One particular bottle that I have been really looking forward to trying for some time is the Bodegas Faustino I. It’s a wine that comes with impressive critical acclaim and, with the ease of the availability of other wines in the full range (V, VII, for example), it represents something that is within touching distance, and yet has remained elusive to me until now.
Wine is a product that is inherently limited, but in the main isn’t sold on a ‘Limited Edition’ basis. I’ve tried many English wines that, when you see the low thousands of bottles produced each year, you feel truly honoured to be able to taste them at all. The Faustino I is clearly labelled with the edition number of 226,400 bottles produced for this vintage and, with the full clarity that this is no small production run, it was still absolutely interesting to me that I was tasting bottle 39,797 and bottle 39,856 (not on the same day I might add!). I’ve often been interested in small facts like this, and I do think it really helps towards the ‘artisan’ element of the production, even if some production volumes are what others would consider ‘industrial’.
With both the Gran Reserva 2001 and 2004 available to me at this time (both rated as ‘Excelente’ vintages), I opted for the older 2001. Not only was this vintage slightly smaller than surrounding vintages, I also noted that it was likely to age longer than the ’04 (due to damp conditions that year), and would therefore represent more of a longer term trajectory.
I was also swayed by the inclusion of a neck brace on the bottle proudly proclaiming that this wine was a Decanter ‘Wine of the Year’ in 2013, scoring 19.25 points out of 20.
Bodegas Faustino, Faustino I Gran Reserva 2001, Rioja, Spain, 13.5% (~£18)
Before we get to looking at the wine itself, the first thing to discern is the care that has gone in to the bottle appearance. The frosted glass is adorned with a completely distinct label – a 1641 portrait of Dutch merchant/trader Nicolaas Van Bambeeck by revered artist Rembrandt. This particular portrait was chosen in order to symbolise the family’s passions for both art and commerce.
When looking at the wine in the glass, it was a dark and opaque dense cherry red in colour, clear with almost no hint of a lighter rim. On the nose there was an immediate hit of dark chocolate, and sweet notes of spices and cloves. The red cherry fruits then came to the fore, brushing alongside wood, vanilla, giving an incredibly full, layered and vivid nose. At once, this wine was serious, intense, and inviting. The literature for the wine confirms that they put an immense amount of focus on berry grape selection in order to preserve that quality of grape, and overall composure.
The initial palate was given over to the cherry fruits (both black and red), although my immediate view was that the fruits were just slightly over-ripe, almost confectionate and sweet, which isn’t something that appeals to me. This wasn’t a negative for the wine however, as it still forged a good strawberry line, and held that ‘creamy’ texture that you can find in a good aged Rioja. Subtle integrated acid and a light tannin kept it moreish and pleasant, whilst touches of dark chocolate and bitter characters brought up the rear. The palate is absolutely still all about the fruit as opposed to the tertiary characters, and it’s a testament to a 15 year old wine that the fruit can remain such a pivotal point of the focus and be so rounded, full and velvety smooth.
They certainly weren’t wrong in the official reviews that this wine has a life ahead of it, and I’d be very interested to revisit this in a few years time. This was a wonderful wine and it didn’t disappoint.