Fall is a wonderful time of year, with crisp weather, a slight chill in the air and beautiful warm red, orange and yellow colors everywhere. It is a time to start turning up the heat inside and transitioning from fresh, light, white summer wines to slightly more medium bodied reds. Riojas come to mind as the perfect transitional wines from warm weather to the colder seasons. Riojas are the perfect autumnal wines for those evenings you want to just cozy up by the fireplace..
Spain’s most popular wine, Rioja, is primarily made from Tempranillo grapes. Tempranillo is the noble grape of Spain and is indigenous to this region. Sometimes Garnacha, Mazuelo(Carignan) and Graciano are blended into the wines also. Rioja is a region located in north-central Spain along the Ebro River. It is a region that has embraced old world as well as new world wine making styles and techniques.
If you read a label on a bottle of Rioja you will notice the wine making style of the wine. You might have noticed the terms Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva on the labels. Crianza wines are typically aged in oak for one year and one year in the bottle. Crianza Riojas are typically fresh, young wines with and emphasis on fruit. These wines are meant to drunk young and are easy drinking. Reserva wines are aged one year in oak and two years in the barrel. Reserva wines are made from the best grapes in the vineyard and typically excellent values as they are sold for $15-$30. Gran Reserva wines are aged two years in oak and three years in bottles. Gran Reserva wines are only made in exceptional vintages, and are made with only the highest quality grapes.
Riojas pair well with traditional Spanish delights like jamon, manchego cheese, olives and various other delectable tapas and also stand up to big juicy steaks.
There are many wonderful Riojas at compelling price points, one that has stood out for me as an excellent quality wine at great price point, is the Marques de Vargas 2010 Reserva. Marques de Vargas is a wine that has solid reputation in Spain, often found in the pintxos of San Sebastian. The history of this family owned vineyard dates back to the 1840’s in Logroño, in the Ebro valley. The region is ideal for grape growing as it has a continental climate due to the Atlantic. The soils are clay and limestone, perfect for producing an intensely rich yet balanced wine. The grapes are handpicked from their vineyard ” Hacienda Pradolaga” where the vines are 33 years old The wine is a blend of 75% tempranillo and 25% other grapes, aged 20 months in American, French and Russian Oak. There is no fining or filtering, thus creating a a completely natural wine.
This is a beautifully classic Rioja. We first decanted the wine for about an hour, this bought out the deep ruby red color, and enhanced the fresh fruit aromas on the nose. On the palate the wine was smooth and rich with explosive fruit, flavors of cherry, blackberry, and vanilla. The wine is balanced and smooth with a long smoky finish of oak and supple tannins. A stunning Rioja for the fall season.