Rioja is huge. With more than 65,000 hectares of vineyards, 14,800 grape growers, 600 wineries and the largest number of barrels of any wine region, its iconic status is richly deserved. The reds right now offer staggering quality and diversity, and there are many reasons for this.
There’s been a run of good years: 2010 and 2011 were excellent and 2012 was up there too, but 2015, 2016 and 2017 were also good. The proportions of different grape varieties in each wine’s blend is also key, headlined by Tempranillo, supported by Garnacha and more. Location too is vital – from Atlantic-influenced Rioja Alavesa and Alta to the warmer Rioja Oriental (formerly known as Baja) nearer the Med. But most of all, it is the timing and ageing in barrel and bottle, making each wine unique – seasoned to perfection. The reds of Rioja are ready to rock.
OLLY’S PICK OF THE BUNCH
LET THERE BE RIOJA: Finest Viña del Cura Rioja Reserva 2014 (13.5%) £8.50 Tesco. Bold red with moreish richness and swaggering class.
RIOJA ME AMADEUS: Cosme Palacio Vendimia Seleccionada Rioja 2016 (14.5%) £14 Sainsbury’s. Bang on – scented, powerful and earthy.
WE WILL RIOJA YOU: El Duque de Miralta Rioja Gran Reserva 2012 (13.5%) £15 M&S. Deep, savoury and rich as mushroom in a goldmine.
CROCODILE RIOJA: Cuñe Imperial Rioja 2015 (14%) £19.75 Co-op. Sumptuous splendour – as good as red wine ever needs to be!
WINE OF THE WEEK
The Best Gran Reserva Rioja 2012 (14%) £11 Morrisons. Serious red for just over a tenner, this is what the best reds taste like. Roast heaven!