La Rioja Alta Dinner at Opera Tavern

In deference to Spanish eating hours, dinner with La Rioja Alta SA didn’t finish until nearly midnight the other day, but what a dinner it was. The venue was the Opera Tavern in Covent Garden, which I hadn’t been to before but will definitely go to again. We enjoyed some of the best tapas that London has to offer, however unsurprisingly, the stars of the show were La Rioja Alta SA’s wines, especially from the older vintages.

Opera Tavern,
23 Catherine St  London WC2B 5JS
We were taken through the flight of wines by Julio Saenz,the ‘new’ winemaker at La Rioja Alta SA, so called as he has only been winemaking at the estate for the past 15 years. Also on hand was Javier Amescua, the sales and export manager, and we were lucky enough to be given an introduction to this historic estate by none other than the owner himself, Guillermo de Aranzabal.

Their delicious Albarino 2011 accompanied the first two fish courses (and if the sun ever comes out in the UK again I’d seriously suggest investing in a case of this for the summer – at £15/bottle it really is great value for something so delicious). 
Albarino 2011
 But we all knew what we were really at the dinner for, and that was for the verticals of 904 (1982, 1985, 1994, 2001) and 890 (1981, 1982, 1995, 1998)Gran Reservas
Gran Reservas
Each wine was matched with a course and the stand-out pairing for me was the Chargrilled Octopus, Chickpea fritter, Red Pepper and Mojo Verde twinned with Gran Reserva 904 1982. Not an immediate choice to pair fish and red wine, but it worked! More classic matches, such as Lamb leg with 890 1998, were pulled off with aplomb too. The other favourite combination of the evening was La Rioja Alta SA’s new release, Gran Reserva 904 2001, with a mini Iberico Pork and Foie Gras burger. The 2001 904 may need a little more time in bottle to fully mature, but with a Parker score of 96 and offering such outstanding value for a 12 year old Gran Reserva, it was definitely the stand-out wine of the night.
Mini Foie Gras Burgers
Thanks to the Opera Tavern for a fantastic evening and to LaRioja Alta SA for coming over to present what are unquestionably some of the finest wines that Spain has to offer.
Blog post by Nick Clarke
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