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The wines that made Rioja famous: panel tasting results

Historically, the production of consistent blends put Rioja’s producers on the global wine map – and they continue to deliver for today’s drinkers. This tasting highlights the brands that built Rioja.

Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW, Amaya Cervera, Sarah Jane Evans MW and Alvaro Ribalta Millán MW tasted 77 wines with one Outstanding and 61 Highly Recommended

The wines that made Rioja famous panel tasting scores

77 wines tasted

Exceptional 0

Outstanding 1

Highly recommended 61

Recommended 13

Commended 1

Fair 0

Poor 0

Faulty 1

Rioja is Bordeaux’s intellectual heiress, on two counts. First, its wines could only achieve greatness when Bordelais winemaking knowhow – the ‘Médoc method’, as it was called – was imported into the region. Careful viticulture, fruit selection, destemming, long maceration and oak ageing are the necessary conditions to reveal Rioja’s true potential.

Second, the business model for the best traditional Rioja wineries was inspired by the French one: building prestige via the use of brands. While producers had the expertise around where the best wines could be made, wine merchants cared about names on labels.

Scroll down to see tasting notes and scores for the top-scoring wines that made Rioja famous

In every other respect, Rioja and Bordeaux differed. To define who is better, French consumers had the debatable support of the Bordeaux region’s official 1855 Classification. Rioja producers, by contrast, were left to their own devices. To create a loyal customer base, two conditions are that brands have their own identity, and that they are deemed reliable.

See the top-scoring wines that made Rioja famous

The following wines all scored 91 points or above

The judges

Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW is a widely published wine journalist, educator and judge, and a regular contributor to Decanter on Spanish wines.

Amaya Cervera is the founder of website Spanish Wine Lover, and a freelance wine writer and journalist based in Madrid.

Sarah Jane Evans MW is a Decanter World Wine Awards Co-Chair, and a widely published and awarded journalist, author and broadcaster who specialises in Spanish wines.

Alvaro Ribalta Millán MW works as Spanish wine buyer for UK specialist importer Indigo Wine, and is based in Barcelona.

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