There are three main Rioja regions – Rioja Alavesa, on the northern side of the river Ebro, Rioja Alta, south of the Ebro and Rioja Baja further south again.
Each region has a dominant grape variety although Tempranillo, the classic Spanish grape, is prevalent throughout. Most Rioja wine that you buy will be a blend from grapes from all three regions.
Rioja wines are mostly red although rose and white wines are also produced (making up about 25% of total production) as well as some cava.
Spanish wine makers are restricted to certain grape varietals. For red wines, Tempranillo and Garnacha are the most planted, with wines made from Tempranillo tending to age very well. For white wines, Viura and Malvasia are the dominant grape varietals.
Featured here is the old classic Marques de Caceres. Maybe a bit obvious but still one of our favourites and the wine makers know just how to achieve consistency across the vintages. 2004 was a very good year for Rioja and this wine is usually a very good price.
There are plenty of alternative options. The CVNE estate is really coming into its own nowadays and is producing some top drawer Rioja. Their 2004 Crianza has had one year in oak and tastes of cherry and smoke. Doesn't sound appealing? Try for yourself by ordering a couple of bottles online here!
If you are after a white Rioja (for some reason), then why not splash out on the Rioja Blanco Capellania 1998 Marqués de Murrieta, from one of the most famous Bodegas in Spain.
Unusual and distinctive, this wine was oak matured for over 3 years imparting lashings of vanilla, toasty characters. The smooth finish just lingers on and on.
Go wild for it online here.
Learn more about Spanish wine vintages here.