Rioja, Spain, WINE

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Much like the other titans of European wine production, Spain's industry has deep historical roots and a kaleidoscopic assortment of varietals, styles, and landscapes. Spain has remained the most staunchly traditional (some might even say backward) of the major European wine-producing nations, but the inevitable march of moderniztion and the demands of the international wine market have compelled many producers to adopt new methods and philosophies.

Spain's rivers form the backbone of many of its most important regions, none more so than the river Ebro that flows through the Rioja DOC. Spain's most prestigeous wine region has undergone fluctuations in style and quality like few others over the years. As in the rest of central Spain, Tempranillo is the favored grape for the finest wines, with Graciano and Mazuelo (Carignan) making up the difference in most blends. In youth, these medium-bodied wines are bright, berry-laden crowd pleasers, but with age, the finest ones (Gran Reservas) can develop haunting complexity and texture reminiscent of fine, aged Burgundy. A hallmark of the wines is their aging in new oak, typically American in origin, and a wine's categorization depends on the length of time spent in barrel. White Rioja wines, made from primarily from Viura (Macabeo), are also famously long-lived and usually see the same extended oak regimen as the reds.

Nearby, on the vast expanse of the Castilla y Leon plateau, other regions also excel with Tempranillo. Ribera del Duero is the more rustic cousin to Rioja's refined presentation. In the hotter continental climate, where temperatures fluctuate dramatically from day to night, the Tempranillo grape takes on a decidedly more animalistic tone. It's no coincidence that this region is home to Spain's most expensive and sought-after wine, Vega Sicilia. The ancient Roman settlement of Toro is also renowned for producing perhaps the densest, most luxuriantly ripe versions of Tempranillo, albeit with some latent sense of balance. The Bierzo region on northwest edge of Castilla y Leon is markedly different thanks to a small degree of exposure to influences from the Atlantic Ocean. Cooler temperatures and slate and granite soils are ideal for the Mencia grape to thrive, making for lighter, lively, fruity wines characterized by a profoundly mineral streak. Rueda is the one prominent white wine region on the plateau, where Verdejo is the principal grape.

Over the Sierra de Cantabria mountains, the north coast of Spain is cooler and wetter. From the Albariño wines of the Galician coast and Rías Baixas in the west to the bracing, lightning Txakolina wines of Basque country to the east, this climate is capable of producing some of the raciest, most refreshing white wines in the world. In the Catalan northeast of the country, at the foot of the Pyrenees, the hot, montane climate excels in producing burly, powerful red wines from Garnacha, Cariñena, and Monastrell. The rustic, hilltop villages of Priorat are especially known for ripeness, power, and longevity. The nearby Penedès produces prodminantly white wines, most notably Spain's answer to Champagne, the sparking Cava wines.

Moving south, the climate warms significantly, and the central regions of Spain, like Jumilla, Yecla, and La Mancha all depend on the harda Garnacha and Monastrell grapes to produce their sometimes massive, rustic, bold reds. The Jerez region in the Andalucían south produces Spain's utterly unique Sherry wines. From the dry Fino and Amontillado styles to the richer, more decadent Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez, these wines are some of the most singular styles in the world. While their styles are not friendly to mass consumption, the connoisseur inevitably finds in the finest examples character and complexity that are unmatched.

Spain's wine tapestry is as ancient as anywhere in Europe, and just as varied. While the country has been slow to jump on the modernization wave, it's now well on its way to a bright future.

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93 points Tim Atkin, MW: (13%) 'We don’t want people to notice the vintage variation,' says Maria-José López de Heredia, but notice it they will in the switch from cool 2008 to much more Mediterranean 2009. This savoury, spicy blend of Tempranillo with 20% Garnacha and 5% each of Mazuelo and… ...
TA 93
JS 93
WA 92
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Lopez de Heredia Rioja Vina Cubillo Crianza 2009  (#701944)

Tempranillo/Tinto Fino from Rioja, Spain

93 points Tim Atkin, MW: (13%) 'We don’t want people to notice the vintage variation,' says Maria-José López de Heredia, but notice it they will in the switch from cool 2008 to much more Mediterranean 2009. This savoury, spicy blend of Tempranillo…

750ml Bottle | In stock, 12+ available
TA 93
JS 93
WA 92
$24.95
$29.00
Save $4.05 (14%)29.00
Save $4.05 (14%)
97 points James Suckling: This is a driven and super tight Gran Reserva with dark berries and hints of spice and cedar. A spicy red-pepper undertone and some dried flowers. Full to medium body, integrated tannins and a superb finish. A great wine. Available in September 2018. A wine for the cellar,… ...
JS 97
TA 96
PG 96
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La Rioja Alta Rioja Gran Reserva 904 2009  (#701930)

Tempranillo/Tinto Fino from Rioja, Spain

97 points James Suckling: This is a driven and super tight Gran Reserva with dark berries and hints of spice and cedar. A spicy red-pepper undertone and some dried flowers. Full to medium body, integrated tannins and a superb finish. A great wine.…

750ml Bottle | In stock, 12+ available
JS 97
TA 96
PG 96
93 points Luis Gutiérrez (Wine Advocate): ...84% Tempranillo with 9% Graciano, 5% Mazuelo and 2% Garnacha. This is still a little young and has had less time in bottle. It might need a little bit more time in bottle. The nose is subtle and very harmonious, with aromas of red cherries and some… ...
WA 93
WS 92
V 92
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Marques de Murrieta Rioja Finca Ygay Reserva 2014  (#702287)

Tempranillo/Tinto Fino from Rioja, Spain

93 points Luis Gutiérrez (Wine Advocate): ...84% Tempranillo with 9% Graciano, 5% Mazuelo and 2% Garnacha. This is still a little young and has had less time in bottle. It might need a little bit more time in bottle. The nose is subtle and very…

750ml Bottle | In stock, 12+ available
$19.95
$29.00
Save $9.05 (31%)29.00
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90 points Peñín Guide to Spanish Wine: (80% viura, 20% malvasia). Colour: bright yellow. Nose: expressive, dried herbs, ripe fruit, spicy. Palate: flavourful, fruity, good acidity, fine bitter notes. (2017) ...
PG 90
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Izadi Rioja Blanco 2015  (#702355)

Other White Blends from Rioja, Spain

90 points Peñín Guide to Spanish Wine: (80% viura, 20% malvasia). Colour: bright yellow. Nose: expressive, dried herbs, ripe fruit, spicy. Palate: flavourful, fruity, good acidity, fine bitter notes. (2017)

750ml Bottle | In stock, 12 available
$14.95
$18.00
Save $3.05 (17%)18.00
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94 points Wine Spectator: This white is rich and expressive, a fine example of the traditional style. Bold flavors of quince, dried pineapple, lemon confit and vanilla mingle in a polished texture, supported by firm acidity and fine tannins. Balanced and long. Drink now through 2029. 1,791 cases… ...
WS 94
JS 94
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Lopez de Heredia Rioja Vina Gravonia Crianza Blanco 2009  (#334459)

Other White Wines from Rioja, Spain

94 points Wine Spectator: This white is rich and expressive, a fine example of the traditional style. Bold flavors of quince, dried pineapple, lemon confit and vanilla mingle in a polished texture, supported by firm acidity and fine tannins. Balanced…

750ml Bottle | In stock, 2 available
94 points James Suckling: A classic and tightly knit Rioja with dried berry, spice and cedar character on the nose and palate. Medium body, very fine tannins and a flavorful finish. Acidity carries the wine and then the tannins. Gorgeous. Drink now. (7/24/17) ...
JS 94
W&S 91
WA 90
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La Rioja Alta Rioja Vina Alberdi Reserva 2011  (#702323)

Tempranillo/Tinto Fino from Rioja, Spain

94 points James Suckling: A classic and tightly knit Rioja with dried berry, spice and cedar character on the nose and palate. Medium body, very fine tannins and a flavorful finish. Acidity carries the wine and then the tannins. Gorgeous. Drink now. …

375ml Half Bottle | In stock, 12+ available
JS 94
W&S 91
WA 90
La Rioja Alta Rioja Gran Reserva 904 2010 ...
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La Rioja Alta Rioja Gran Reserva 904 2010  (#334412)

Tempranillo/Tinto Fino from Rioja, Spain

750ml Bottle | Pre-arrival, 12+ available
PRE-ARRIVAL
96 points James Suckling: Some richer, darker and deeper fruit character with plums, blackberries and a dark, earthy streak. The tannins are more upright, more elevated, and the fruit is richer and darker than in the Labastida. This has real presence, grip and energy. Try from 2021. (8/2/18) ...
JS 96
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Remelluri Rioja Lindes de Remelluri Vinedos de San Vicente 2014  (#333052)

Tempranillo/Tinto Fino from Rioja, Spain

96 points James Suckling: Some richer, darker and deeper fruit character with plums, blackberries and a dark, earthy streak. The tannins are more upright, more elevated, and the fruit is richer and darker than in the Labastida. This has real presence…

750ml Bottle | In stock, 4 available
90% Tempranillo and 10% Graciano from 40+ year old vines. Velvety and silky on the palate with an acidity that conveys life. Powerful, elegant structure and good aftertaste that leaves an impression of dark fruit and balsamic touches. Very long and persistent finish. ...
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Ayala Lete Rioja Deobriga Seleccion Familiar 2015  (#702275)

Tempranillo/Tinto Fino from Rioja, Spain

90% Tempranillo and 10% Graciano from 40+ year old vines. Velvety and silky on the palate with an acidity that conveys life. Powerful, elegant structure and good aftertaste that leaves an impression of dark fruit and balsamic touches. Very long and…

750ml Bottle | In stock, 12+ available
95 points Neal Martin (Wine Advocate): The 2001 Vina Tondonia Reserva is bridled with a lovely nose of decayed red fruit, fireside hearth, a touch of mulberry and small red cherry. The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannins, crisp red fruits (wild strawberry and cranberry) with a sharp, vibrant,… ...
WA 95
JG 93
W&S 93
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Lopez de Heredia Rioja Vina Tondonia Reserva 2001  (#702317)

Tempranillo/Tinto Fino from Rioja, Spain

95 points Neal Martin (Wine Advocate): The 2001 Vina Tondonia Reserva is bridled with a lovely nose of decayed red fruit, fireside hearth, a touch of mulberry and small red cherry. The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannins, crisp red fruits (wild…

1.5L Magnum | In stock, 1 available
WA 95
JG 93
W&S 93
98 points James Suckling: There is beauty here and the transparency is inspiring with dark berry, floral and mineral character. Full body and ultra-fine tannins. A glorious wine. A wine that will age for decades and beautiful now. (8/2/18) ...
JS 98
DE 95
TA 95
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Roda Rioja Roda I Reserva 2011  (#702045)

Tempranillo/Tinto Fino from Rioja, Spain

98 points James Suckling: There is beauty here and the transparency is inspiring with dark berry, floral and mineral character. Full body and ultra-fine tannins. A glorious wine. A wine that will age for decades and beautiful now. (8/2/18)

750ml Bottle | In stock, 12+ available
JS 98
DE 95
TA 95
$64.00
$85.00
Save $21.00 (25%)85.00
Save $21.00 (25%)
95 points Luis Gutiérrez (Wine Advocate): The red flagship 2006 Viña Tondonia Reserva was inspired by the vineyards of the Médoc but produced with local grapes, 70% Tempranillo, 20% Garnacha, 5% Graciano and 5% Mazuelo, which achieved 13% alcohol in 2006. It always matures in used American oak… ...
WA 95
JS 94
IWR 94
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Lopez de Heredia Rioja Vina Tondonia Reserva 2006  (#333252)

Tempranillo/Tinto Fino from Rioja, Spain

95 points Luis Gutiérrez (Wine Advocate): The red flagship 2006 Viña Tondonia Reserva was inspired by the vineyards of the Médoc but produced with local grapes, 70% Tempranillo, 20% Garnacha, 5% Graciano and 5% Mazuelo, which achieved 13% alcohol in…

750ml Bottle | Pre-arrival, 9 available
WA 95
JS 94
IWR 94
PRE-ARRIVAL
$39.95
$50.00
Save $10.05 (20%)50.00
Save $10.05 (20%)
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