24 great-value Riojas between £8-£20
La Rioja Alta, Viña Arana, Reserva 2005
Decanter average score: 18.75pts/20 (95+/100pts)
Individual judge’s scores: Pedro Ballesteros MW 19 Ben Henshaw 18.5 Annette Scarfe MW 18.5
La Rioja Alta (founded 1890) is one of Rioja’s great names and is still owned by its five founding families. Current chairman Guillermo de Aranzábal has the winery firmly back on track under the guidance of winemaker Julio Sáenz. The attention to detail is paying off. For instance they remain loyal to American oak, which they believe is best for their wines, and since 1995 have returned to sourcing, drying and then coopering their own oak. A new winery was also installed about the same time. The gran reservas 904 and 890 are the top wines; Viña Arana is a lighter style, apparently once known as ‘Rioja claret’.
Pedro Ballesteros MW A great wine. An archetype of what makes Rioja unique: harmonious US oak, stylish oxidative development, fresh balance and a long finish.
Ben Henshaw Instantly attractive. Smooth, rich and approachable. Very classy.
Annette Scarfe MW Traditional savoury style. Typical Rioja with elegance and class. Great length and delicious. Multi-dimensional and complex.
Price £17–£19.99 Armit, Fine & Rare, Nickolls & Perks, Oxford Wine Co, Secret Cellar, Swig, Tanners, The Wine Society, WoodWinters