Rioja to wash down delicious spring lamb – Alistair Gibson

So it looks and feels like spring has arrived and with the clocks going back we can turn our attention to warmer days and longer evenings.

Wednesday, 27th March 2019, 3:41 pm
Updated Thursday, 28th March 2019, 4:32 pm
Tesco Finest Fina Del Cura Rioja
Tesco Finest Fina Del Cura Rioja

As I have often said in this column, I love the change of seasons and all the seasonal foods that they bring with them.

Rhubarb is already here and asparagus is just around the corner. But it’s new season lamb that everyone is waiting for.

I appreciate that you can buy it all year round now but there is still something special about a roast leg of lamb at this time of year.

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El Viaje de Ramón Reserva Rioja

For me, roast lamb and rioja is one of those combinations that works so well. Here are some to help you celebrate the arrival of spring.

Tesco Finest Viña del Cura Rioja Reserva 2014 (Tesco £8.50) is made for Tesco by the highly regarded Baron de Ley winery, and is one of those wines that does it exactly what it says it does on the label.

Made from tempranillo and barrel aged for 18 months, this is classic rioja with spicy vanilla oak, cherry and strawberry fruit and just a touch of smoke on the nose, followed by more cherry fruit and silky tannins and a lovely mellow finish.

This is often on special offer but even at the list price it really does represent great value for money.

Bodegas Roda ‘Sela’ 2015, Rioja

El Viaje de Ramón Reserva 2014, Rioja (Co-op 50cl - £7) is a new wine from rioja producer Ramón Bilbao and bottled especially in a 50cl bottle, which seems to be a growing trend currently.

According to winemaker Rodolfo Bastida ‘If you want to discover the wines of rioja, then reserva is a great starting point’. And this wine is made from 100 per cent tempranillo which has been barrel aged in American barriques for 18 months and is made in a very approachable style.

There are darker fruits here than the Viña del Cura, as well as spice and liquorice which for me is very much a characteristic of rioja.

The palate still has some freshness, with dark fruits and spice and very well integrated, soft tannins.

Bodegas Roda is a relatively new producer of rioja, having only been founded in the late 1980s. But in a short space of time it has become recognised as one of the region’s finest wineries.

Bodegas Roda ‘Sela’ 2015, Rioja ( £16.99, Hermitage Cellars £16.95) was first produced in 2008 and is very much an introduction to the wines of Bodegas Roda.

Made from younger vines than its big brothers, this is mainly tempranillo but with a little graciano and garnacha also in the blend, and aged for 12 months in semi-new French oak.

This is a little more elegant and grown-up than the previous two wines.

The bouquet is all about red fruits, a touch of spice, including star anise, and some dried Mediterranean herbs, followed by a great balance on the palate between fine tannins and acidity, before a very fine, fresh finish.

This is very fine indeed and would be perfect with that Sunday roast leg of spring lamb.