What is it about us and Rioja?
When did we fall in love with this Spanish wine and why?
I can only surmise that back in the 1970’s when we, as a nation, embarked on the baby steps of foreign travel and Spain was the obvious target – lots of sand, sea, sun and that there Rioja!
Instead of a big, warm pint of bitter in a windowed jug, we were enjoying an ice cold lager and a glass of wine with our paella – a culinary revelation!
Upon returning to the UK, with a sombrero atop our head, a fluffy donkey under each arm and a bottle of Rioja, stashed in the suitcase – wrapped in towels no doubt – we spread the word.
The appeal of red Rioja is an obvious one, it’s so easy to drink, not heavy in alcohol and goes with all manner of food types.
The wine is even put into age categories which makes shopping for the wine an easy one – or so you’d think.
Starting with youthful Joven wines then moving via Crianza, through to Reserva and finally resting of Gran Reserva, the choice is yours on how much you wish to pay.
One extremely successful wine, especially in Wales was Siglo Saco, with its distinctive sackcloth jacket, I shudder to think how many bottles have been consumed in our fair isle. Easily recognised on a wine list and that sweet nose of American oak was intoxicating to the wine-drinking public.
And when we turned our attention to the fruit-driven wines of the New World, what did Rioja do?
Well, it started to produce more fruity style wines alongside its ‘traditional’ range of wines, so we were lured back to the wily charms of this fine region nestled in the north of Spain.
And so the love affair continues with a huge range on offer and now the with the popularity of the whites and rosé styles gaining momentum we can find a style to suit all palates. Salud!
Author: Neil Cammies
Neil Cammies is the wine columnist of the Western Mail and Media Wales and has run wine education courses and tastings. He has also appeared on TV and radio as judge and aficionado of all things drink related.