I was told but, cannot say that I've had the pleasure of experiencing, that this was no '55 or '58 (both excellent Rioja vintages) however, the 1956 Marqués de Riscal Gran Reserva Rioja energized, impressed, and indeed educated my perpetually parched palate. How often are you able to enjoy and taste something 53 years old? Rarely... To that point, there's been a lot of discussion in professional wino circles of late about Gran Reserva Rioja's ability to age, and age well. Seems that many Spanish winemakers are now choosing to age their precious Tempranillo less in oak, to preserve the natural flavors and produce a lighter wine with more fruit clarity - key for today's new-world driven palates. So, less Gran Reserva, more Reserva and much more Crianza.
This Rioja seems a little nonconformist. I respect that. Rather than the typical blend of Tempranillo, Graciano and perhaps Garnacha or Mazuelo - this beauty is 55% Tempranillo and 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, and thankfully so. One key reason it aged so well, I'd wager, is the heavy amount of Cab. Also adding staying power would be the four years it spent in French oak rather than the minimum of two years, required by DOCa law for Gran Reservas.
Brick red to onion skin in color, the wine announces its age as it clears to the rim. One of the most interesting bouquets I've come across showcasing primary notes of leather, olive tapenade, tobacco, fresh brewed coffee, cedar, and faint secondary hints of caramel laced red fruit.
On the palate ... BANG ... this juice still rocks! I don't know about younger Gran Riservas but, I stumbled upon electricity here. Very much alive, holding tight hands with some serious acidity, carrying it along its 53 year journey to refresh and caress my palate. The once powerful tannins have all but vanished in favor of a light, toasted profile. Over time, she has unwound - now offering flavors of dried herbs folded with tart, smokey cranberry.
Grand, graceful, a bit majestic ... leaving one to think - what if I had tasted this in '56? Your palate thanks Marqués de Riscal for holding until today!