Rioja has earned itself a category due to its unique flavour profile and popularity. The main star of the show here is Tempranillo, however other grapes do play a part. Garnacha is a popular choice to blend with the Tempranillo, and in the more expensive wines smaller components of Graciano and Mazuelo are used.
Only Spain has managed to produce world class Tempranillo so far, with the focus being on the region of Rioja. Over the years Rioja has remained in demand, and it doesn’t look like there is much chance of this changing. There are three parts of Rioja, and all produce slightly different styles of wine. In Rioja Alavesa slightly more delicate, scented wines are made, whereas in Rioja Alta¸ where over half the region’s Tempranillo is planted, the wines are darker and richer. In Rioja Baja, the weather is hotter and Garnacha takes over as the main grape, making quite thick and stewy wines.
As well as Rioja, you can find good wines produced in regions such as Ribera del Duero, La Mancha, Navarra. These wines can often be cheaper than those from Rioja, but can still have all the flavour and ageing that people crave. Some New World countries such as Australia and Argentina have also taken an interest in this grape.
What to Expect
Tempranillo is deep in colour and filled with rich flavours such as blackberries, cherries and raspberries with the oak giving the wines a hit of vanilla. When young its flavours can be jammier, and when aged in oak for a long time the flavours become savoury, think dried fruits but still with a strawberry edge. Rioja is a perfect match for food. It works well with grilled meats, spicy chorizo and works magically with roast lamb.
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