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Senior editor James Molesworth joined Wine Spectator in 1997. He reviews Bordeaux, the Loire, the Rhône, South Africa and New York's Finger Lakes.
James Molesworth

A Traditional Spanish Red at Its Best

La Rioja Alta Rioja Viña Arana Reserva 1987

James Molesworth
Posted: September 29, 2009

Great wines always deliver the full package: They beguile with their aromas, pull you in with their complexity and flavors, and hold you with their mouthfeel and length. La Rioja Alta's 1987 Viña Arana Reserva is a great wine.

Starting with the very perfumy sandalwood and warm vanilla bean notes, you know you’re in for something special. The palate lets dried cherry, tea, smoke and mineral notes glide along, while the finish is supremely silky and long. This is traditional-style Rioja at its best.

A friend brought it to dinner at Mercato, a casual, rustic Italian café in Red Hook, N.Y. It showed even more life as it married with the different pasta dishes we had as our primi course: spaghetti tonno, orecchiette with squash and buccatini carbonara. For me, it was 92 points, non-blind, and I can still taste it days later.

WineSpectator.com members: Get scores and tasting notes for recently rated Rioja reds, plus our quick list of Top Values in Spanish red.

Russell Quong
Sunnyvale, CA —  October 14, 2009 8:54pm ET
In the blog comments many months ago (to one of your columns James), I had wanted more insight into the real world drinking habits, wine collections and ratings context of the WS editors. This column beautifully answers all my curiosities and corroborates the guidance on your ratings scale. It is one of my favorite column of the web site. Bravo to WS for adding it.

It makes it abundantly clear that you don't just drink 91+ point wines, perhaps with the exception of Suckling :). But the biggest insight is that 90 points is really oustanding, and that 92 points can be considered "great" even for the editors.

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