Rioja is maybe the best known Spanish wine, but did you know there are various styles of Rioja?
First, let’s review a bit about Rioja. It is a region in North-Central Spain that’s known for its wine. And, like most Old-World wines, the wine label identifies the wine region, not the grape varietal.
Rioja wine is made from Tempranillo grapes but is usually a blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha and Mazuelo (a.k.a. Carignan).
But, have you’ve ever noticed that a Rioja wine is made in various styles?
The most basic Rioja wine is usually labeled simply as “Rioja.” Makes sense, right? It is aged for a matter of months, bottled and sold. It’s bright and fruity with big cherry flavors.
Then there is “Crianza.” You may not have noticed this word on the label since it doesn’t immediately mean anything to an English speaker. But, one of its translations means ‘aging.’ And, indeed, this style of Rioja is required to be aged for one year in oak and spend one year in the bottle before being sold. The controlling board in Rioja, the Consejo Regulador DOCa Rioja, ensures that these quality requirements are met.
Next is “Reserva.” Now this is a term that appears on a lot of wines, but in Rioja it actually means something. A Rioja Reserva is required to be aged for one year in oak and then spend two years in the bottle before being sold.
Finally, there is “Gran Reserva.” This wine must spend a minimum of two years in oak and three years in the bottle before being sold. But, often these wines are closer to ten years old when sold. This wine is produced from the best grapes and ends up with the best tannin structure.
So, when buying a Rioja, pay attention to the label and turn the bottle around to the backside to look for one of the identifying stickers. Then, you’ll know exactly what you are getting.
Cheers! Or in Spanish “iSalud!”