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New-wave Rioja: panel tasting results

Known for its classic styles, Rioja is also home to a new generation of wines that focus on varietal, vineyard or unconventional winemaking. What can Rioja’s many admirers expect from this new wave?

Sarah Jane Evans MW, Diana Rollan and Beth Willard tasted 73 wines, with three Outstanding and 29 Highly Recommended.


New-wave Rioja panel tasting scores

73 wines tasted

Exceptional 0

Outstanding 3

Highly recommended 29

Recommended 31

Commended 6

Fair 4

Poor 0

Faulty 0

Entry criteria: producers and UK agents were invited to submit current-release vintages of red Rioja that don’t conform to the traditional oaked styles of Rioja defined by age statements; that showcase modern styles and different methods of winemaking; with ageing in concrete, amphora, etc; and single-vineyard wines


What an enjoyable tasting! To be sure, all these wines shared the ‘Rioja’ label, but then their paths diverged. For us as tasters it was an absorbing, delicious journey through the contemporary DOCa, its aspect and altitudes, its varieties and vinifications. What is happening in Rioja is so much more varied and exciting than the wine textbooks would have you believe.


Scroll down to see tasting notes and scores for the top-scoring new-wave Riojas


Given the eclecticism of the wines that Decanter requested for this tasting (see ‘Entry criteria’, above), we tasted according to vintage, starting with the youngest, then with unoaked before oaked. What was it that we enjoyed so much?


The top scoring new-wave Riojas: 


The judges

Sarah Jane Evans MW is an awarded journalist, author and broadcaster, and a DWWA Co-Chair. Author of The Wines of Northern Spain (Infinite Ideas, 2018), she is also chair of Spain’s Gran Orden de Caballeros del Vino

Diana Rollan is group head of beverage for D&D London restaurants group. A DWWA judge for Spain, she formerly managed wine buying and training at Hakkasan Group as its UK head of wine

Beth Willard is buying director for independent merchant Winetraders UK, with a focus on Spain and Eastern Europe, and former buying manager at Direct Wines. A member of Spain’s Gran Orden de Caballeros de Vino, she was a joint Regional Chair for Spain at DWWA 2021


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