Age Old Rioja

Age Old Rioja Image

Wine has been produced in Rioja for centuries and has seen many influences come and go.

A major sway in production methods arrived from Bordeaux in the late 19th century as wine merchants came to Spain to seek out new supplies when French harvests were destroyed by philloxera. In their search for wine they left behind their own wine making knowledge, the most important gem being the use of oak barrels and the impact this had on the wine. Thus, was born the Rioja ageing system.

It took a while for the Rioja wine makers to reap the true benefit of oak ageing – early efforts were clumsy and dominated fruit notes instead of enhancing them, but through time they came to understand the process and now produce some of the best aged wines around the world.

The key result of their ageing system is that they produce a wine for everyone's taste – if you like a lot or no oak there is a Rioja for you.

Starting with completely unoaked fruit packed Rioja there is the ‘Joven', moving up we have ‘Crianza', such as the Valdepalacios Crianza which will have spent a minimum of 1 year on oak and 1 year in bottle allowing some of the toasty vanilla flavours to enrich the bright fruit notes.

Then there is ‘Reserva',try the unique Valenciso Rioja Reserva aged for at least 3 years, one of which will have been in barrel. At this level, the wines are getting serious. Wine makers will have used carefully selected grapes best suited to the extra ageing and letting the grape and oak really complement each other. The lovely rich fruit is still key but the wood adds softness and an extra dimension and depth to the wine.

Finally, we have the top of the tree ‘Gran Reserva' such as the sumptuous Ontañón Gran Reserva. This will have spent at least 2 years in oak and 3 in bottle and is mostly produced only in years of an exceptional quality harvest. So, when you buy a Gran Reserva Rioja, you know you are getting a wine that has deserved all the time and attention given to it.

Rioja is not just about red wine. They produce some fabulous crisp bright white rioja too which have a slightly different (usually shorter) ageing process. Now you just need to find your favourite.

Last Updated: 10/10/2018
Author: Judd Slack

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