By Rose Murray Brown MW Published in The Scotsman 20 November 2021
Rioja is a popular choice for the festive meal, check out my top ten picks from the region’s 400+ bodegas:
GLORIOSO RIOJA RESERVA 2016 Cosme Palacio ***STAR BUY***
£11.95 The Wine Society; Ocado
Five year old Rioja at a superb price made by winemaker Roberto Rodriguez from the Cosme Palacio stable. High altitude grown grapes in Rioja Alavesa, matured 36 months in French and a little American oak to continue the Rioja tradition, says Rodriguez. Deliciously rich cherry fruits, spicy leathery notes, rich gamey complex palate and fine tannins. Hard to find such a good mature Rioja at this price [pictured above].
EL PACTO TINTO RIOJA 2019 Vintae
£11.50 The Wine Society
Modern style with upfront fruits, vivid freshness, good acidity and refined tannins – quite elegant crianza for the price. Hails from Sonsierra in northern Rioja where northerly winds and calcareous soils give high natural acidity. Made from several plots of old vines, mostly Tempranillo with Garnacha and Mazuelo, all fermented together and aged one year in barrel.
LA VENDIMIA 2019 Palacios Remondo
£15.49 Berry Bros; Butlers Wine Cellars
Another cracker from warm dry 2019 vintage with ripe cherry fruits, lovely youthful freshness, light oak and beautiful balance. No wonder it is so good – this 50-50 blend of Tempranillo and Garnacha from Rioja Orientale is made by the esteemed Alvaro Palacios, one of Spain’s top winemakers, on his father’s Rioja estate.
RIOJA CRIANZA VINEDOS EN ALTITUD 2017 Cosme Palacio ***STAR BUY***
£18-£19.99 Vinissimus; Amazon; Blas ar Fwyd Cyf; Hoults Wine; Kwoff; Vin Cognito
This stood out in a line up of Rioja crianzas for its easy drinking style, sumptuous fleshy red fruits, silky texture and fine tannins. Made from 100% Tempranillo grown in Sonsierra vineyards over 600m by talented winemaker Roberto Rodriguez who calls it a ‘super-crianza’ treating it as if it was a reserva lavishing it with new French oak. 2017 was a complicated small volume harvest.
RIOJA RESERVA 2015 Marques de Murrieta
£19.99 – £24.99 Fraziers Wine; Field & Fawcett; Selfridges; Raeburn Wines; Villeneuve Wines
I have long been a fan of Murrieta’s traditional style, still focusing mainly on American oak and their own estate fruit. From hot dry 2015 vintage, this stylish polished Reserva has been aged for 18 months in oak, but oak notes are subtle and spicy. Generous ripe fruits melded with silky tannins; a classy blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha, Mazuelo and Graciano made by winemaker Maria Vargas.
RIOJA RESERVA 2012 Valenciso
£19.95-£22.95 Drinkmonger; Noel Young Wines; All About Wine; The Sampler
Very stylish mature Reserva from a small ‘garage’ producer founded just over twenty years ago by Luis Valentin and Carmen Enciso, who worked at Bodegas Palacios. The couple make just one wine – this modern styled 100% Tempranillo from Rioja Alta fruit, aged in new French oak and a little Caucasian oak for 16 months. From a warm dry year; savoury raisiny, sweet red fruit notes, rich and elegant.
EL COTO GRAN RESERVA 2014 Coto de Imaz ***STAR BUY***
£21.50-£22.99 Cornelius Wine; Valhalla’s Goat; Cave Glasgow; Spey Larder; Provender Brown; Exel Wines; Aitken Wines
Mature elegant richly aromatic Gran Reserva at a good price from El Coto, the largest vineyard owner in the region based in Rioja Alavesa. Loved its toasty oak notes, cherry fruit, silky palate and spicy raisiny flavours with almost leathery undertones – from the tricky damp 2014 vintage.
RIOJA RESERVA 2014 Finca Valpiedra
£28 North South Wines; Hic winemerchants
Attractive modern style from this beautifully sited large single vineyard on a bend of Rioja’s famous River Ebro. Made from 94% Tempranillo with a little Graciano and Maturana Tinto to add pepper and spicy. Very supple, lovely ripe fruits, quite juicy palate with firm tannins in a Bordeaux style; aged for 22 months in French oak. Good effort from the Bujanda family stable.
RIOJA RESERVA 2016 Roda
£26.99 / £29.99 Majestic Wine
Roda’s wines have been impressive right from the start when this modern-day winery was founded a mere 30 years ago. Unusually this Reserva is made from 17 different sites with low yielding mature vines, all fermented separately as single vineyards. Aged for 18 months in partly new French oak it has a solid firm structure built for ageing – with deep dark black cherry notes, green tea flavours and elegant silky tannins.
RIOJA GRAN RESERVA ‘904’ 2011 La Rioja Alta ***STAR BUY***
£47 The Wine Society; Lea & Sandeman; Wine Trust
Named in honour of year 1904 when founder Alfredo Ardanza merged with his own Ardanza winery. This 2011 is a gorgeously mature traditional style from an excellent, small volume vintage. Made from grapes grown in Rioja Alta; 89% Tempanillo with a healthy dose of 11% Graciano in the blend giving vivid freshness and savoury notes from four years in old American oak and long bottle age. Loved its plummy balsamic notes and coffee undertones.
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