strap in, here is Rioja in a nutshell.

Rioja is divided into 3 regions, Rioja Baja, and Rioja Alta in La Rioja, and a Rioja Alavesa in Basque Country, delineated by the Ebro River. Therefore Alavesa is in 2 parts, separated by Rioja Alta.

Each region is known for different characteristics they bring to the wines of Rioja.

Alavesa brings Fruit, Baja brings colour and alcohol, and Alta brings acidity. This means a dual philosophy has begun in Rioja.

The traditional philosophy is that the best wines are blended from across the regions. A new mindset is occurring with more focus on the seperate regions and showing their characters at their best, to the point of labelling the wines by regionality (subdivisions), eg Rioja Alavesa Reserva, rather than Rioja Reserva.

The biggest factors for grape growing are the Ebro river, the Sierra La Cantabria in the north (protecting the region from rain, and winds from Atlantic) and Sierra de la Demanda in the west and south.

Bodegas Solar Viejo was founded in hill town of Laguardia in 1937 during the civil war, where it had an underground cellar, which connected to all the underground cellars that riddled the town.

Since then they have grown and relocated to the flats outside the town. With significant investment from Frexinet, they have a very modern winery. They have their own vineyards and have contracts with other grape growers. (There are 61000 growers some with vineyards less than an acre).

We travelled the winery and ended in the tasting room- what a view!

We tried 3 wines, the pick for my palate was the Solar Viejo Reserva 2013.

The wines appearance was clear, medium plus intensity ruby, with the nose being clean and expressing medium plus intensity notes of primary flavours of red fruits (strawberry, raspberry), black fruits (blackberry), with oak notes(vanilla, toast, and sweet spice), and having tertiary notes of prune, bottle age(chocolate, tobacco).

The palate was dry, medium plus acidity, with medium plus fine grained tannins, medium plus alcohol ( not warming at all), medium plus rich body, showing medium plus intensity of flavour notes of primary flavours of red fruits (strawberry, raspberry), black fruits (blackberry), with oak notes(vanilla, toast, and sweet spice), and having tertiary notes of prune, bottle age(chocolate, tobacco).

With a finish that was long and complex with dark chocolate, tobacco and blackberry.

This wine was a quality wine, being very good, if not outstanding. The balance of primary fruits (red and black), secondary notes (oak), and tertiary flavours against acidity and tannins was seamless, with complexity across the range of primary, secondary and tertiary notes dancing over the palate, finishing with a long, lovely, very pleasant length, and a moderate intensity of flavours and aromas (the only area that was not peak in evaluation, though I still feel this wine was exceptional)

I sit here typing the tasting after buying a bottle, and enjoying the wine as I type.

After finishing at Solar Viejo, we heading towards the coast to the newly revitalised city of Bilbao, home of the extraordinary Guggenheim Museum of modern art.

The building makes me realise just how brave the Europeans are with their architectural decisions. It is truly extraordinary. Vast metallic clad curving vaulted domes and swirls, 10 meter tall spiders and floral puppies, giant anodised tulips, flame throwers erupting from mirror pools and mist swathing the riverside walkways… all this before you get inside.

Once inside the most impressive thing becomes the logistics involved with many of the works. Massive 6cm thick 4 meter tall upright steel plates been held up by sheer willpower, a crocheted floral alien that writhes it’s way through the entire space of the museum… it literally has no start or end… all really impressive until you listen to the audio guide. Is wank spelled with a c or a k? Seriously, don’t make up some BS explanation. Just own the fact that this is something massive/creative/beautiful/naughty… don’t justify its existence by making up some ridiculous story about the journey of the Valkyrie for God’s sake!

Walked 45minutes back to the car along the beautiful riverwalk, and headed back to Logrono.

Off to Bordeaux tomorrow. Night night. 26000 steps today.

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