Spanish wine experts discuss quality, new legislations and value in Rioja…
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.
‘Only recently has Rioja bowed to the demand to identify single vineyards. It’s a great leap forward, letting consumers easily discover where a wine comes from and associate the wine with its landscape. This emphasis on origin also offers a chance to talk about terroir.
‘Originally the Rioja map was drawn with an eye to provincial boundaries. But within the DOCa sub-regions of Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Oriental, the soils are very varied, a mix of iron-rich clay, calcareous clay and alluvial. Add in varied aspects and altitudes, and Rioja has potential for great diversity.
It’s also worth pointing out that Rioja has some exceptional whites.’
Pedro Ballesteros Torres MW:
‘The Rioja appellation has worked to develop a system that provides guarantees on wines from individual plots, the viñedo singular (VS). Launched in 2019, its purpose is to control and protect wines that are made with grapes cultivated in a demarcated area, whose characteristics are deemed worthy of protection.
‘The new measures are not a substitute for the classic system for evaluating quality in Rioja – ageing. Rioja was born to the fine wine world because of the capacity of its wines to reveal their greatness after oak ageing.
‘Even now, a Rioja gran reserva label is very likely to guarantee the wine lover a wine of very good quality and great personality. What’s more, the appellation has introduced modifications to the regulation in terms of minimum ageing requirements, which should sustain this image.’
‘Rioja producers should be applauded because this is a region that has the weight of heritage, legacy and history on it, and yet, we currently see some really incredibly interesting and innovative approaches to making wine, whether it’s to reflect the vineyard or the winemaking.
‘In the £10-£20 price range, drinkers will be getting seriously good wines of real complexity, real interest and distinct typicity for a price that’s relatively unbeatable around the world in terms of the quality they offer.’
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, 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.’