Solar de Estraunza Spanish Rioja (3)

Solar de Estraunza Spanish White Rioja 3-Pack
$49.99 $85.00 41% off List Price
2012 Solar De Estraunza Blanco Rioja
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2012 Solar de Estraunza

Upon hearing the familiar clanking noise of glass skittering across pavement yesterday, I ran outside and flashed a thumbs up at the FedEx driver as I watched his truck careen around the corner and out of sight. Hurrying to the street, I scooped up a bottle of 2012 “Solar de Estraunza”, a white Rioja. Checking the back label, I found that the wine was 100% Viura. Viu-what? Never having heard of this varietal, I did some basic research and found that it’s called Viura in the Rioja region but the rest of Spain calls it Macabeo and it is the #1 most planted white grape in the country.

It is traditionally a blending wine but can stand on its own at the hands of skilled winemakers. One of the keys to success when working with Viura is to pick the grapes at just the right time. If picked early, the varietal is known for good acidity but at the expense of some flavor. Picked too late, it becomes more flavorful but lacking in acidity. I would say that they got it about right with this wine as it is both flavorful and with good acidity. Onto the tasting notes…

In the glass, light gold with a slight greenish tinge. Initial nose of grapefruit followed by pear, green apple, jasmine and biscuit. Light bodied with grapefruit and green apple on the entry. Asian pear and citrus zest along with some flinty minerality on the clean, medium finish. This is somewhat of a donut wine in that the mid-palate is hollow. It goes right from the entry to the finish with a momentary emptiness in between.

I’ve read that Viura is often blended with 5% Malvasia when produced as a stand-alone white Rioja. Maybe that would have helped fill in the middle? Despite that little blip, this would make a great patio wine in the summer. It’s clean, crisp and easy drinking. Best served cold, as I did not notice any improvement as it warmed in the glass - in fact the additional warmth seemed to add to the slight emptiness in the mid-palate.

This varietal has been losing favor as a blending wine for Tempranillo and is generally not being planted anew in Spain. If it seems rare to see a 100% Viura/Macabeo now, it will probably be even more so in the coming years, so this is a good opportunity to check it out at a discounted price.

The same monkey who was running through our neighborhood yelling in Spanish a few weeks ago returned this week. This time he left a bottle of 2012 Solar de Estraunza, a white Rioja made of 100% Viura. I am no wine expert, but I have had my share of Spanish whites and had never heard of Viura, so I did some research which included an interesting article by Jancis Robinson(if you are interested in learning more about the varietal). Viura is the name used in Rioja for the grape more commonly known as Macabeo. It is the principal grape used in white Rioja, mostly blended but occasionally on its own as it is with today’s offering.

White Rioja is made in two distinctively different styles; the modern style is crisp and meant to be consumed young, the other, more traditional style is aged in oak and can last for many years. This wine is clearly the of the former.

Some friends (also wine drinkers happened to stop by so we shared it with them to get a broader sense of opinion. All four of us drink reds and whites, but lean toward mostly reds. On to notes…

We served the wine cold (10 minutes from the refrigerator). The color is light straw/golden with the tiniest hint of green. Consensus that the aroma is mostly citrus; everyone said grapefruit, one said green apple. I got a hint of something floral that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Not strong, think wildflowers that you pick up in the breeze on a late spring afternoon. Upon tasting, all four said grapefruit almost simultaneously. Other descriptions were dry (all), crisp (3 of 4), refreshing (3)moderate acidity (2),honeydew (1)pear (1) apricot (1).

One taster just kept saying “short” over and over. I agree that the finish was short, but do think she meant it as an overall impression of the wine, and not just the finish, as I too sensed there was just something missing that I could not put a name to. The article I referenced noted that with Viura, in order to reach aromatic maturity you need to achieve 13% alcohol. As this is listed at 12.5% perhaps that could account for the missing element that could elevate this wine to something better.

We all agreed the wine was an easy refreshing drinker, not complex, but at the right price, would make a good pool-side sipper. If you are one of the Century Club chasers and have not had Viura or if you would like to try Viura/Macabeo on its own/unblended, this would be a great opportunity to do so.

[Edit] I felt I should apologize for the re-hash of Viura education after reading Chipgreen’s post. I compose my review before reading others so I am not biased and did not realize he had covered it already.

I’m pretty sure that this is what we had at the SoCal gathering. If it is, it’s a huge pass at this price point (sorry Neil/WD). Pretty simple, light white. Nice when chilled, but not worth more than $10.

We had this at the SoCal gathering last week. Ill look for my notes but recall liking this. Remindedme of a grapefruity sauv blanc: refreshing withzipping acidity. Reminded me of the Chance Creek SB offered here a while back (not the one on the Plus deal, unfortunately). Id be in if the price was lower since I can get nice SBs around $12-$15. Close to $20 delivered a tad to high for me. But a good wine nonetheless.

Interesting that you mention the Chance Creek SB. As I was tasting this Rioja I thought that it was somewhat similar to the Chance Creek, but not as good/complete as the CC SB (IMHO) and now that I see it is >$18 and I can get the Chance Creek for less than $12, I will be re-stocking on the Chance Creek.

Not sure what SB you were thinking of but the current plus deal is the same as was offered as a plus deal in late June and a daily offer on 4/21/13. As I recall you posted a positive review and purchased it. I think that is the wine you are talking about.

Im almost certain Chance Creek has offered two SBs, the current one (5 percent viogner) and the one for which I posted notes (100 percent SB and from Redwood Valley). I hope i am mistaken so I can order from the Plus deal! Loved the CC

Edit: i think you are correct. The current offer is redwood valley and come to think of it vio may have been part of the blend. But im still certain there have been two different CC sauv blanc offers

We had this at the SoCal gathering a week ago, and like Kyle and losthiwayz I enjoyed the wine but it didn’t knock my socks off. My notes suggest the nose was rather light and the wine reminded me of a Sauv Blanc including some hints of grapefruit. If it had been slightly colder to me it was a nice quaffing wine to just sip on the patio on a hot day. Very refreshing. At this price, it’s not for me, but if you want to try a new varietal then take a split with somebody and go for it!

There was another CC SB offered in June, their Terroir 95470, but that also had 3% Viognier and a “splash” of Chardonnay. I don’t recall any 100% SB offering from Chance Creek. Pretty sure the current plus deal is the droid, I mean wine, you are looking for.