I spent a few days in Rioja in the summer visiting producers and tasting new wines and vintages. It’s a region I love.
If you love food and wine then an evening out in Logrono doing the tapas circuit is one for your bucket list.
There are almost 50 tapas bars crammed into this medieval town, each specialising in just two or three dishes. You can go from one serving mushrooms to another next door whose signature dish is based on asparagus. And each has different wines on offer – a gastronomical safari all within walking distance where the likes of Hemingway have treated their taste buds.
What the tapas circuit shows is how well Rioja works with food. The UK is Rioja’s biggest market. In some ways it’s a safe bet, but it’s a region undergoing many changes in its wine industry and in the next decade it will be fascinating to see more of its potential unlocked.
For now though Rioja should be in your thoughts for the festive season and it’s not just about its red wines.
Luis Cañas Blanco Fermentado en Barrica 2016 (henningswine.co.uk £12.50) is a lovely example of old white Rioja meeting modern white Rioja. Made from viura with a touch of malvasia, once fermented the wine is aged briefly in a mix of new French and American oak barrels. This adds a creaminess which never dominates. It shows citrus, stoned fruits, melon and a touch of ginger. The palate is beautifully textured with bright acidity before a long, creamy finish. Brilliant wine to find and very food-friendly. It would even work with turkey, but try with a creamy risotto for maximum effect.
If you want great value then Marques de Valido Reserva 2012, Rioja (The Co-operative £6.99 down from £8.99 from November 22 until December 12) hits all the spots. Made from tempranillo this will appeal to traditionalists as there is a lot of oak wrapped around red fruit and savoury and liquorice flavours. This is what Rioja is all about to many wine drinkers.
If you want something a little different in style, and definitely a more modern Rioja, then Palacios Remondo Rioja Crianza La Montesa 2013 (Ocado £16.95, Berry Bros & Rudd £16.95) is made from a higher proportion of garnacha than is usual. In fact it’s more than 80 per cent garnacha, the rest is tempranillo and mazuelo aged for 12 months in French oak, some of it new.
Made by one of Spain’s superstar winemakers, it has red fruits, spices and notes of coffee wrapped in a generous, almost rich palate. But it remains fresh with lovely balance and finesse on the finish.
Again this would work with turkey but if you’re being a little alternative it would be great with roast beef or lamb too.
• Alistair Gibson is proprietor of Hermitage Cellars, Emsworth. Call (01243) 431002 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.