We look forward to trying different types of wine, especially those that are less familiar. As a result of our explorations, we now drink far less Chardonnay and much more Gewürtztraminer, Grüner Veltliner, Pinot Blanc and Riesling.
In the red wine arena, we’ve begun drinking more Rioja (ree-OH-ha), a wine produced in the La Rioja region in north-central Spain. The region also makes white and rosé wines, but the red wines are the most noteworthy.
Rioja is a fruity red wine with hints of spice and sometimes, coffee. Classic Riojas have the aging potential of Bordeaux; yet they’re more drinkable when young. They can be as satisfying as Bordeaux, at a half the price.
Like vintage Champagne, the best Rioja wines—reserve wines called reservas and gran reservas—are only made in great vintages. So, unlike with other reds, you don’t have to know whether the bottle you’re considering is a “good year.”
Riojas are aged in oak barrels, and then further aged in the bottle before they are shipped from the wineries. When you find them in stores, you can drink them immediately—or lay them down to continue aging.
You can find the excellent 2001 vintage at retailers now. If you’re looking for a change of pace—or a Mother’s Day gift—pick up a bottle. Riservas can be bought in the $30 range (non-reserve Riojas for everyday drinking can be found for $10).
For a Mother’s Day gift—or for your own edification—combine the bottle of wine with the newly published book, The Wine Region Of Rioja. You may be tempted to take your next vacation there.
Gran Reserva Rioja
If you like Rioja reservas, you can graduate to the gran reservas: wines that are aged for six years at the winery (called a bodega in Spain). They then need to be put down to age for for 20 years after the vintage. They’re a treat for those who have the time to wait.
At age 20 or older, the black cherry and raspberry flavors of Rioja wines evolve to reveal secondary notes of leather and truffles. Mmm!
If you decide to buy a gran reserva gift, put a small label on the back of the bottle, such as “For Mother‘s Day 2012: Enjoy in 2025. From Beth and Tim.”
Two decades from now, they’ll thank you again!
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