Spain is known for it’s rich history and culture. It’s terrific food and incredible wines that rival those of Italy and France. Spain’s premeir wine region is called Rioja (ree-oh-ha). There are other great regions but Rioja’s wine region goes back about 2000 years and today it’s among the most cutting edge. That in itself is incredible.
Rioja usually does refer to the region but a lot of the time it can refer to the wine itself. For example, one might say “Do you have a good Rioja?”
My friends always ask me to explain Rioja. Well... Rioja's main grape is Tempranillo. You can find it all over Spain; but arguably it's best expression is in Rioja. There are other varieties like Garnacha and Graciano as well. Great red wine.
Just like the French, Spain has a serious set of rules that protect the integrity of the wine. These laws are called the D.O.
In Rioja the aging process gets listed from youngest to oldest. These terms are Cosecha, Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva. Each wine has its own distinct flavors and alot of it depends on the terroir. Rioja wines can be powerful and subtle and contain a dustiness which I think is similar to Rutherford California wines. A little toasty and a little spicy yet vibrant with good acidity, strawberries, dark cherries and raspberries come through. Some Tempranillo can be very Burgundian, very lush too...These wines are very food friendly; especially with agood hard sheep's milk cheese.
Cosecha requires the least amount of aging of them all; requiring barrel and bottle aging of less than 6 months. But to be honest there is alot of wine being called Cosecha. That's not to say that that it's wrong. Cosecha can be mindblowing but it's getting harder to distinguish the process.
Crianza wines require aging in oak barrels of at least 12 months with a minimum of another year in bottle.
Reserva wines require 36 months of aging between barrel and bottle. It must have at least 12 months in barrel.
Gran Reserva requires 24 months of aging in barrel and a further 36 months in bottle before before release sometimes a bit longer.
Some of the greats include Muga, Faustino, Marques de Riscal and Sierra Cantabria. Try one today.