We asked Sarah Jane Evans MW and Tim Atkin MW for their favourite reds from Rioja that represent the best of the region today. Here are their top 10...

Sarah Jane Evans MW and Tim Atkin MW were tasked with sniffing out the best Rioja wines to form a conclusive top 50.

With Atkin focussing on reserva and generic wines, and Evans on gran reserva, crianza and non-Tempranillo wines, the full breadth of the region is covered.


Read our experts’ thoughts below


Best Rioja- 10 top wines:

Señorío de San Vicente, San Vicente, Rioja, 2011

Señorío de San Vicente, San Vicente, Rioja, 2011

An 18ha parcel close to the Sierra de Cantabria is the source of the Tempranillo here. Rich, concentrated, aromatic yet also refreshing, it’s a ripe mountain wine, showing flavours of orange peel, mulberry, Asian spices, vanilla and tobacco. The tannins are ultra-fine, the finish very long.

Points 97
Tentenublo Wines, Las Paredes Single Vineyard, Rioja, 2014

Tentenublo Wines, Las Paredes Single Vineyard, Rioja, 2014

Grown on a 0.5ha parcel at 700m, this remarkable Garnacha, made from 60-year-old vines, is in short supply, but it’s worth tracking down one of the 400 bottles. Dense yet full of vigour, freshness and life, it’s spicy, refreshing and well balanced, with subtle oak and flavours of wild herbs,…

Points 97
Viñedos de Páganos, El Puntido, Rioja, 2011

Viñedos de Páganos, El Puntido, Rioja, 2011

Grown at the upper limits (600m-630m) for Tempranillo, this single vineyard of 25ha is situated just below the town of Laguardia on bony soils. It’s a very chalky, mineral wine that combines power with acidity. Complex, spicy and refreshing, with skilfully handled new oak and great ageing potential.

Points 97
Abel Mendoza, Grano a Grano Graciano, Rioja, 2012

Abel Mendoza, Grano a Grano Graciano, Rioja, 2012

Even Abel Mendoza, one of Rioja’s best viticulturists, finds Graciano tricky to grow and vinify. This is certainly not short of gutsy tannins, with plum and blackcurrant fruit, plenty of oak and depth, and tangy, palate-cleansing acidity. Another wine to tuck away.

Points 97

Sarah Jane Evans MW:

‘Change is in the air in Rioja. Not just among those who are questioning the regulatory body’s rules. You will meet an encouraging new generation of Rioja producers starting their own bodegas.

In making my choices, I was asked to focus on crianza, gran reserva and non-Tempranillo red wines, but it is worth pointing out that Rioja also has some exceptional whites.’

Tim Atkin MW:

‘In Rioja, all but a handful of the DOCa’s finest wines are comparatively inexpensive. There are oceans of cheap supermarket Rioja (I saw reservas on sale for £5.49 over Christmas), which suppress the prices of the good stuff, at least for now.

You don’t need to spend much more to trade up from something that’s simple, fruity and oaky to something that is complex, balanced and ageworthy.

How much longer will this continue? Changes are afoot. Rioja, not before time, is seriously debating allowing producers to use the names of individual villages and vineyards on their labels – ludicrously, such a thing is forbidden at the moment.

If that happens, I think the best terroir-focussed Riojas will start to attract the attention of wine collectors and investors. And we all know what happens then…’

The full list of 50 top Riojas from Sarah Jane Evans MW and Tim Atkin MW was publsihed in the March 2016 issue of Decanter. Subscribe to Decanter here.


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  • Some great choices and some I don’t know – will need to do some reading.

    The López de Heredia wines maybe aren’t for everyone. Or at least you need to change your mindset before trying them – and probably not best approached right after a 2014 Contador!

    But once you get into them you certainly have to respect what they are continuing to do.

  • jayne 885

    Contador is one of the best Riojas around but the price is a little bit high at 290€ a botttle