Rioja, Rioja, rioja…..one of those regions which sometimes gets overlooked because by dob-dam-diddly, it’s too reliable. The number of people we see looking at various options in the shop then saying something on the lines of “Actually I’ll take some rioja because I know I will like it” is constantly surprising. Rioja appears to be that old coat you turn to when lacking in better ideas; a venerable style, not a modern cut and possibly having pulled slightly at the shoulder, worn cuffs – but loved. It’s never the first choice, but often the throw-on garment when people don’t care that much and no-one is really thinking about it-
But would you wear Rioja out to a party with your smart mates?
And isn’t that a bit unfair? I challenge you now to reappraise Rioja, from the top of the glass to the dregs!
What isn’t to like about a region which produces some of the finest wines in Europe, one that has managed to build a reputation of quality so immense it’s the go-to safe bottle? As with any large region (over 600 wineries and 16,413 vineyards, btw) there so-so wineries mixed in with the phenomenally amazing ones. There are traditionalists, modernists, winemakers you meet and wonder what on earth they have been smoking, ones which make you go “meh” or “wow” or “err” or “nah.” With this much range, the varieties are endless.
So – today we’ve decided to try and cover a bit of this range with what’s on the Vinebar – come and enjoy, and reassess. Rioja, no more languishing in the cupboard, you SHALL go to the ball!
On the Vinebar this week:
First up – a pair of delicious Rioja’s (Rioji? Riojas? Rioja’s?) from probably our favourite estate in the region, Bodegas Luis Canas. Canas have been making wine for about the last ninety years or so, third generation winemakers. In recent years they have been achieving real fame for their Burgundian styles of production, vinifying each plot individually and then deciding what to put into which wine. So, instead of their Crianza and Joven receiving only the youngest grapes (as other producers would do, seeing Crianza, Reserva et al as simply a mark of quality not of what it is, which is a guide to the amount of time spent in oak) and instead divvying up the parcels as they feel would work best in each wine. Fruity, forward, glowing with intensity? Put it in the crianza. More powerful, stable, a longer finish, that’ll be for the Gran Reserva. It’s a style of winemaking which demands absolute attention to detail and a real knowledge of ones terroir, which results in stonkingly good wine.
2015 Barrel-Fermented Rioja Blanco, Bodegas Luis Canas £14.99 (£11.99 this month – rioja month!) , £6/glass
This is probably my favourite white Spanish in the shop. Vibrant and classy, this blend of Malvasia and Viura has a slight touch of fat roundness added by the barrel-fermentation. Beyond that, lemons, crisp herb and a beautifully long and smooth finish – this is a superb food-matching wine, but also drinks beautifully by itself.
2014 Tinto Crianza, Bodegas Luis Canas £16.99 (£13.59 this month – rioja month!) , £6.50/glass
Loves ten minutes open before drinking. Clean, vry bright and pretty fruit, with plummy spicy oak detectable as well as the fruit load. Talking of which, it’s velvety cherry fruit all the way down…
And special guests…
NV Cava Ricart £12.99, £6/glass
Crisp, dry light and sparkling, cut apple on the palette with a smooth mousse overlaid. Some of the best cava we’ve ever stocked and absolutely belting at the money.
2016 Ch. Saint Pierre £14.99, £6/glass
Grenache-Cinsault, this classical Provencal rosé is a nicely light classic glugger of a rosé, there for when you want nothing further than a bendy bottle, strawberries, a crisp creaminess and a mouth-watering finish. Delicious stuff!