Off and on there are many insults one has to stand in life, but one of the worst I’ve suffered is that that the goddamn Mayan calendar put the end of the world on my birthday, 21 December. Well, since there seems to be little reason to save old wines further if there’s no tomorrow, I thought this was a good an opportunity as any to open a wine from my birth year, 1968. That year wasn’t only marked by political ideas of questionable quality, not least spreading from France, but was also a vintage year of highly questionably quality in both France and Germany. On the other hand, it is supposed to be a vintage year of reasonably good quality in Italy and Spain, although those countries at that time had much fewer quality producers than today.
So I grabbed a bottle of 1968 Rioja, in the shape of Faustino I Gran Reserva. I suspect that the wines of Faustino today may not be cellared for later consumption to any larger extent, since probably only highly traditional producers such as Lopéz de Heredia (the producer of Viña Tondonia and some other wines) are generally seen as worthy of cellaring. But being a large and old producer, Faustino apparently has a considerable store of older vintages, some of which are also for sale. Early this year, their Swedish importer Bibendum offered an opportunity to taste some older vintages of several wines they import. This included Faustino I of the 1964, 1970 and 1991 vintages, and we were led through these wines by a representative of the firm. They turned out to be highly interesting, and to be honest they were much better than I had expected. After this, I kept my eyes open for other older Faustino I, and I later found some 1968s in Germany.
Faustino I Gran Reserva 1968
At this time the composition seems to have been 85% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano and 5% Mazuelo.
Medium red colour with a brick-coloured edge. Pleasant and complex nose with clearly developed notes: animal notes with leather, meat juices and some abbatoir, mild and sweetish spices, mixed forest mushroom, some coffee filter residue and a hint of volatile acidity; also ripe red berries, light smoky notes and dried pieces of wood. Classical nose for an old Rioja, but also for many other red wines of a considerable age, and made me think of old Burgundy. Medium bodied, ripe red berries, a hint of sweetness of fruit and some viscosity in the attack, slightly less than medium fruit concentration, a hint of mineral with a slightly earthy character, the tannins are almost completely softened but are felt slightly more in the aftertaste, some spice, very light bitterness. Not at all a bad palate, but much more pale than what the 1964 and 1970 (which came directly from the producer) showed, see below. Together with the the pleasant nose the total score ends up at 89 p.
This wine has most likely passed its peak, but its further life is determined primarily by the condition of the corks. This bottle had very good fill level but a soft and spongy cork, that was simpler to push down into the bottle than to try to extract whole.
This wine was enjoyed together with lamb steak, potato gratin and red wine sauce.
Faustino I Gran Reserva 1964
85% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano, 5% Mazuelo. 80% american oak, 20 months in barrels.
Medium red, light brick at the edge. In the nose obvious development with very classical Rioja Gran Reserva nose, red berries, leather, other animal notes, spices, coffee. More than medium bodied on the palate, red berries, some sweetness in the attack, mild tannins, very nuanced. 92 p.
Faboulously vigorous for its age, but then 1964 is seen by many as the best Rioja vintage of the 20th century.
Faustino I Gran Reserva 1970
85% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano, 5% Mazuelo. 30 months in barrel.
Medium red, brick edge. In the nose dried red berries, oranges?, spices, dill, more fruity nose than the 1964, but classical Rioja nose. Full bodied, sweetish, good concentration of fruit, noticeable but soft tannins, slightly thin aftertaste. Fully developed. 91 p.
Some prefered this to the 1964, since it was fruitier, but I prefered the nuanced elegance of the slightly older wine.
Faustino I Gran Reserva 1991
Medium red with a red edge. In the nose animal notes, red berries and slightly sweetish fruit, slightly spicy, some vanilla. More than medium bodied, dark and red berries, a hint of sweetness, some spice, soft tannins. 90 p.
And for those of you who believe in the predictions of the Mayan calendar:
The Swedish version of this post can be found here.