Spain, Rioja Alta

Spain is definitely one of the new-world players to keep an eye on. It is the land of old-vines, american oak and sherry! The main varieties grown in Spain are Tempranillo and Garnacha (Grenache) in the reds, and Airén, Viura/Macabeo, Verdejo and Albarino for the whites. Lesser grown whites include Palomino. Other reds successfully cultivated include Carignan, Mourvedre and Mencia.

Although Spain can be quite a warm country, the vast majority of vineyards are 600m or so above sea level, so the cooler nights allow the grapes to develop full colour and acidity.

Rioja is undoubtedly the long-standing king of all the Spanish wine regions, where Tempranillo and Garnacha are commonly blended. However more recently many more regions have come to the forefront of interest. Ribera Del Duero is producing excellent Tempranillo blends rivalling those coming out of Rioja. Jerez in the South is the home of the fortified wine Sherry.

Spanish wine laws created the Denominación de Origen (DO) system in 1932 and were later revised in 1970. These include:
  • - Denominación de Origen Calificada (formerly called DOCa) Priorat calls itself DOQ for Denominació d'Origen Qualificada in Catalan and has a track record of consistent quality and is meant to be a step above DO level.
  • - Denominación de Origen (DO)- Used for mainstream-quality wine regions. Nearly two thirds of the total vineyard area in Spain is within the boundaries of a DO region.
  • - Vino de Calidad Producido en Región Determinada (VCPRD) - This is somewhat of a stepping stone to DO status.
  • - Vinos de la Tierra (VdIT) - A level similar to France's vin de pays system, where the regions are much larger.
  • - Vino de Mesa (VdM)- The equivalent of 'table wines' from France or Italy

There are three main regions in Rioja, with each of them producing quite unique expressions of Rioja wines. To the west is Rioja Alta, in the higher elevated area. This subregion is renowned for its old-world wines that are often lighter on the palate due to the higher altitude. The wines coming out of Rioja Alavesa on the other hand are fuller bodies, with higher acid levels than those from Rioja Alta. The third area, Rioja Baja is the warmest and driest of all, and can in summer months can be exposed to very high temperatures drought so irrigation is now permitted in the region.

The red (tinto) wines of Rioja are generally blends of Tempranillo and Garnacha with lesser amounts of Graciano and Mazuelo. Amongst the white (bianco) varieties, Viura is the most common though normally blended with Malvasia or Garnacha Blanc. Plenty of interesting Rosé wines are produced, most commonly from the Garnacha variety.

Note that wineries in Spain are commonly referred to as bodegas.
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  1. Alegro Rioja Tinto Tempranillo 2019
    A fun, fruity wine, perfect to enjoy every day with a snack or any Mediterranean dishes, like rice, vegetable or pasta. This wine is representative of the virtues of the Tempranillo variety: intense floral aromas, very fresh red and dark ... Learn More
  2. Alegro Rioja Crianza 2017
    A representative wine of the new Rioja style, interpreted from modernity. Elegant, balanced and reliable on any occasion, with classic aromas of red fruit and vanilla and subtle hints of liquorice and toffee. Versatile with all kinds of Mediterranean dishes ( ... Learn More
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  3. Alegro Rioja Reserva 2014
    A clear example of the elegance and silkiness of Rioja Reservas but with a more modern profile. With the complexity of long ageing in the barrel and bottle, and the delicateness of the Tempranillo. A wine with intense aromas of ... Learn More
  4. La Rioja Alta Rioja Reserva ‘Vina Alberdi’ 2012
    100% Tempranillo sourced from an estate-owned vineyard in Rioja. ... Learn More
  5. La Rioja Alta Rioja Reserva ‘Vina Ardanza’ 2008
    The Tempranillo grapes (80%) come from the 30-year-old La Cuesta and Montecillo vineyards, located in Fuenmayor y Cenicero. For the first time in the blend of this brand, the Garnacha (20%) comes from La Pedriza vineyard in Tudelilla (Rioja Baja) at an ... Learn More
    pts
    Tim Atkin MW
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    Luis Gutierrez
  6. La Rioja Alta Rioja Reserva ‘Vina Ardanza’ 2009
    The Tempranillo grapes (80%) come from the 30-year-old La Cuesta and Montecillo vineyards, located in Fuenmayor y Cenicero. For the first time in the blend of this brand, the Garnacha (20%) comes from La Pedriza vineyard in Tudelilla (Rioja Baja) at an ... Learn More
    pts
    James Suckling
    pts
    Tim Atkin MW
    pts
    Luis Gutierrez
    Out of stock
  7. La Rioja Alta Rioja Reserva ‘Vina Ardanza’ 2010
    The Tempranillo grapes (80%) come from the 30-year-old La Cuesta and Montecillo vineyards, located in Fuenmayor y Cenicero. For the first time in the blend of this brand, the Garnacha (20%) comes from La Pedriza vineyard in Tudelilla (Rioja Baja) at an ... Learn More
    Out of stock
  8. La Rioja Alta Rioja Gran Reserva ‘904’ 2009
    90% Tempranillo and 10% Graciano from vines over 60 years old in vineyards in Briñas, Labastida and Villalba. ... Learn More
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    Luis Gutierrez
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    Tim Atkin MW
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