In Vino Veritas: Rioja, a Lover for Every Season
By: Bianca Blanca Rioja, September 24, 2012
BIANCA BLANCA RIOJA - Born to humble grape harvesters in an oak barrel outside of Barcelona, Bianca has traveled the world performing flamenco and sampling the fruits of Bacchus' labor. While no wine is too complicated or indulgent for her, Bianca specializes in big flavor with small price tag. Vino es pasión!
For all the red wine purists that practically go dry for the summer, fear not. Spanish wine makers know how to satisfy your cravings while you enjoy this balmy autumn weather.
Rioja is one my favorite wines throughout the test of time. Year after year, I find myself craving the passion of Spanish wine. The sexy, spicy and fruitful flavors of Rioja reds are unmatched anywhere else in the world.
Best of all, they are ideal in Indian summer heat . . . and really can be enjoyed in any season.
Rioja refers to a large wine-growing region of Spain. Just like Bordeaux, the wine can be made of several different grapes but a Rioja can only come from Rioja. My favorites are always purely tempranillo grape, regardless of craniza or reserva (classifications of aging).
The dark berry fruit is juicy and playful, yet the spice of the Spanish culture is at the forefront. This spice can only be described as Saigon cinnamon, cardamom, licorice, cocoa bean and coffee. The true beauty of this wine is in its balance. Although the spices sound heavy, they create a light-bodied, easy-drinking viscosity with juicy blackberry notes.
The bridge between these extreme flavors is the unique dry quality of Rioja. Matured in French oak, Rioja wine makers ripen these flavors together in an unmistakable, signature style. Not oaky, not sulfuric, the dryness of Rioja sensationalizes the palate with a full spectrum of flavor.
Without pretension, Spain shares these jewels of the vineyard with the rest of the world at a great value. While some Riojas, such as the Muga brand, can be expensive at $25 to $30 per bottle, most smaller production vineyards offer bottles for as little as $9 to $13.
I particularly enjoy the Ergo Tempranillo Rioja, priced at $10 at the big retail stores. Although this wine is not a small production, it retains those essential qualities that transcend the drinker to a hot night in Madrid eating tapas and dancing with follow travelers.
I love this style of wine because I never have to be loyal to one brand for long. As long as I choose a 100% tempranillo rioja for around $10, I know that all my friends and family will enjoy it—and that it will be exciting enough to hold my attention. For any party or function, Riojas are sure to please and can be paired with the simplest to grandest of fare.