I fell down the rabbit hole of Rioja about ten years ago. It’s not a surprise because I love all things Spain- the food, the art, the people, its unique terroir. The current Corona virus situation has even allowed me the downtime to begin learning the language- albeit very, very slowly.
So, when Jane Nickles, Director of Education & Certification for the Society of Wine Educators, invited me to her Rioja webinar at 10am on a Saturday morning to talk about her pre-pandemic trip, I purchased the suggested wines and tuned in to travel vicariously with each sip. I loved seeing Rioja through Jane’s eyes and devoured her amazing pictures, funny stories and personal recommendations!
Take a look at what we tasted during the 90 minute webinar and see below for more info on Rioja. Visiting this exciting wine region is on the top of my bucket list as soon as the world opens back up. Care to join me? Salud!
CVNE Monopole 2018
Rioja Blanco - 100% Viura (aka Macabeo)
Pale yellow color with a greenish tint. Aromas of green apple, pear, white peach, citrus and fresh green herbs. On the palate dry, medium+ acidity, tropical fruit, lemon peel and white pepper with a long, fruity and floral finish. Aged in stainless steel with temperature controlled fermentation.
Vina Real Crianza 2016
Rioja Tinto - 90% Tempranillo, 10% combined Garnacha, Graciano & Mazuela
Medium purple in color, intense aromas of ripe black fruit (blackberry and blackcurrant are prominent), and subtle hints of oak. Nicely integrated fruit/oak on the palate with notes of spice, toast and balsamic. Medium body, smooth tannins and a lingering finish- great example of Rioja Altavesa's character!
Marques de Riscal Rioja Reserva 2013*
Rioja Tinto - 100% Tempranillo
Intense purple color, bursting with aromas of ripe, concentrated fruit (toasted berries, black cherry, plum), cinnamon, cedar and vanilla. On the palate a good balance of fruit, acid and tannin. Medium+ body, well-structured, long finish and just enough leather and tobacco to indicate long cask-ageing.
*I couldn't find the exact wine Jane suggested, but this was a good alternative!
Rioja is not only a robust wine, but a renowned wine region in the northern section of Spain on both sides of the River Ebro. Like many other European wine countries, the wine is labelled according to the region produced, not the grape varieties used.
The Denominación de Origen Calificada (D.O.Ca.) Rioja features 600 wineries, 14,800 grape growers and the largest number of barrels in the world. It is divided into three large zones differentiated by the sub-regions micro-climates giving them each their own unique personality: Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Oriental (formerly Rioja Baja). Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa tend to have more minerality and elegance. Many of these wines are built to age 20 or more years. You can find some richer styles and hidden gems in Rioja Oriental, but a sizable proportion of its production is bulk wine.
Rioja is best known for Tempranillo, but great value and enjoyment is also found with Rioja Blanco (white) and Rioja Rosado (rosé). The primary white grape of Rioja is Viura (Macabeo).
Rioja ages in oak barrels for a period ranging from 1 to 3 years, and later in the bottle itself for a period of 6 months to 6 years. Depending on the time the wine remains in the barrel it is classified as Crianza, Reserva, Gran Reserva and now Gran Añada which is used for sparkling wine.
Resources: Rioja Regulatory Council, Wikipedia, Wine Folly