Rioja is a Denominación de Origen Calificada (D.O.C. Qualified designation of origin) wine region named after La Rioja, in Spain. The Rioja DOC is inland in the northern part of Spain and has a very warm continental climate. The area is sometimes known as the Bordeaux of Spain. Rioja wines are normally a blend of various grape varieties, and can be either red (tinto), white (blanco) or rosé (rosado). The most common red grape variety for Rioja is Tempranillo. Other grapes used include Garnacha Tinta, Graciano, and Mazuelo. You can get a single varietal Tempranillo wine, or blends with Tempranillo. Tempranillo comes from the Spanish word, “temprano”, which means early. This is an early ripening grape and works well in cooler climates. (thanks to Wikipaedia for this background info.)
Tempranillo has flavours and aromas of plum and strawberries to tobacco, cedar, vanilla, leather and herbs. It also can have a bit of a rustic edge to it. It produces a medium bodied wine with medium tannins, and pairs well with stews and grilled meat.
Garnacha, in France it is known as Grenache, is another popular red grape. It has fruity flavours, predominantly strawberry, coupled with a fiery spiciness. Sometimes you get a butterscotch flavour from garnacha.
On the white wine side, Viura is the prominent grape (aka Macabeo) and is normally blended with some Malvasía and Garnacha Blanca.
It has been common for some bodegas to age their red wines for more years than other countries (e.g. 15-20) years or even more before their release. There are different levels of aging/quality for Rioja wines:
- Rioja, is the youngest, spending less than a year in an oak aging barrel.
- Crianza is wine aged for at least two years, at least one of which was in oak.
- Rioja Reserva is aged for at least three years, of which at least one year is in oak.
- Rioja Gran Reserva wines have been aged at least two years in oak and three years in bottle.
Reserva and Gran Reserva wines are not necessarily produced each year.
Doing a quick check at the www.everythingwine.ca website, I located the following Rioja wines:
- J.G. Carrion Rioja Tempranillo 750 mL
- Remirez de Ganuza Rioja Reserva 2001 750 mL
- Palacios Remondo La Vendimia Rioja 750 mL
- Faustino V Reserva Rioja 750ml
- Vina Tondonia Rioja Reserva 750 mL
- Marques de Vitoria Ecco organic Rioja 750ml
- Muga Rioja Reserva Tempranillo 750 mL
- Montebuena Rioja Tempranillo 750 mL
- Muga Torre Rioja 2004 750ml
- Roda Rioja Red Blend 750 mL
- Marques de Caceres Rose Rioja (maybe the most popular winery)
- Ostatu Crianza Rioja Tempranillo 750 mL
- Conde de Valdemar Gran Reserva Rioja 750 mL
- Ramon Bilbao Crianza Cruz de Alba Tempranillo 750ml
- Artadi Pagos Viejos Tempranillo 750 mL
and many more. There were 29 in total. The above wines range in price from $13 to $113 (the first wine in the list is the least expensive and the last in the list is the most expensive. Increasing price as you go down the list).
I really enjoy Spanish wines and I can find them at quite good price points. Try a tempranillo if you have not enjoyed wine from this grape before. Also, Muga makes an excellent Rose if you can find it.
There are other wine regions to discover in Spain. In future blog articles I will be covering Jerez (sherry region), Ribera del Duero and other areas in Spain. Salud!