If there was ever a region that captured the heart of the Welsh public, it is the Spanish region of Rioja.
Ever since the wonderful wines were brought into the country, helped in no small part to Nigel O’Sullivan, founder of Fine Wines Direct UK, who, through his long-standing relationship with Marques de Caceres and Siglo Rioja, made the wines available to restaurants, pubs and clubs throughout Wales. And we have been more than a little bit in love with this fine Spanish region ever since.
This versatile region with the city of Logrono at its heart is so much more than the red wines it is famed for.
White wines hewn from viura, which at least 51% must be used, along with garnacha blanca, tempranillo blanco, malvasia, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and verdejo, have been accumulating a serious following from white wine lovers.
With the popularity of rosé in the past decade or so, it’s no wonder that Riojan Bodegas have been honing their skills making delicious pink wines too.
The move away from deep red rosé to more pallid examples is down to the obsession in this country with Provence-style pinks and Rioja has certainly taken this to heart with skin contact put to a minimum but not to the detriment of the fruit across the palate. Tempranillo and garnacha tinta produce delicious summer fruit profiles too, while still look completely innocent in the glass, hiding their bold alcohol with aplomb.
There has also been an interesting trend in the red wines of this region of late, showing the versatility and skill of the Riojan winemakers.
The enormous popularity in the fruit-driven wines from the New World has given some Bodegas pause for thought and the consequent reining back of the oak profile – traditionally American oak – to allow the tempranillo – the heavy lifting variety – along with garnacha tinta, Mazuelo (also known as Cariñena) and Graciano to shine through.
The result of this change of direction are wines to suit all tastes and palates, whether you favour young, crisp fruit-driven examples or big, muscular oaky wines, there is something for everyone from this great Spanish region.
Rioja Wine Month runs through the whole of October, so drop into the shop and enjoy the fantastic range we have on offer.
Former columnist for the Western Mail and is now working for Fine Wines Direct UK, hosting tastings, building client relationships and writing about his experiences in the wine trade.