Posts Tagged Rioja Reserva

Rioja Reserva: Four fine frugal bottles for special occasions

First publisjed in The Irish Times, Saturday November 11th, 2017

Having a roast of lamb this weekend? Or turkey on Thanksgiving? Our favourite wine to go with celebratory dinners is Rioja, and not just any Rioja. In Ireland it must be a Rioja Reserva. However, they range in price from €9 to more than €50, so what should we buy?

It used to be simple. There were only three kinds of Rioja: Crianza, which had been aged in oak barrels and then in bottle for a little while; Reserva, which had gone though the same process but for a longer period; and Gran Reserva, which had spent a very long time in both barrel and bottle before being released. The theory was simple, too; Rioja came ready-aged, so there was no need to wait before drinking it. It was smooth, rounded and soft. And we loved it.

Things became more complicated as a generation of young Turks decided to make more modern, youthful international wines with plush, rich, dark fruits. Then, as those young Turks aged, a new generation came forward, making lighter, fresher wines, often made from single vineyards and frequently with low levels of sulphur. All of these producers simply put the word cosecha (vintage) on the back label. It was confusing for some, and that may be why a great many Irish consumers stuck to buying Reserva when they wanted something special. It has become our go-to wine when we want to splash out.

The term “reserva” simply means the wine has been aged for a minimum of one year in oak barrels, and at least 24 months in bottle. Start off with a great wine, age it quality oak, you should end up with a sublime, mature, smooth, complex wine. Poor-quality wine aged in poor-quality oak will only get worse.

Each of the multiples will have an inexpensive Rioja Reserva. Aldi and Lidl both have one at €8.99 – see below for the Lidl version, but both are perfectly drinkable. Tempting as cheap Reservas are, at less than €15, I would go for a Crianza instead; they tend to have a bit more fruit. At the moment the multiples seem to be promoting Cune Crianza at €10-€11 a bottle, which is good value, although it may have returned to €15 by the time you read this. The majority of the best-known Rioja Reservas are grouped around the €22-€25 mark, periodically marked down to about €15-€18.

Rioja Reserva is a great choice if you are looking for a wine to serve at a celebration. It is one of the food-friendliest wines, great with white and red meats. In Rioja, they love their lamb; chops grilled on a barbecue, cooked slowly with beans (their version of Irish stew, I guess), lamb shanks or simply a roast.


Cepa Lebrel Rioja Reserva 13.5% €8.99

Light, smooth black cherry fruits overlaid with sweet vanilla.

Stockist: Lidl

Cune Rioja Crianza 2103 13.5%, €10-€11

Medium-bodied blackcurrant fruits, with spice and tobacco. Great value on promotion.

Stockists: Tesco, SuperValu, Dunnes Stores and others.

Conde Valdemar Rioja Reserva 2010 13.5%, €17.50

Enticing elegant smooth black cherry fruits with a spicy note. An award-winning Rioja Reserva.

Stockists: Widely available from independent off-licences.

Rafael López de Heredia, Viña Bosconia 2005 Rioja Reserva 13.5%, €31

Magnificent wine: red cherries, strawberries, an earthiness and lovely mineral backbone.

Stockists: World Wide Wines; Blackrock Cellars; Green Man Wines; 64 Wines.

Posted in: Irish Times

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Rafael López de Heredia, Viña Bosconia 2005 Rioja Reserva

Rafael López de Heredia, Viña Bosconia 2005 Rioja Reserva



Rafael López de Heredia, Viña Bosconia 2005 Rioja Reserva

Subtle ripe strawberry and red cherry fruits, with an appealing earthiness, and a powerful mineral backbone. Impeccably balanced, arresting and quite magnificent.

I would sip this gently with a roast shoulder or leg of lamb.

You either like them or you don’t. The wines of López de Heredia are unique, traditional and uncompromising. The company has four separate distinct vineyards (Bosconia, Cubillo, Tondonia & Gravonia) totaling 170 hectares, their own cooperage, and a respect for history. The wines are aged for lengthy periods in oak casks, yet remain fresh, lively, sometimes a little funky, with a minerality and elegance that make them completely different from all other Rioja. These are wines that make you think when you drink.

Viña Bosconia comes from the El Bosque vineyard. Made from a blend of 40 year-old vines, primarily Tempranillo, with some Garnacha, Mazuelo and Graciano. It spends five years in large American oak barrels before being bottled.

€31 from World Wide Wines, Waterford; Blackrock Cellars; Green Man Wines, Terenure, and 64wine, Glasthule.


Posted in: Top Drop

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Three Brilliant Wines from Rioja on their way.

Three Brilliant Wines from Rioja on their way.



Remelluri, the home of Spanish winemaker Telmo Rodriguez, will shortly make a welcome return to these shores. This has always been one of my favourite wines in Rioja, and now seems to be destined for even greater things. When I met Rodriguez back in 2014, he was determined to set things right in his home territory. ‘I am’ he said ‘a little bit old, so I think we have enough projects now. But Rioja is very important to me. My family bought our estate there back in the 1960s and I grew up there. Rioja is my main project today, the one in which I am investing most money and effort. It is like the other places I worked in; I have that excitement all over again. Rioja is one of the most amazing places in the world. The big old well-known wineries are responsible for the destruction of the vineyards of Rioja. We and other small producers are recuperating vineyards, finding old vines, going back to what existed before. Rioja needs to show what is inside.’

Rodriguez was born into a Basque family. His father had bought and restored an old monastery in Rioja and named it Remelurri, where he produced wine. Rodriguez studied winemaking with some of the top producers in France and returned to Rioja full of ideas. His father was quite happy with the way he was making wine, so Rodriguez departed. He had met Basque enologist Pablo Eguzkiza while studying at Bordeaux University. Together they founded Compañia de Vinos Telmo Rodríguez in 1984, and set about restoring the historic grapes and traditional practices of Spain. In each region they hired an old grower who remembered the way things used to be done and a young enologist who knew how to make wine. The two men have probably done more than anyone else to restore Spain to its rightful position as one of the great wine-producing countries of the world.

As for Remelluri, the wines were always good, but have even better since Rodriguez returned. He now produces two wines under the Lindes de Remelluri name. These are single vineyard wines, from estates that Remelluri bought every year. It is part of the plan to focus on the varying soils and terroirs of Rioja. One is from the village of Labastida, the other from San Vicente de la Sonsierra. The first is in Rioja Alava, the second in Rioja Alta. Then there is the Remelluri estate wine from their own vineyards.

The wines are now being imported by Vinostito, and should arrive in mid-September. I suspect they will be stocked by leading independents around Ireland. The two Lindes wines will sell for around €22, the estate for €31. Don’t miss them; these are very exciting wines.


Lindes de Remelluri 2012 Viñedos de San Vicente de la Sonsierra, Rioja


Cool elegant black fruits and chalky minerals on the nose; Impeccable linear dark fruits and minerals; precise, young, taut, structured and dry. An excellent wine that needs a few years or decanting before drinking with red meats.

Lindes de Remelluri 2012 Viñedos de Labastida, Rioja

Slightly riper on the nose than the Sonsierra but the same delicious blackcurrants – a wonderful nose; cool clean linear blackcurrants, a little more giving than the Sonsierra, but still a young taut wine. This is a brilliant wine – it doesn’t have the sweet extracted oakiness of a modern Rioja, nor the developed vegetal notes of the traditional style, but this is all the better for it.

Remelluri Rioja Reserva 2010

Wow! Wonderful wine. Broader, showing some soft maturity on the nose and palate; ripe dark fruits with real depth and complexity, yet at the sme time a lovely purity of fruit. This is exceptional Rioja. I have coravined my bottle and cannot wait to try it with roast lamb over the weekend!

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