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Vibrant Rioja! What’s Not To Love?

on 08/05/13 at 2:07 pm

BoozeBlog, Wine

imagesAh, what’s not to love about well-priced wines that are ready to drink and, oh, by the way, really good? At a tasting recently, I had a chance to sample a whole lot of Riojas and came away with a new-found respect. They are approachable, have plenty of complexity to make them interesting and certainly are food-friendly.

One of the things I appreciated about Riojas, for the most part, is that they are only released by the winemaker when deemed ready to drink, and for those of us who are impatient or don’t want to wait 20 years for a bottle to mature, Riojas are easy to hit up. I defy anyone to find comparable California wines at Rioja’s consumer friendly price points  that deliver such deliciousness.

But, times they are a changin’, even in Rioja. Wine markets and palates have moved some winemakers to abandon their traditional methods of making wine and convert to what they’re calling ‘modern’ winemaking. Traditionally, American oak barrels are used which are said to be sweeter – not as in ‘sugary’ but the wood is ‘sweeter’ – and winemakers are switching to French oak which imparts a spicier flavor. No one at the tasting could tell me why Spanish oak isn’t used. One winemaker said he was using both American and French oak while another said he was using Hungarian oak…no idea what flavor that might impart…goulash? And they are releasing them sooner which might not make them so immediately drinkable. But no matter, they will be soon enough.

As merely a dedicated wine consumer, I won’t go into the taste profiles of the wines but suffice it to say that you can hardly go wrong with a Rioja. For more information and recommendations, here’s a recent article by Eric Asimov, wine expert, of the NY Times: For Reservas, No Cellar Required