La Rioja is Spain’s best wine region, and its largest producing one too. Located in the north of the country, just below the Basque Country, it has approximately 63,593 hectares of vineyards and produces 280 to 300 million litres of wine per year. Here are some of the best wines to try from La Rioja.
La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva is a red wine made from Tempranillo and Graciano grapes, grown in 60-year-old vineyards in the villages of Briñas, Labastida and Villalba. It has a cherry-red colour and is a bright and clean wine with notes of cinnamon, vanilla and chocolate, with coffee-caramel aftertaste. The Gran Reserva 904 from 2007 was a particularly good year.
Cirsion is a red wine from the Bodegas Roda in the town of Haro, made from 100% Tempranillo grapes and aged in French oak barrels. It has a deep purplish colour and aromas of dark red fruits, damp earth, violets, chocolate and mint, eucalyptus and smoke. The 2004, 2009 and 2010 vintages were excellent years.
Baron de Chirel is made by the Marqués de Riscal winery – one of the oldest in La Rioja. It was first created in 1986, from vines that were around 100 years old. It has a dark cherry colour with spicy aromas of toasted French oak and red berries. The wine goes well with ham, mature cheeses, wild game and spicy sauces.
Viña El Pisón is an elegant wine made by the Bodegas y Viñedos Artadi, located just outside the village of Guardia. It is made from Tempranillo grapes and has aromas of ripe black fruit and toasted notes. The wine is aged for 13 months in French oak barrels and pairs well with roasts, grilled meat, stews and cured cheese. 2014 was one of its best years.
One of La Rioja’s newer wineries that has made a great name for itself is Contador, founded in 1995 by Benjamín Romeo, when the wines were made in his parents’ garage and aged in caves beneath the Castle of San Vicente de la Sonsierra. Today, the wines are made in a new, state-of-the-art winery, built into the hillside. The Contador wine of the same name is made from Temperanillo grapes and is aged for 18 months – it features notes of blackberry and spice. 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015 were all good years, but the best award-winning Contador wines were the 2004 and 2005 vintages.
Viña Tondonia Gran Reserva is made by the famous López de Heredia Viña Tondonia winery in the town of Haro. It’s made from a mix of Tempranillo, Garnacho, Mazuelo and Graciano grapes and is a very dry, rich, bright red wine with notes of vanilla and berries. 1995 was one of its best years, and it goes well with red meats.
La Rioja is famous for its red wines, however it does produce a few excellent whites too. The Rioja Blanco from Viña Real is made from Viura and Malvasia grapes. It’s a pure wine with floral and citrus aromas, notes of grapefruit and subtle toasted and biscuit flavours from the American oak barrels it’s stored in. It pairs well with paellas and seafood.