You don’t have to pay the earth or pick the big names to get an exciting, quality Rioja. Decanter experts give their verdict, tasting notes and drinking windows on some of the best wines available for under £25.
From West to East, Rioja is just 100km and at its widest point 40km, tucked in between mountain ranges and cut through by the river Ebro. As a wine region it is compact, yet it is all about diversity. Politically it is divided, administered by three autonomous governments.
Climatically there are differences: Rioja Alavesa to the north has strong Atlantic influences; Rioja Alta to the west also has a mainly Atlantic climate; Rioja Baja to the east is drier and warmer with Mediterranean influences.
Being Rioja, if it’s on the shelf, it’s ready to drink, though the best will cellar well for 10 years. At the £8-£25 level, the pleasure is surely in drinking them now or soon. The wines have generous fruit, the best with the essence of biting into a fleshy cherry or plum. Alcohols are creeping up to 14.5% in many cases – though most wines are well-balanced.
Rioja under £25: Panel tasting results
Baron de Ley set out to make Riojas in a modern style, and has continued to experiment with blends, and
See Decanter experts' rating, tasting notes and drinking window for Garcia Carrion, 2010.
Decanter average score for Pedro Benito Urbina: Remarkably aromatic, opening up on the palate with nicely knit tannins,relevant fruitiness and
Decanter average score for Rioja Vega: Raspberry, mature oak and leather: a classic Rioja aroma.
See Decanter experts' rating, tasting notes and drinking window for Finca Valpiedra 2008.
Decanter average score for Navarrsotillo: A very pure demonstration of the uniqueness of Rioja Garnacha.
Decanter average score Faustino: Opulent aromas of mulberries, with cedar and vanilla overtones.
Decanter average score for La Rioja Alta: Layers of chocolate, brambles, fine oak, cedar and vanilla make up the palate.
Viña Pomal is a full bodied and has depth and intensity with velvety tannins and a long, penetrating finish
Decanter average score for Carlos Serres: Very fine and focused nose. Perfumed, mellow and precise.
Fos has super-ripe blackberry fruit that is spicy, intense and layered. Graciano shows through here; it’s dense and dark fruited
Allende has a mature nose with a lovely aged quality, showing notes of leather and cola.
Artevino has fragrant cherry and tobacco nose. Archetypical style, with nice toasty notes, very ripe fruit and wonderful balance, backed
El Coto has smoky, leathery, mature nose with a hint of something exotic. The Tempranillo shows a darker profile in
Forcada has scented, red berry nose with hints of leather and spice. Ripe and juicy cherry fruit carries its oak
Luis Cañas has a lovely colour and black fruits still abound here. Classy palate of exotic fruit and cola with
Bodegas de la Marquesa has exotically oaky nose with a full, dense palate and finely grained tannins. The fruit is
Seda Vermella has bold, forward aromas of fine, spicy oak and red berries. Plump, generous fruit palate, supported by balanced
Nothing is straightforward about the soils in Rioja; a complex blend of chalky clay, ferrous clay and alluvial types. Add into this the differing aspects and elevations – up to 700m, and in a few cases up to 900m. Blend in the grape varieties. To finish, there are the decisions of the producers, each serving diverse customer tastes.
Rioja offers history, tradition and classical wines. Its winemaking history goes back more than 1,000 years; the difficulty is that its image has not moved as far as its wine styles. Yet the region’s producers are not standing still. They have listened to their consumers, and red Rioja priced between £8 and £25 is better value than ever before. See our judges’ outstanding and highly recommended wines here