When I first visited Rioja about 20 years, everyone from hotel clerks to cab drivers, when they found out I was there to write about their wines, immediately expressed their preferences regarding the style of Rioja reds.
“I prefer the freshness of crianza,” one would say.
“I like the maturity of the reserva,” another would venture.
There is much to like about Riojas of both styles – the younger and the aged. Made primarily from Tempranillo grapes but often with generous dollops of Graciano, Garnacha, and Mazuelo, they are often compared in style to the reds of Bordeaux, a region with which Rioja has always had a special relationship. Rioja is a vast and beautiful area, a part of which is in Basque country and located not too far south of Balboa.
While other regions such as Ribera del Duero and Priorat have gained stature in recent years, Rioja, in the eyes of the Spaniards, is still the gold standard for that country’s red wines. So, enjoy the very affordable ones we have here.
NV Villa Conchi “Bella Conchi” Cava Brut Reserva ($20). Nice herbal and apple flavors, a slightly minerally underlay, and a modest flow of bubbles.
2021 D’Esclans “Whispering Angel” Côtes de Provence Rosé ($22). Delicious – strawberries and orange citrus notes with lots of depth of flavor, good minerality, and a crisp finish.
2019 Altos de Rioja Rioja Crianza ($9). Good fresh berry fruits with a balancing tartness – a good basic Rioja.
2017 Luis Cañas Rioja Crianza ($12). Quite nice with moderate cherry and black raspberry fruit with well-integrated oak and a moderately crisp finish.
2014 Lar de Paula Rioja Reserva ($13). Classic style with lots of rich yet lean berry flavors, chewy tannins, and a crisp finish.
2015 Luis Cañas Rioja Reserva ($13). A good wine for drinking with beef – lean, mature cherry fruitiness with lots of savory notes.
2016 Altos de Rioja Rioja Reserva ($14). Very smooth with vibrant fruit in the beginning, but with a quite puckery finish.
2019 Antica Enotria “Vriccio” Puglia Primitivo ($14). Ripe blackberry flavors with good tannins but no savory touches – fruity without being too fruit-forward.
2012 Appollonio “Divoto” Copertino Puglia Rosso Riserva ($27). Delicious fruitiness with some complexity with its lightly pungent, lightly earthy finish.
2016 Echeverria “Limited Edition” Maipo Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($29). A delicious wine, especially at this price – deep, dark berry fruitiness, strands of green herbs, and dusty chocolate all blending together.
2017 San Felice “Il Grigio” Gran Selezione Chianti Classico ($35). A GS that lives up to the hype is lively yet full-bodied with an interwoven ripeness of dark berries and green acidity with a Rhone-like earthiness in the finish.
2019 Cliff Lede Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon ($81). Just a lovely wine with black raspberry and blackberry primary flavors and secondaries of earthy, almost chocolatey savory notes and hints of barrel aging and great tannins.
Prices listed are generally SRP or from wine-searcher.com. As more wineries are now shipping direct-to-consumer, check the winery website if you can’t find a bottle in your retail store.
Feature photo courtesy of ARAEX Grands.