A trip to Europe would not be complete without a Tour of Spain, specifically Rioja, Spain! My wife, Cheryl, and I traveled from Barcelona down to Valencia, and then over to Rioja. Rioja is truly a world class region for delicious and flavorful red wines! I can’t wait to share what we have learned with you.
All About Rioja, Spain
La Rioja is a province in northern Spain with three sub-regions. These regions include Rioja Alta, Alavesa and Baja. All three regions produce very delicious wines with the Tempranillo grape, as well as the Garnacha. Wine makers place these wines into four different classifications: Joven, Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva.
But, how are these wines classified in the first place? The classifications rate both the quality of the grapes selected, as well as the amount time they are “aged” in oak barrels.
For example, Joven Rioja wines only need to spend a few months in oak barrels before being sold to a distributor. The next class, Crianza, requires one year in oak followed by few months to a year in the bottle. The Reserva wines are sourced from best quality fruit and need a minimum of one year in oak, with up to two more years in the bottle. Finally, we have Gran Reserva, the highest quality of them all. Gran Reserva wines contain only superior grapes from exceptional harvests in Rioja Alta or Alavesa regions. After harvesting, they will spend up to two years aged in oak barrels, followed by an additional three years in the bottle. My mouth is watering for one of these Spanish wines already!
Tasting What Rioja, Spain Has To Offer
Recently, Time for Wine was presented with some wonderful Rioja wines from the Cune Vineyards. We tasted one white wine, along with a Crianza, two Reservas and two Gran Reservas.
The white wine was a Viura grape with a 2015 Vintage. This unique style had flora aromas, apricots and touch of citrus and some vegetable notes. Due to this, I know this Spanish wine would pair wonderfully with chilled oysters and grilled shrimp.
The next flight was the Viña Real Crianza and Gran Reserva, which were a 2012 and a 2010 vintages, respectively. Both of these red wines had great color, cherry aromas and some licorice, with hints of tobacco and mocha. I would pair these Rioja wines with pork carnitas or skirt steak, pinto beans and yellow rice. I can taste the dish already!
Lastly, we had the privilege of tasting the award-winning Gran Reserva wines from Cune Vineyards. These were truly the most noteworthy. Because these wines were aged in oak for two years, I was expecting a real treat. The vintages on these delicious reds were 2009 and 2010. It’s amazing how wines improve with oak and bottle aging, and how we must be patient. After wine makers allow for the aging, the bottle opening is practically a celebration. The Gran Reservas achieved a full body with soft tannins, and long flavorful finish. A wine with 94 points on the rating scale! I would pair these wines with a rib roast, sautéed onions, and glazed carrots. Throw in a baked potato or a creamy risotto, and you have a meal fit for a king.
The Future of Rioja Wines
Truthfully, Spain has a wonderful world of wine to offer the world. However, the wines of Rioja are, at times, completely overlooked. Whether you’re a novice wine lover, or a seasoned vino connoisseur, Rioja wines should be on your “to taste” list. In May 2017, Time for Wine will host an exclusive Teach n’ Taste event, featuring all Spanish wines. Don’t miss this fun and educational event! Because, as you know, Time for Wine is dedicated to bringing unique wines into your life.
In conclusion, Rioja wines are simply remarkable, especially when you experience Reservas and Gran Reservas. I am excited about these wines and look forward to sharing them with you very soon!
In the meantime, I recommend browsing our current inventory of Spanish wines!
Also, don’t forget to attend our next Teach n’ Taste event. Every event is a new and unique experience. Click below for our calendar!