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Rioja

Until 150 years ago, Rioja was a well-regarded country wine of no international repute. Two well-travelled aristocrats then introduced expertise and oak casks from Bordeaux and the way was paved to greatness. Rioja is now the star red wine of Spain, though white and rosé versions are also produced. In 1991 the Rioja region became the first area to be awarded the new and prestigious DOCa status. It is worthy of this accolade, for top vintages rank amongst the very finest wines in the world.

Until 150 years ago, Rioja was a well-regarded country wine of no international repute. Two well-travelled aristocrats then introduced expertise and oak casks from Bordeaux and the way was paved to greatness. Rioja is now the star red wine of Spain, though white and rosé versions are also produced. In 1991 the Rioja region... read more.

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Rioja is divided into three sub-districts - Riojas Alta, Alavesa and Baja - and the varying conditions within each suit different grape varieties. Grapes from all three can be blended together.

Vines and Styles

Red Rioja is often a blended wine and four grape varieties are traditionally permitted. Tempranillo is usually the most prominent and imparts the fresh fruit flavours, whilst Garnacha (Grenache) provides body and Mazuelo (Cariñena or Carignan) and Graciano are there for warmth and finesse. Once the wine is fermented (usually in stainless steel) and blended, it is almost always introduced to oak (those that are not are classed as joven or sin crianza) and then aged in the bottle. This is strictly regulated. A crianza wine must spend six months in oak and eighteen in the bottle, a reserva has been in oak for a year and will not be released until its fourth year, and a gran reserva is six years old when it goes on sale and has spent eighteen months in oak.

The white wines are made from Viura (known as Macabeo in France), Malvasia and Garnacha Blanca. They are usually fermented in stainless steel and are often meant to be drunk young and fresh, but some examples are rich and perfect for aging.

Climate and Conditions

The three sub-districts of Riojas Alavesa, Alta and Baja have differing climates and soil types that allow the whole variety of grapes to thrive.  Details of these can be found in their relevant sections.

Key Vintages

Both 2001 and 1998 are considered to be exceptional vintages and 2003, 2002 and 1999 were all judged to be good.  Wines from these years are still readily available.

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  1. Bagordi Blanco, Rioja

    Bagordi Blanco, Rioja, 2017 75cl

    Tropical aromas with hints of citrus and some pineapple notes carry through to a clean palate with a creamy finish.

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    £8.58
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    £7.15
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  2. Tobelos Barrel-Fermented White, Rioja

    Tobelos Barrel-Fermented Blanco, Rioja, 2014 75cl

    This excellent barrel fermented white Rioja has a yellow, green colour. The nose is intense with lots of clean ripe citrus fruit and pleasant toasty oak and smoked notes. The palate is dry and light with balanced fruit and wood assemblage which leaves a lingering refreshing taste of toasty ripe fruit notes and citrus hints.

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    £16.34
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    £12.05
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  3. Bagordi Joven Red, Rioja

    Bagordi Joven, 2016 75cl

    A pronounced nose of intense redcurrant fruit is joined on the palate by summer berries and soft spice. 

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  4. Navardia Joven, Rioja

    Navardia Joven, 2016 75cl

    A fresh, fruity red which combines fresh red berry fruit with a subtle hint of spice on the finish.

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  5. Arjona, Tinto

    Arjona, Tinto, 2016 75cl

    A bright ruby-red colour, with shades of violet typical in its youth. The aroma is open and fruity with light touches of vanilla and other spices.

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    £8.10
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    £9.30
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  6. Monte Araya, Vendimia Seleccionada

    Monte Araya, Vendimia Seleccionada, 2016 75cl

    As Rioja goes this is very light and approachable style. It has a ripe cherry fruit character which combines well with savoury notes to create a wine that has good depth and a silky finish. This is a great example of medium bodied complexity.

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  7. Bagordi Crianza, Rioja

    Bagordi Crianza, Rioja, 2014 75cl

    Aromas of blackberries and raspberries are supported by hints of hazelnut, with a deep flavour and a vanilla filled finish.

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  8. Navardia Crianza, Rioja

    Navardia Crianza, 2012 75cl

    An intense nose full of aromatic complexity with ripe red fruit and a rich roasted character. Subtle spice is present on the palate with some liquorice even a hint of dark chocolate breaking through on the finish.

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  9. Rioja Vega, Crianza

    Rioja Vega, Crianza, 2014 75cl

    Clean, bright ruby red with aromas of vanilla, toast and spices. Well structured, meaty and balanced in the mouth.

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    £9.54
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    £10.96
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    £9.13
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  10. Gustales, Crianza

    Gustales, Crianza, 2013 75cl

    A traditional-style Rioja which has been bottle-aged, giving the wine a smooth rich flavour with a soft balance.

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  11. Tobelos, Crianza

    Tobelos, Crianza, 2014 75cl

    Intense black-cherry colour with an attractive, powerful berry-fruit nose and hints of vanilla and spice. Velvety soft on the palate, this is a wine with grace and character.

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  12. Tuercebotas Graciano, Crianza, Rioja

    Tuercebotas Graciano, Crianza, 2014 75cl

    The wine is characterised by ripe red fruit and exhibits secondary aromas of liquorice, cedar and cloves. The palate has a creamy texture interspersed with sweet spices. The tannins are a little bit dry but not austere and the finish is long and leathery.

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