On June 4th I had the privilege of attending a Rioja seminar and wine tasting led by Master Sommelier Joseph Spellman followed by a tasting of DOCa Rioja’s new vintage releases showcasing 110 Rioja wines including library wines and wines made from rescued indigenous grape varieties.
Mille grazie (thousand thanks) to Ms. Dhane Cheesson (Southeast Regional Manager & National Accounts Director, Vibrant Rioja) and Ms. Erin Allport (Project Manager for National Accounts) for organizing and hosting such a fabulous event in my home town. The tasting was held at Ocean Prime Restaurant on Sand lake road.
On a personal note, Rioja wines hold a soft spot in my heart since it was the Rioja wine which won my husband over has a wine drinker, and till date Temprallino is one of his favorite grapes. In fact only last November we had embarked on a tour of Spain, where we drove from Barcelona to Logroño to visit some of our personal favorite Rioja wineries including Marqués de Riscal and Campo Viejo. Even though Bodegas Campo Viejo was closed to public due to internal audits, Mr. Alvaro Garcia (Relaciones Publicas) was gracious enough to host a private tour and wine tasting for me and my family. Such a delight and treat!!
Nestled between the mountains ranges in north-central Spain, surrounding the fertile course of the Ebro River lies Rioja. Where you will find luscious reds, fruity young wines, refreshing roses, and crisp whites. The wines of the Alta, Alavesa, and Baja match every style, taste, and price point.
The grape varieties that are currently authorized by the Regulations of the D. O. Ca. Rioja are:
- RED: Tempranillo, Garnacha, Graciano, Mazuelo y Maturana Tinta.
- WHITE: Viura, Malvasia, Garnacha Blanca, Tempranillo Blanco, Maturana Blanca, Turruntes, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc y Verdejo.
Rioja wines are classified into four categories. The first, Cosecha young wines. A Crianza having spent a minimum of 1 year in cask and several months in bottle. Reserva is aged for at least three years, of which at least one year is in oak. Finally, Gran Reserva are selected wines from exceptional vintages, these fine wines have spent at least 2 years in oak casks and 3 years in bottle.
Due to a prior engagement, I missed the major portion of the seminar yet I was able to catch up with Master Sommelier Joseph Spellman who graciously reiterated the highlights of the seminar over tastings of his choice for that afternoon, including two special treats from JUSTIN Winery. Since the tastings was primarily for distributors, wine buyers, & media the select group compromised of fellow wine enthusiasts, distributors like Premier Beverage and Stacole to name a few, and wine buyers such as Wine Barn and Wine on the Way. I also had the opportunity to break bread with few restaurateurs including some who had traveled all the way from Tampa.
A hundred and ten wines would require a day if not more to taste, to put it rather mildly. Amongst the Rioja’s I managed to taste the ones that stood out personally for me were: 1994 La Rioja Alta Vina Arana Reserva (library vintage), 1969 Marques de Riscal Gran Reserva (library vintage), 2009 Vivanco Coleccion Maturana Tinta (indigenous), 2005 Beronia Gran Reserva (such personality), 2001 La Rioja Alta “904” Gran Reserva (permanent spot in my racks), 2005 Maetierra Dominum “QP” “Quatro Pagos” (reserva), 2005 El coto, 2008 Propriedad (cosecha), 2003 Lopez de Heredia Blanco “Gravonia” (blanco), and 2012 Cune Rosado (rosado).
Riojas are ideal starter wines to seep into wine culture if you have been meaning to take the plunge. They are delicious, light, with spicy fruit flavors, finesse, and in some cases complexity. They are doing a brilliant job of bridging the gap between the traditions and the modern by giving you to the opportunity to drink aged wines without paying a fortune especially when most of us don’t have the storage space or patience to wait years for the bottle to ‘mature’. And if you get the opportunity to visit Spain, you will too, like me, fall in love with Spaniards for their warmth, generosity, loving spirit, and of course their beautiful wines.
I could keep ranting but the only way one get’s to understand wine, especially ‘good’ wine, is to open a bottle and enjoy it with friends and loved ones and keep the bottle flowing, Salud!
For further information feel free to contact Dhane Chesson via email firstname.lastname@example.org for trade inquiries or email@example.com for general inquiries. And do visit Vibrant Rioja Website to learn more about Spain’s greatest wine region!
Photo and Rioja wine information courtesy of Vibrant Rioja.