Wine: You say Rioja
On holiday, sometimes we just want to chill, other times explore a little and other times again we want the fully immersive cultural experience. So too it is with wine. Certain occasions call for a glass of something uncomplicated at the end of the day, others a complimentary food match or perhaps to mark a special occasion.
So often we choose the same wine for each of these occasions. We have found one we like and we are sticking to it! Like the holiday, that is fine but when we do make a conscious decision to seek out and try some other wine styles, the experience can be very rewarding.
Once we get over the pronunciation (the J sound is more of a soft K), red Rioja is a great wine to explore and a perfect example of three different styles in one, allowing us to move about easily depending on the occasion.
Located in North Eastern Spain, Rioja was for long time Spain's only high-profile wine region and is still one of the most widely-recognised wine brands in the world. Red grapes represent 90% of those grown in the region, the most significant being Tempranillo and Garnacha. It is from these two grapes that Rioja is made.
Tempranillo is a big wine with high tannins which makes it a great partner for rich meat and aged cheese. Garnacha complements the Tempranillo with high alcohol, spicy notes and light tannins and works beautifully with braised meat and stews.
Rioja defining feature is its classification structure. Based on a specific length of time that it must spend aging in oak casks and then in bottle, the wine achieves a particular classification of which there are four. They are all easy to approach wines, building in character as you move up the scale, happily offering great value at each level.
Joven (meaning young, Juvenile): Wines in their first or second year, these are often made from just Tempranillo and are a great example of its fresh and fruity characteristics. Rioja Vega €10.99 Gold medal Irish Wine Awards - 'Best for value wine in Ireland 2017’
Crianza: Perhaps the most accessible level of Rioja wines, here the wine has spent a minimum of one year in oak, commonly in previously used casks so the oak flavours are not as strong. An additional period aging in bottle offers great value at this level.
Reserva: A minimum 3 years aging, with at least A minimum 3 years aging, with at least st one of those years in cask. Many Rioja wine enthusiasts swear by Reserva level because they are a medium between super fruity Crianza and oaky-bottle-aged Gran Reserva.
Gran Reserva: Selected wines from exceptional vintages which have spent at least 2 years in oak casks and 3 years in the bottle. This gives Rioja wine the most tannin structure and age-worthy potential.
With so many great individual Rioja producers within each of these levels, a world of pleasure awaits, whatever the occasion.
All the wines mentioned are available instore at Ardkeen Quality Food Store
Julie Ward is Food and Wine Customer Advisor at Ardkeen Quality Food Store in Waterford.
Julie holds a WSET (Wine & Spirit Education Trust) Level 2 Award in Wine
Palacios-Remondo Rioja Crianza La Montesa 2016 75cl
La Montesa was aged for 12 months in a mix of new and used French and American oak and bottled unfiltered. Medium crimson-colored, it offers an expressive bouquet of cedar, pencil lead, black raspberry, and blackberry. Medium to full-bodied, it reveals a supple texture, plenty of spicy dark fruits, good complexity, and an elegant personality. It has a lengthy finish for its modest price.
Ramón Bilbao Crianza 2014 Rioja Spain
From the grapevine to your glass and from thee, flowing over your senses, rekindling memories and memories and awakening emotions.
This is where the journey begins. Transform any moment into a truly special one. Ideal for savouring some appetizers or while waiting for dinner to be ready.