Wine Reviews: Rioja

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 06-11-2022

I have wanted to travel in Spain for many years, and that desire has grown as I get more and more experience with Spanish wines. My family and I had been planning a trip between covid waves that didn’t pan out, but I hope soon to spend a week or two there really digging into the land, culture, food and wine. Roaming and tasting my way through Rioja, surfing on the Basque coast, exploring some rock climbing routes – it’s all high on my bucket list.

Until that day, I enjoy myself some Spanish wines – and I try to add some Spanish inspiration into my cooking pretty regularly. And I enjoy Rioja most of all. Recently, I received some wines from Rioja that run the gamut. It’s such a diverse and varied region, with storied regional histories, and this report is just a drop in the bucket.

If you like Tempranillo, there are some solid ones in here – some long-agers and a lot of value, too. These wines were received as samples and tasted single-blind.

2017 Bodegas Montecillo Rioja Crianza – Spain, La Rioja, Rioja
SRP: $15
Vibrant ruby color. The nose sports raspberries and bright cherries, with roses and rhubarb, chewing tobacco, pepper, mint, some cedar and warm black tea. Medium-bodied with lively acidity and tangy cherry and red currant fruit — a clean and zesty vibe. Notes of tobacco, pepper and dusty earth add complexity. Has some pleasant warm fruit compote and savory broth tones on the finish. Accessible but complex Rioja, and a lot of value. (88 points IJB)

2015 Bodegas Luis Cañas Rioja Reserva – Spain, La Rioja, Rioja
SRP: $32
Bright purple color. A nice dusty, earthy, loam feel to the nose, accenting the black currant fruit, with tones of warm black tea, violets, clove and pepper. Smooth, refined tannins, a suave feel with refreshing acidity. Tart currant and juicy blackberry fruits, with complexities of rose petals, tar, tobacco, dried oregano. Has a lot of earthy, savory delight and is drinking really well now. From 40-year-old vines, includes 5% Graciano. (89 points IJB)

2017 Bodegas Beronia Rioja Reserva – Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alta, Rioja
SRP: $25
Deep ruby color. Lovely nose of smoky earth, tar, tobacco, roasted red peppers and violets, over top of mulled cherries and raspberries. Vibrant acidity and dusty tannins make this medium-bodied wine quite balanced, with juicy plums, cherries and raspberries. The pepper, tobacco, mint, cocoa, violets and tilled soil elements add complexity. Accessible now, pleasant mouthfeel, but lots of complex spicy tones that will come out more with time. Tempranillo with 5% combined Mazuelo and Graciano. (90 points IJB)

2013 Bodegas Beronia Rioja Gran Reserva – Spain, La Rioja, La Rioja Alta, Rioja
SRP: $30
Pretty ruby color. Delightful aromas of raspberries and tart cherry compote mixed with elements of leather, grilled steak, dried violets, potting soil. The palate shows integrated tannins and lively acidity over some cherry and raspberry fruit. Smoky, spicy nuances of charcoal, roasted red pepper, paprika and bacon fat add complexity. This is warm, inviting, balanced and pretty, and while it’s ready to go, it’ll do nicely with some more years. Widely-available and a great value, but legit stuff. Tempranillo with 5% combined Mazuelo and Graciano. (91 points IJB)

2016 Altos de Rioja R Reserva – Spain, La Rioja, Rioja Alavesa
SRP: $24
Light purple color. Aromas of smoky tar and charcoal over black cherry and plum compote, with elements of beef jerky and pepper. The palate shows nice concentration with medium-low acidity and flavors of tart currants and blueberries. Delicious elements of barbecue sauce, anise, graphite, coffee and some crème brulee tones. A delicious and campfire-friendly wine for sure. (89 points IJB)

2015 Bodegas y Viñedos Labastida Rioja Manuel Quintano Reserva Spain, La Rioja, Rioja
SRP: $25
Dark purple color. A saucy aromatic blend of blackberries and blueberries, with elements of charcoal, potting soil, some dark chocolate shavings and clove – a lot of rich, deep complexities. Nice grip on the palate, built strong, with medium acidity and the balance is on point. Blueberry and jammy plum fruit, laced with graphite, charcoal, iron, mocha and leathery, peppery tones. This needs time, but it’s really something. (91 points IJB)

2018 Bodegas y Viñedos Labastida Rioja Miguel Quintano Selección Particular – Spain, La Rioja, Rioja
SRP: $25
Vibrant purple color. Gorgeous dark, mulled berry fruit (blackberry, blueberry) with complex tones of anise, rose petals, smoked meat, some herbal tea and black pepper – needs time and air to get this packed aromatic display to play. Silky tannins and vibrant acidity make for great balance, and the tangy black cherry and blueberry fruit is lovely, accented with spicy-floral elements. The wine has this deep, stony, mineral, earthy feel that is complex and intriguing. This will be a long-ager for sure, but it has a lot to offer. (92 points IJB)

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