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Rioja - Red

Usually considered one of the most straightforward of wine styles, Rioja seems to be becoming one of the most complicated. There are huge variations in expression right across the region. Crianzas that taste like reservas, reservas that taste like crianzas, wines without classification that can have a lot or zero oak. It makes it tricky for our tasters – and for your customers.

The only category that is reasonably predictable, it seems, is gran reserva, though even here – as our two Golds proved, there were different schools of thought. The Bodegas Corral, however, was one for purists – and made for a stimulating red winner of our By The Glass Award.

If we had to generalise, on the evidence of this year’s competition, it seems that price, as much as anything, might be the big issue here now. You can still get a decent crianza and an expressive, balanced reserva but nowadays they will probably cost you around £10 and £14 respectively.

Rioja might not be overpriced. But it’s not exactly a bargain anymore either – and with such variations on offer you should check the tasting notes online from these winners to pick your style with care.

From The Tasting Teams

‘There were some really nice examples of crianza, but there were also some oak-dominated wines. I wanted to see more fruit character and a bit less oak.’ Laura Rhys MS, team leader

‘The reservas split into two categories: one more fruit forward, bright with acidity and lighter, then a second style with a tertiary, earthy, tobacco, funky edge. This gives a somm the ability to pick out tiers of styles at every price range.’ Tim Handley, Royal Automobile Club

‘The lower end of the reservas offered incredible value for money. It’s an established region, they know what they’re doing and they follow a formula. I don’t see it changing. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!’ Gary Newborough, The Aristologist

‘The reservas mostly showed expressions of vanilla and American oak. We didn’t see so much of the coconutty, more modern style. It was great to see some really good value at £9-£10.’ Nigel Lister, St. Swithins Wine Shippers

‘Rioja reserva is a very important category here in the UK. There’s a good quality of winemaking going on there, and these were consistent with my past experiences as well.’ Tim Smith, Winesurfer Consulting

‘The [Don Jacobo Gran Reserva] was the best wine I’ve tried today.’ Olivier Gasselin, OenoTrade

‘I found a lot of oak influence for too many of the crianzas. They were too spicy and sweet.’ Tanguy Martin, Blandford Comptoir

‘Gran reserva Rioja is one of the best value-for-money fine wines in the world.’ Raphael Thierry, consultant

‘Customers are not always sure which style they’ll get when they buy a bottle of Rioja, so they need a somm to tell them what they should expect.’ Rémi Cousin, Le Gavroche

Award winners

Found 42 wines

Spain: Red Rioja

Pagos del Rey, Arnegui, Rioja Tinto Joven 2019, Rioja, Spain

Gold medal winner

'An everyday drinking wine, with spiciness on the nose accompanied by complex, rich red fruit.' Riccardo Guzzardo, Hakkasan Mayfair. 'Fresh red berry notes with some gentle green tobacco leaves leading to light rosemary and green coffee bean notes, with some chalky tannins.' Andre Luís Martins, team leader. 'A vibrant wine with ripe strawberries, fleshy tannins and a long, lingering finish.' Mattia Mazzi, Cornerstone.

£6.00 Matthew Clark

Bodegas Corral, Don Jacobo, Gran Reserva 2005, Rioja, Spain

Gold medal winner By the glass

'A very complete and complex wine that ticks all the boxes, and with a decent price tag for the category.' Olivier Gasselin, OenoTrade. 'Some really mature notes come through here, like forest floor and ceps, and some fynbos on the herbal nose.' Michael Driscoll, Careys Manor Hotel & SenSpa. 'A super bright wine with mocha and a hint of dark chocolate, with really lovely acidity.' Tim Handley, Royal Automobile Club.

£20.64 Matthew Clark

Ramón Bilbao, Reserva 2015, Rioja, Spain

Gold medal winner

'This makes me happy, with masses of cherry and redcurrants on the nose, and some vanilla creaminess from the oak, with balsamic and cooked fruit on the palate.' Michael Driscoll, Careys Manor Hotel & SenSpa. 'With vanilla and sweet spices, this is quite velvety, with good freshness to balance.' Laurent Richet MS, team leader. 'Meaty, chunky, structured and delicious.' Olivier Gasselin, OenoTrade.

£14.00 Enotria&Coe

Bodegas Tarón, Tarón, Rioja Crianza 2016, Rioja, Spain

Gold medal winner

'A good-value, approachable style, with crunchy red fruits and herbal notes.' Laura Rhys MS, team leader. 'Lovely aromas, with a touch of sweet perfume and a ripe black fruit palate with great structure.' Charlie Young, team leader. 'Full on the nose, with a mix of spice and ripe fruit, and a generous palate with good grip. Perfect for a good grilled steak.' Tanguy Martin, Blandford Comptoir.

£9.65 Ellis of Richmond

Bodegas Olarra, Clásico, Gran Reserva 2010, Rioja, Spain

Gold medal winner

'An intense wine with lots of maturity, and notes of plums in brandy.' Olivier Gasselin, OenoTrade. 'This has huge fruit - rich, spicy berry notes.' Sue Jones, The Harrow at Little Bedwyn. 'Notes of figs and dark plums, accompanied by some woody spice notes.' Laurent Richet MS, team leader. 'Some floral notes, with hints of some tertiary barnyard aromatics, lots of tannin and good fruit.' Michael Driscoll, Careys Manor Hotel & SenSpa.

£13.15 Bodegas Olarra

Bodegas Vivanco, Reserva 2014, Rioja, Spain

Gold medal winner

'Old school, and speaking of its provenance, with sweet vanilla and coconut, and hints of game and leather.' Laurent Richet MS, team leader. 'Super tasty and drinkable, with a refined, aged character.' Tim Smith, Winesurfer Consulting. 'Earthy, with notes of coffee, chocolate and even coconut. An elegant wine for roasted meat with baked mushroom.' Emanuel Pesqueira, Edwardian Hotels London.

£14.14 Bibendum

Bodegas Corral, Altos de Corral, Single Estate Crianza 2016, Rioja, Spain

Silver medal winner

'Blackberries dominate the palate here, with a dash of red fruit on top, accompanied by bright and lively acidity.' Jurijs Nemkovs, StreetXO. 'Meaty, robust and solid, with great concentration, texture and structure. Fine and elegant, this is a classy rustic gem.' Mattia Mazzi, Cornerstone.

£14.50 Matthew Clark

Bodegas Corral, Vine Roots, Garnacha 2016, Rioja, Spain

Silver medal winner

'This has quite an interesting nose of nutmeg, thyme and cedarwood, while on the palate it's rich, with a pleasant tannic structure. I'd match this with Ibérico pork.' Filippo Pastorini, consultant. 'Ripe black cherry and chocolate notes, with high tannins, bright acidity and layered red berries on the palate.' Jurijs Nemkovs, StreetXO.

£13.75 Matthew Clark

Viña Pomal, Selección 500 2014, Rioja, Spain

Silver medal winner

'Elegantly complex, with dark berries, oak and sweet vanilla spice, and a palate that's dry with some dry tannins and a light finish.' Lionel Periner, team leader. 'Rich and toasty notes complement some fresh red fruits here, with good freshness and structure, and some grippiness to it.' Sam Weatherill, Etch. by Steven Edwards.

£14.38 Matthew Clark

Baigorri, Rioja Reserva 2010, Rioja, Spain

Silver medal winner

'Black fruit, tarmac and smoke on the nose, with nice volume on the palate, and bags of structure.' Harry Crowther, Grape Times UK. 'Age has served this well, with lots of black cherry fruit concentration. A really juicy, complex and chewy wine with some interesting savoury spice.' Jade Koch, team leader.

£19.85 Matthew Clark

Marqués de Riscal, Arienzo Crianza 2016, Rioja, Spain

Silver medal winner

'With ripe fruits and bold oak, and some velvety tannins, this is a classic example and a good by-the-glass offering too.' Laura Rhys MS, team leader. 'An appealing nose of ripe red strawberries and verbena, and a juicy palate with fleshy tannins and crunchy acidity.' Mattia Mazzi, Cornerstone.

£9.75 Ellis of Richmond

Boutinot, Vega del Rayo, Rioja Vendimia Seleccionada 2017, Rioja, Spain

Silver medal winner

'A young and fruity wine with bright, succulent berries and softened tannins.' Jurijs Nemkovs, StreetXO. 'This is an elegant style, with an intense fruity character joined by a little bit of a vegetal note. A juicy and refreshing wine.' Rémi Cousin, Le Gavroche. 'Good structure and balance for a wine at this price point.' Sam Weatherill, Etch. by Steven Edwards.

£6.75 Boutinot

Bodegas Olarra, Cerro Añón, Reserva 2016, Rioja, Spain

Silver medal winner

'With notes of cherry pie and a blend of red and black fruit, and a balanced, present and persistent palate, this is excellent value for money, and would be perfect by the glass, or with a roasted pork shoulder.' Emanuel Pesqueira, Edwardian Hotels London. 'A modern style that's fruit-driven with nice black-fruit savouriness. Great with food but enjoyable on its own.' Harry Crowther, Grape Times UK.

£10.00 C&D Wines

Bodegas Corral, Don Jacobo, Crianza 2016, Rioja, Spain

Bronze medal winner

'This is good value, with bright, juicy fruit, as well as some nice acidity and tannin structure.' Laura Rhys MS, team leader. 'An oxidative style that's firm and tart, with ripe and savoury fruit - it's hitting its drinking window now.' Mattia Mazzi, Cornerstone. 'The palate's delicate, with good freshness and a hint of maturity.' Tanguy Martin, Blandford Comptoir.

£10.01 Matthew Clark

Ramón Bilbao, Edición Limitada 2016, Rioja, Spain

Bronze medal winner

'Some Moroccan spices and rich warmth at first, this is well-structured, with good fruit, showing finesse and elegance. Mouth-watering.' Agostinho Leite, Bistrot Pierre at The Royal William Yard. 'Cedar, red fruit and spice here, with lots of texture and good berry fruit bursting through, and a clean and textured finish.' Charlie Young, team leader.

£12.20 Enotria&Coe

Ondarre, Rivallana, Rioja Tinto 2018, Rioja, Spain

Bronze medal winner

'Mature and crunchy red fruit at first, with some tobacco box notes following, leading to a relaxed attack on the palate, which is quite light, but with more structure on the back palate.' Riccardo Guzzardo, Hakkasan Mayfair. 'Refreshing and vibrant, like a Spanish Beaujolais.' Mattia Mazzi, Cornerstone.

£7.33 Hallgarten & Novum Wines

Ortega Ezquerro, Rioja Reserva 2014, Rioja, Spain

Bronze medal winner

'This is spicy, peppery, juicy and vibrant, with a mineral finish.' Olivier Gasselin, OenoTrade. 'Warm spices, liquorice and oaky warmth, with additional notes of forest fruits.' Sue Jones, The Harrow at Little Bedwyn. 'With sweet red cherries and dark plums, there's a lift of acidity throughout, letting the fruit balance the vanilla, dark earth and mocha notes on the end of the palate.' Tim Handley, Royal Automobile Club.

£14.65 Jeroboams

Marques de Reinosa, Rioja Reserva 2015, Rioja, Spain

Bronze medal winner

'Hedonistic, with cookie dough on the nose and lots of American oak, resulting in a big, fragrant nose. A very good introduction to reserva Rioja.' Michael Driscoll, Careys Manor Hotel & SenSpa. 'This has a high-intensity nose and palate, with notes of cola, green olive, vanilla and baked red and black fruit.' Tim Smith, Winesurfer Consulting.

£9.95 Jeroboams

Viña Pomal, Centenario, Reserva 2014, Rioja, Spain

Bronze medal winner

'This opens with anise notes on a herbal, savoury and edgy nose, leading to bursting freshness and acidity, with a firm texture and structure.' Harry Crowther, Grape Times UK. 'With cedar and cherry notes, this is still young but has potential, with a silky palate and great structure. A match for lamb chops with mountain herbs.' Nigel Lister, St. Swithins Wine Shippers.

£13.74 Matthew Clark

Aldonia, Vendimia 2018, Rioja, Spain

Bronze medal winner

'A very juicy, bright wine with red berries and bright acidity, resulting in a fresh feel on the palate.' Jurijs Nemkovs, StreetXO. 'Very open, with generous, lovely fruit, and nicely fresh overall.' Dave Cushley, Prestonfield House. 'There's generosity of fruit here, with blackberries, spice and minerality.' Charlie Young, team leader.

£9.17 Top Selection

Marqués de Riscal, XR Reserva 2015, Rioja, Spain

Bronze medal winner

'A complex wine with some unique balsamic notes alongside a blend of dark and red fruit, and a hint of chocolate on the finish, which is long yet refined.' Emanuel Pesqueira, Edwardian Hotels London. 'This has a lovely nose of dense cherry, plum and oak, with a lovely texture. Pair with shoulder of lamb with Moroccan spices.' Nigel Lister, St. Swithins Wine Shippers.

£22.95 Ellis of Richmond

Gómez Cruzado, Honorable Rioja 2016, Rioja, Spain

Bronze medal winner

'This has notes of cassis, with gentle rosemary notes and cigar smoked aromas, leading to light meaty notes, as well as dark chocolate and coffee, on the palate.' Andre Luís Martins, team leader. 'An autumnal, rich nose, with a cool, calm and elegant palate.' Dave Cushley, Prestonfield House.

£20.80 Boutinot

CVNE, Viña Real, Crianza 2016, Rioja, Spain

Bronze medal winner

'With red fruit with a lot of savoury aromas, good intensity and more black fruit on the finish, this is quite serious, and a good food wine.' Charlie Young, team leader. 'Young and light, with fresh red berries dominating the palate, and hints of cinnamon and cedar wood.' Jurijs Nemkovs, StreetXO.

£6.93 Hatch Mansfield

Rioja Vega, Viña Cerrada, Rioja Crianza 2015, Rioja, Spain

Commended medal winner

£8.99 LWC Drinks

Bodegas Corral, Don Jacobo, Vendimia Seleccionada 2018, Rioja, Spain

Commended medal winner

£7.50 Matthew Clark

Pagos del Rey, Arnegui, Rioja Crianza 2016, Rioja, Spain

Commended medal winner

£7.00 Matthew Clark

Pagos del Rey, Arnegui, Rioja Reserva 2015, Rioja, Spain

Commended medal winner

£8.00 Matthew Clark

Ondarre, Ondarre Primeur 2017, Rioja, Spain

Commended medal winner

Bodegas Corral, Don Jacobo, Reserva 2015, Rioja, Spain

Commended medal winner

£13.17 Matthew Clark

Bodegas de la Marquesa, Valserrano, Reserva 2015, Rioja, Spain

Commended medal winner

Bodegas de la Marquesa, Valserrano, Crianza 2016, Rioja, Spain

Commended medal winner

Ondarre, Ondarre Gran Reserva 2011, Rioja, Spain

Commended medal winner

Sierra Cantabria, Rioja Crianza 2016, Rioja, Spain

Commended medal winner

£12.60 Enotria&Coe

Bhilar, Plots,Tinto Rioja Alavesa 2017, Rioja, Spain

Commended medal winner

£12.18 Bibendum

Baigorri, Rioja de Garage 2014, Rioja, Spain

Commended medal winner

£33.32 Matthew Clark

Araex, R&G, Rolland Galarreta, Esencia 2012, Rioja, Spain

Commended medal winner

£36.44 Matthew Clark

Aldonia, VME 2017, Rioja, Spain

Commended medal winner

£13.41 Top Selection

CVNE, Viña Lobera, Crianza 2016, Rioja, Spain

Commended medal winner

Bodegas Corral, Don Jacobo, Crianza Ecológico 2016, Rioja, Spain

Commended medal winner

£10.63 Matthew Clark

Castillo Clavijo, Rioja Alta, Reserva 2014, Rioja, Spain

Commended medal winner

£9.86 Bibendum

Bodegas Olarra, Añares, Reserva 2016, Rioja, Spain

Commended medal winner

£9.00 C&D Wines

Bodegas Olarra, Otoñal, Reserva 2016, Rioja, Spain

Commended medal winner

£10.53 Bodegas Olarra

 

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