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Rioja gran reserva: Panel tasting results

Rioja gran reserva can be a confusing category, but it does deliver consistent quality and is an accessible starting point for those who want to learn about aged wines.

Sarah Jane Evans MW, Christine Parkinson and Beth Willard tasted 61 Rioja gran reservas with three outstanding and 30 highly-recommended wines.

Entry criteria: Decanter invited producers and UK agents to submit Rioja gran reserva reds from any vintage, with availability in the UK

The verdict

Although the gran reserva category has basic parameters, there is still considerable variation in its wines. Winemakers can choose to age their gran reservas for longer, and wines are also increasingly being made in a variety of styles.

In a tasting that encompassed a range of vintages from 2001 to 2015, this diversity was even more pronounced – and it was the first thing that tasters commented on. ‘Gran reserva used to be a small category, but you knew what you were getting. Now I think it’s much more confusing,’ said Sarah Jane Evans MW.

Top-scoring wines from the Rioja gran reserva panel tasting:

The judges

Sarah Jane Evans MW

Evans is an awarded journalist, author and broadcaster in food and wine, with a particular interest in Spain. A Master of Wine since 2006, she is chairman of Spain’s Gran Orden de Caballeros del Vino, author of The Wines of Northern Spain, and one of three Co-Chairs overseeing the Decanter World Wine Awards.

Christine Parkinson

Parkinson is co- founder and drinks consultant at Brimful Drinks. Starting out in the kitchen and rising to head chef, she went on to become worldwide group head of wine for the Michelin-starred Hakkasan Group. Having led her team to the WSET Educator of the Year global award in 2016, she left Hakkasan in 2019.

Beth Willard

After moving to the UK from Australia, Willard worked in several buying roles before that of buying manager at Direct Wines. Now working with Winetraders to introduce new wines from Spain and Eastern Europe to the UK, she is a member of Spain’s Gran Orden de Caballeros de Vino and the Confrérie de Tokaj.

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