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:
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.
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,…
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.
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.
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.
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.