Weekend wine - three of Rioja's top tipples | Alistair Gibson

I hosted a Spanish wine dinner a few weeks ago at a local restaurant and while the evening was not focussed on Rioja in particular, it was this famous region which provoked the most interest on the night.

Friday, 5th November 2021, 6:38 pm
Updated Saturday, 6th November 2021, 12:48 am
Ramon Bilbao Crianza 2018, Rioja

From a wine perspective Spain has so much to offer right now from it ultra-fashionable white grape albariño to the renewed interest in quality cava, but it is Rioja that still takes centre stage. The UK is without question Rioja’s biggest export market, last year we imported almost 35 per cent of all the wine Rioja exported and our thirst for these wines shows no sign of slowing down. So with this in mind here are some Riojas worth looking out for right now to go with autumnal dishes.

Ramón Bilbao Crianza 2018, Rioja (Tesco £9) is one of the most recognisable Riojas in Spain whereas here is has been sold mainly in the restaurant trade, but is now available more readily on the high-street .

Ramón Bilbao is one of the most forward thinking producers in Rioja, producing its traditional crianza, reserva and gran reserva wines, as well as more modern style limited release wines. This wine was aged in American oak casks for 14 months making it a very traditional style, the nose offers black berry fruits, coffee, spice and some toasty notes in the background, the palate has more dark berry fruit, spices and a little savouriness on the finish. Try this with a midweek shepherd’s pie.

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Contino 2017 Reserva, Rioja

Faustino V 2016, Reserva, Rioja (Asda £11, Ocado £12 on offer from £14 until November 30) is another very traditional wine, made mainly from tempranillo with a little mazuelo, which has been aged in American oak for 18 months. There are red cherries, raspberries, sweet spices, mocha and vanilla on the nose, followed by a medium bodied, round palate with more raspberry fruit, some vanilla and a silky finish. This is good value and would be lovely with roast pheasant or how about a Moroccan tagine? Contino 2017 Reserva, Rioja (Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Tesco £25) is in my view one of the great wines of Rioja, and unusually for the region this is a single property, similar to a Bordeaux chateau, where all the grapes for this wine come from vineyards within the estate. This is 85 per cent tempranillo and the balance is made up of graciano, mazuelo and garnacha and the wine was aged in a mixture of both American and French oak for 24 months.

There are dark cherries, plums, blackberries, wood spices and some star anise on the bouquet, followed by some richness on the palate with more dark fruit and fine grained tannins, it is beautifully balanced with a long finished. I would decant this for at least an hour and serve with a roast leg of lamb.

A message from the editor, Mark Waldron.

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