Urbina Rioja Dinner with winemaker Pedro Urbina
Wednesday 14th October 2015
On Wednesday 14th October 2015 we were lucky enough to have a visit from Bodegas Urbina winemaker Pedro Urbina and his representative in the UK, Edward Burridge of Burridges of Arlington Street, specialist importers of Spanish wines. This gave us the opportunity to host an Urbina Rioja Dinner at Lysses House Hotel. Here are a few of my thoughts, and a few pictures, of the evening.
It is always good to have access to a winemaker, there are always questions that you can ask a winemaker that no-one else will tell you the answer to. Of course, they don’t always answer the questions one asks! One of the things I was interested in finding out was how can Bodegas Urbina still be selling Urbina Gran Reserva 1996 or Urbina Reserva Especial 2001 Rioja when all other Rioja producers are on something like the 2005 and 2008 vintages? Well it seems that Pedro Senior, who would have been in charge at the time, made a lot of wine of one type if he thought that it would be the best expression of his wine in that vintage. So we, and Urbina, are still selling Urbina Gran Reserva 1996 because they made a lot of Gran Reserva in that year. If my memory serves me correctly, I don’t recall ever selling any 1996 Reservas from Urbina, only Crianza. Likewise in 1999 there was no other Urbina Rioja made apart from the Urbina Seleccion Crianza 1999 (actually, it could be classified as a Reserva, see below) because Pedro Snr thought it would be the best wine to make in that vintage.
Another interesting point that was mentioned, which is a useful point to remind everyone, is that Urbina Crianza has been aged long enough in oak and bottle prior to release to qualify as a Reserva and, similarly, Urbina Reservas qualify as Gran Reservas. Otherwise things seem to be continuing in much the same vein as before at Urbina. Pedro did mention that they are now using 35% French oak and 65% American oak where as it was 100% American previously and that will be interesting to see how it affects the wines going forward. There is also a new project from Urbina coming shortly called Bodegas Salva from Rioja Alta. It is named after Salva after Pedro’s grandfather Salvador and is a joint venture between Pedro and his two brothers Angel and Santiago, who are lecturers at MasterViteno in Madrid. This small 5 hectare estate will produce a Crianza and a Reserva in a more modern, fruit-driven style than the classic Urbina Rioja.
As usual chef Clive Wright and his staff at Lysses House Hotel performed a stellar job in ensuring that everyone was fed and watered well. I know it is not an easy job trying to serve 60 covers all at once. The food, once again, was superb. The starters of cod and chorizo on a bed of spinach with a red wine and cream sauce was a brilliant match for the Urbina Garnacha (Edit 20/01/17 now discontinued and replaced by the unoaked Urbina Tempranillo), the sweet meatiness of the chorizo and the spicy, vibrant, red fruit were a perfect match. The main course was some fantastic Welsh lamb with a Spanish infused butter bean, pepper and courgette stew which worked really well with the Urbina Seleccion. The Urbina Seleccion 1999 is always one of my favourite Urbina Riojas as I find it just has a bit more fruit, but similar power, to their Reserva wines. In fact Pedro calls the Urbina Seleccion 1999 their 4×4 wine, it will go anywhere, meaning it is their most versatile wine for food matching. There was also a small selection of Spanish Cheeses inc;uding Manchego, a Spanish Blue and a Spanish smoked cheese called San Simon. I am not normally a fan of smoked cheeses and I was surprised how well this match with the Urbina Gran Reserva 1996, the smokiness of the cheese and the dried fruit and vanilla character just seem to complement each other really well.
The biggest star of the evening seemed to be the Urbina Crianza. Apparently the previous evening at another wine tasting it was the Urbina Reserva Especial 2001! Here is a breakdown of the wines sold on the evening.
See the full list of wines and the menu for the Urbina Rioja Dinner here. A big thank you to Pedro Urbina, Eddward Burridge of Burridges of Arlington Street and Chef Clive Wright and his team at Lysses House Hotel for making the Urbina Rioja Dinner an event to remember.