Rockin’ Rioja: A Clutch of Food Friendly Reds

Rio wine bottles and keyboard

…Don’t try this at home.

It’s been a bit of whirl on the wine circuit this past week. All the more reason to get back to posting, so at least I can figure out where I’ve been. (Just kidding!) Though sometimes the best way to take stock, truly, is to sift through the growing pile of notes (electronic and otherwise) that just pile up, and get them on line.

I spent some time with a bunch of Rioja wines the other day. What struck me (in general) was how much value the Reserva wines deliver compared to what else is in the market at those price points. And while there’s no shortage of drinkable—and even in some cases, truly budget reds—it’s interesting what you can get for spending just a little more.

Here’s the cross section from that tasting—maybe a little something for everyone—that I came up with for this weekend’s North Shore News column


Almost lost in the shuffle of this month’s pricing changes is a promo of Rioja  wines at BC liquor stores. Of all Spain’s table wine regions, Rioja is arguably the most well-known and established. Over the last couple of years, the region’s popularity has been increasing, enjoying growing exports as well as growth even in white wines.  Despite the economic hardships currently endure d by so many Spaniards, Rioja continues to be popular across-the-board—more proof of its good value and as an excellent match  for so many Spanish foods.

Rioja production (usually mainly Tempranillo but often blended with Garnacha and Graciano) is strictly controlled; and divided into four distinct categories, for reds, as follows: ‘Joven’  or young wines, which tend to be fresh, fruity and quaffable; Crianza: wines in their third year which have spent at least one year in oak; Reserva:  wines from the best vintages, aged for a minimum of three years, with at least one year in oak: and Gran Reserva: exceptional vintages, which have spent at least two years in oak casks and 3 years in bottle.

In a nutshell,  with a little understanding and some sleuthing it’s often not hard to come up with some pretty good values. As for food pairings, one of my favourite dishes since I returned from Spain last year is a simple fish soup, which you can whip up pretty quickly with some fresh shellfish, a little whitefish (or even salmon) and some seafood broth (buy halibut if you can find it), or even a mild chicken broth, if that’s more convenient.

Several of these medium bodied Rioja reds  make for excellent matches – and if all else fails, you can always try them with a good piece of cheese, such as Manchego.

“The Rioja Experience” features a dozen Rioja reds, with a rosé thrown in for good measure, in  a range of styles and prices.

A few worth noting:

Rioja Antano 2012 (Crianza) Here’s one of those budget Spanish wines where you really can’t go wrong for the money. Blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha and other grapes yields up front red and black fruit, easy tannins and a decent finish. For $11.29 (before taxes) it’s a deal. 88 pts.

Campo Viejo 2012 Perennial good value, bright, ripe red fruits, medium bodied with some spice and vanilla hints before a rounded finish. 89 pts. $14.79

Beronia Rioja 2010 (Reserva) Forward spicy, blue fruit and earthy notes followed by a juicy plate with refreshing acidity, black cherry and anise; plush and well structured, wrapped in firm but approachable tannins before a spicy, lingering end. $21.79 – 91 pts.

Muga Rioja (Reserva) 2010 Up front spicy red fruit, raspberry and cherry notes, followed by mouth watering acidity, an earthy, meaty palate, with distinct mineral notes, grippy tannins and a spicy, lingering finish. Think serious grilled red meats, such as lamb. $26.09 91 pts.

Marques de Cáceres Rioja Rosado 2013. Dry-ish rosé makes for the perfect picnic wine, with strawberry and raspberry notes in a quite full body that can go with a variety of tastes from cold cuts to grilled chicken or just plain sippin’. 89 pts. $14.79

By | 2018-01-21T15:05:11+00:00 April 19th, 2015|Wine|1 Comment

About the Author:

Tim has been covering the food and wine revolution for about 20 kilos. Count 15 kg alone thanks to the blossoming cuisine and wine culture of British Columbia, Canada. Tim’s hallmark is seeking out and recommending value wines from BC and around the world that offer quality at every level. He also scopes out noteworthy restaurants that live up to their promises—and often over deliver. Readers depend on the Hired Belly for his “Belly’s Best” and “Belly’s Budget Best” picks to help them find the right wine for the occasion. He writes, tweets and shoots his own images for columns in the Vancouver Courier and North Shore News. He also contributes to WHERE Vancouver magazine, as well as to several other publications. They include Taste magazine, Tidings Magazine, and Montecristo. His columns are frequently picked up by major newspapers across Canada. Tim is a frequent judge for wine competitions, such as Vancouver Magazine International Wine Awards. He is a founding judge of The BC Lieutenant Governor’s Awards for Excellence in Wine. He is frequently invited to judge at The BC Wine Awards, and others. Tim has traveled to taste in many of the world’s leading wine regions, most recently in Burgundy, Argentina and Chile.

One Comment

  1. Valerie Stride May 8, 2015 at 8:29 am

    I just had the Campo Viejo last night, and I was deeply impressed with quality and price point. My only stand-out observation was how aggressive the oaking was on the back palate and finish. I’m not going to complain about it though…it is under $15. Overall a very good value wine.

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