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Rioja

Rioja

Rioja

Rioja Wine

If one had to pick a single subregion in Spain that would represent the country in its brightest viticultural light, it would undoubtedly be Rioja. It’s a breathtaking valley, where the soft breeze carries the playful sounds of local birds, and where one of the world’s most underrated and potent varietals thrives. Tempranillo is a vivacious, vibrant varietal, sometimes seen as a more fruit-forward version of Cabernet Sauvignon, and winemakers from Rioja seem to understand it on a spiritual level because drinking a fine red Rioja can be a near-religious experience. They’re as powerful and impactful as a charging bull, and as smooth and playful as the cloth that agitates it. As a result, these wines play an important part in Spanish culture and cuisine, and one can’t help but notice a historical, nostalgic sentiment as the wine unfolds in the glass.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about fine Rioja wines is how affordable they can be. While they’re no less impactful than their French competitors, they tend to fly under the radar, which results in lower prices than one would expect. This makes them a great starting point if you are just setting out on your wine adventure, and a reliable source of party-starting excitement if you’re looking to socialize.

However you want to frame it, Rioja deserves a spot in the annals of wine history, and its sheer quality mesmerizes countless people on a daily basis. Get immersed, and experience a level of satisfaction and serenity like never before.

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1994 r. lopez heredia vina tondonia gran reserva Spain Red

Extremely intense aromas of dried lemons, apples, limes and chalk. Full body, wonderful depth of fruit and density with bright acidity and a layered and rich palate. Yet remains vivid and fresh. Drink or hold.James Suckling | 97 JS(aged for nine years in American oak barrels and then held in bottle for a minimum of eight years before release) Brilliant red. A highly complex, expansive bouquet evokes cherry liqueur, pipe tobacco, incense, vanilla and woodsmoke, accompanied by hints of five-spice powder and licorice in the background. Sweet, expansive and seamless in texture, offering intense cherry-vanilla, spicecake and rose pastille flavors that deepen slowly as the wine opens up. Fully mature but with plenty of life left in it, this wine finishes impressively long, supple and sweet, displaying discreet tannins, resonating spiciness and suave florality. I reviewed this wine five years ago and am very happy to say that it has improved with additional bottle age.Vinous Media | 95 VM

96
RP
As low as $295.00
2008 artadi rioja el pison Spain Red

The 2008 Vina el Pison comes from a single vineyard planted in 1945 on pure limestone. It is the epitome of elegance with a sensual bouquet, a silky texture, already complex flavors, and a lengthy, pure finish. It will offer at least a 20 year lifespan, just long enough for the 2009 to be hitting its stride.Robert Parker Wine Advocate | 97 RP

97
RP
As low as $265.00
2010 la rioja alta vina ardanza rioja riserva seleccion especial Spain Red

Rioja Alta at its luxurious best. Aromatically it’s all truffle, sweet spices and red flowers, then in the mouth there’s a refreshing note of cherry, redcurrant, acidity. A rasp of tannin gives added interest and there's a resounding finish. The Tempranillo comes from the Rioja Alta zone, and the Garnacha from the La Pedriza vineyard in Rioja Oriental. Three years in American oak, with six rackings. The first Ardanza Selección Especial since 2001, 1973 and 1964. Drinking Window 2022 - 2040.Decanter | 96 DECDried cherries, cedar, sandalwood, tar, treacle tart, cinnamon and vanilla. Medium body, fine-grained and very silky tannins for a wine of almost 10 years of age, bright and transparent acidity and a long, very spicy finish. Like going back in time and touching an ornate tapestry. The texture is mesmerizing. Drink now.James Suckling | 96 JSThe 2010 Viña Ardanza Selección Especial Rioja Reserva is an absolute blinder. The blend comprises 80% Tempranillo from the La Cuesta and Montecillo vineyards and 20% Grenache from the La Pedriza vineyard in Rioja Baja. It was picked mid-October, aged for 36 months in four-year-old American oak (six months less for the Grenache) and bottled in 2015. It was so highly regarded by the team at La Rioja Alta that they deemed it “Selección Especial” instead of “Reserva Especial.” The bouquet is like an old friend inviting you into their home. Crushed strawberry, leather and a touch of game are all beautifully defined, and after an hour the nose became increasingly Burgundy in style. That Burgundy theme translates across to a palate that is supremely well balanced and so harmonious that it was almost too easy to drink. There are hints of chestnut and shavings of black truffle on a finish that fans out gently. This is a finely crafted and irresistible Rioja Reserva from one of the region’s best producers, and frankly, I will not taste a bottle that represents better value for money than this: cases of 12 at just over £200 in bond.Vinous Media | 96 VM2010 was a great vintage in Rioja in general and seems to be exceptional here, with a 2010 Viña Ardanza Selección Especial (what used to be Reserva Especial) that can challenge any of the recent vintages and hopefully can develop in bottle to reach the heights of years like 1973 or 1964. The wine is expressive, aromatic, very elegant and clean, with classical Rioja aromas of long aging in barrel and slow oxidation through the years in wood. The palate is polished and sleek but shows plenty of energy, with very fine, mostly resolved tannins and very good harmony and persistence. There is great complexity, and you could start smelling spice and smoke to move to earthy tones, hints of beef blood, cherries in liqueur, curry, diesel, old furniture and forest floor. A great Viña Ardanza! They have managed to produce 600,000 bottles of this—and apparently in one single lot. It was bottled in May 2015.Robert Parker Wine Advocate | 95 RPPolished and graceful, balanced and lively, this red offers cherry, dried strawberry, cedar, spice and vanilla flavors that mingle over light, firm tannins and orange peel acidity. The silky texture and juicy flavors find a graceful middle ground between the traditional and modern styles. Tempranillo and Garnacha. Drink now through 2025. 50,000 cases made.Wine Spectator | 94 WS(Viña Ardanza Rioja “Reserva Selección Especial”- La Rioja Alta (Rioja Alta)) The 2010 Viña Ardanza Rioja “Selección Especial” from La Rioja Alta is made of its customary blend of tempranillo and garnacha, but in 2010, the garnacha was sourced from a very stony vineyard in Rioja Baja, rather than from vineyards in Rioja Alta sub-region. The wine’s blend ended up being eighty percent tempranillo and twenty percent of this Rioja Baja-sourced garnacha, with the tempranillo component aged for three years in four year-old American oak barrels, and the garnacha component aged for two and a half years in two and three year-old American casks. The 2010 Ardanza Selección Especial is darker in color this year, probably from the inclusion of Rioja Baja fruit in the blend, and offers up an excellent bouquet of plums, black cherries, cigar wrapper, toasted coconut, a touch of spice, a fine base of soil tones and a gentle savory topnote. On the palate the wine is pure, full-bodied and velvety, with a superb core of fruit, lovely soil signature, moderate, buried tannins and excellent length and grip on the ripe and complex finish. This is a superb bottle of Ardanza that will make old bones, but is so well-balanced at this relatively young age that it is not going to be easy to keep one’s hands off of bottles in the cellar! (Drink between 2019-2060).John Gilman | 93 JGA rusty color and classic Ardanza aromas of dry spice, fallen leaves, charred beef, tobacco and herbs announce a proprietary Rioja. Typical raciness and blazing acidity drive the palate, while spicy red berry and currant flavors are backed by dry oak. Only on the finish does this soften, with a hint of raisin coming out. Drink now through 2028.Wine Enthusiast | 93 WE

96
JS
As low as $59.99
2016 R. Lopez Heredia Rioja Vina Cubillo Crianza

The 2016 Viña Cubillo Tinto Crianza was surprising, spectacular, elegant, clean and fresh like few vintages before. It was a superb year, with quality, quantity and freshness. It’s quite the opposite from the previous 2015, which was a much warmer and riper year. The 2016s have moderate alcohol and especially the perception of less ripeness (even though the alcohol is very similar). It feels very young, still quite primary. Mercedes explained, "Cubillas, a 24-hectare plot, is a vineyard that could produce Gran Reserva wines. It’s a very good vineyard, but we would miss the Crianza in our range". In fact, the comment was that this vintage is even a challenge for the Viña Tondonia red "because of its price." It is indeed a bargain. "But it doesn’t have the finesse of Tondonia," concluded María José. Anyway, it’s super tasty. 92,000 bottles produced. It was bottled in November 2022.Robert Parker Wine Advocate | 94 RP

94
RP
As low as $26.99
2016 bodegas ugalde felipe ugalde rioja reserva Spain Red

An ethereal and classic style with tertiary semi-dried plum, strawberry, cedar, mocha and coffee oak aromas and flavours, silky tannins and well-integrated zesty acidity. A magnificent wine that needs spicy lamb chops.Decanter | 97 DEC

97
DEC
As low as $42.99
2018 marques de murrieta reserva Spain Red

The flagship red 2018 Rioja Reserva was produced with a blend of 86% Tempranillo, 8% Graciano, 4% Mazuelo (a.k.a. Cariñena) and 2% Garnacha selected from their 300 hectares of vineyards that exemplifies the character of the vintage and the place. 2018 was a year with good rain and a cool season that resulted in a late harvest, which started on October 1 and was slow and delivered grapes with good freshness. Each variety and plot fermented separately in stainless steel. and the wines aged separately in American oak barrels for 21 months and then settled in concrete until bottling. It follows the path of the 2016, where I noticed a change that is taken further in this, controlling the power and increasing the freshness. It’s very aromatic, a year completely different from the 2017; it has less structure and more freshness and subtler balance and enough oomph, concentration and power neatly compensated by freshness. I believe 2018 was a very good vintage to implement this change. It’s perfumed, fresh, elegant and medium-bodied, with a velvety texture. Superb! 960,000 bottles produced.Robert Parker Wine Advocate | 94 RPSavory cured-meat, tobacco and grilled-spice notes to the bright plum, red-date, cherry and green-olive aromas. Quite a juicy, medium-bodied Rioja with fresh and extremely silky tannins caressing the zesty orange and crunchy red-berry flavors. Nuanced, fluid and effortlessly drinkable. Long and extremely elegant. A vintage that highlights layering and freshness, rather than power and depth. 86% tempranillo, 8% graciano, 4% mazuelo and 2% garnacha. Delicious now, but will hold well.James Suckling | 94 JS(Rioja “Reserva”- Marqués de Murrieta (Rioja Alta)) The 2018 Reserva from Marqués de Murrieta has not been released yet, but the bodegas kindly sent me a sample for inclusion in this article. The wine is excellent on both the nose and palate, offering up a ripe and complex bouquet of black cherries, raspberries, cigar wrapper, clove-like spice tones, a beautiful base of soil, incipient notes of nutskin and cedary oak. On the palate the wine is pure, full-bodied, focused and complex, with a fine core of fruit, lovely mineral drive and grip, fine-grained, buried tannins and a long, ripe and well-balanced finish. The ripeness of the 2018 vintage is evident here, but it is handled seamlessly and the wine is really going to be lovely. I suspect it will age very much like a top 1982 Rioja. (Drink between 2028 - 2075)John Gilman | 93 JGFresh and elegant, with a mouthful of ripe, crushed cherry and red currant fruit, this medium-bodied red is framed by crisp tannins and a minerally underpinning. Enticing hints of eucalyptus, dried fig and cigar box play on the finish. Tempranillo, Graciano, Mazuelo and Garnacha Tinta. Drink now through 2028. 80,000 cases made, 14,000 cases imported.Wine Spectator | 91 WS

94
RP
As low as $28.99
2018 jose luis ripa rioja rosado Rose

The rosé 2018 RIPA Vino Rosado follows the same path as the 2017, 60% Garnacha and 40% Tempranillo aged and matured in 225- and 500-liter oak barrels where the wine matured for 30 months. The vintage was quite cold, and the grapes were picked on October 20. The wine has a more vibrant palate and a lower pH, with more freshness. It’s quite marked by the long élevage, so it takes on a specific profile with more nutty and spicy notes and a hint of nutmeg and cinnamon. It’s spicy, vibrant, still round and lush, with a dark color, very different from the pale Provençal examples... 6,200 bottles were filled in December 2021.Robert Parker Wine Advocate | 91 RP

94
JG
As low as $29.99
2018 sierra de tolono rioja la dula garnacha de altura Spain Red

No written review providedIn 2012, Sandra Bravo settled in the high altitudes of Rioja Alavesa, where she found small parcels of old-vine garnacha that reminded her of vineyards she had worked with in Priorat. This 2018 is the first release of her Garnachas de Altura, from a collection of small parcels in Rivas de Tereso, a village of 21 people in the northern reaches of Rioja, above San Vicente de la Sonsierra. The vines average 70 years of age and grow at elevations of 2,300 feet in a mix of clay and limestone soils; Bravo has purchased some of the parcels, and farms them all, converting them to organics. She allows the wine to ferment spontaneously in old casks, then ages it in clay pots. You can taste the influence of the altitude and the limestone in the bright, zesty coolness of the fruit, in the light intensity of the strawberry flavors and crushed-black- peppercorn crunch. It’s a lithe Rioja delivering the beauty of the hills, a wine to enjoy fresh and young.Wine and Spirits | 94 W&SThere is a new 2018 La Dula Garnachas de Altura produced with grapes from high-altitude vineyards in the village of Rivas de Tereso, small plots of old vines at 650 meters in altitude. It fermented with indigenous yeasts in 300-liter amphorae at low temperature, which means a very slow fermentation. The wine has a bright ruby color that is quite attractive and a perfumed and floral nose. It’s medium-bodied and textured with very fine chalky tannins, and it has good freshness and very good balance, purity of flavors and length. It matured in foudre for eight months, but the oak is perfectly integrated and not noticeable. This is plain delicious. 3,650 bottles were filled in August 2019.Robert Parker Wine Advocate | 93 RPThere’s an apple and pear mix here that has fresh allure on the nose and delivers a zippy and attractively fresh palate that has good weight, flesh and a gently creamy, apple sorbet-like finish. Drink now.James Suckling | 93 JS

94
W&S
As low as $25.99
2019 hermanos pecina senorio de p pecino cosecha Spain Red

The juicy and chewy unoaked red 2019 Señorío de P. Peciña Cosecha Tinto has bright ripe fruit and an earthy touch, a medium body and soft tannins that give it a supple texture. It’s a blend of Tempranillo with 3% Garnacha and 2% Graciano fermented with indigenous yeasts and kept in tank until bottling.Robert Parker Wine Advocate | 90 RP(Rioja “Cosecha”- Bodegas Señorío Pedro Peciña (Rioja Alta)) The 2019 Rioja “Cosecha” from Bodegas Peciña is a lovely wine, with plenty of black fruit informing both the nose and the palate. The bouquet is bright and jumps from the glass in a mix of black cherries, dark berries, cigar smoke, just a touch of Rioja spice tones and a good base of soil. On the palate the wine is vibrant, full-bodied and tangy, with a fine core of ripe fruit, good focus and grip, moderate tannins and a long, well-balanced finish. This is still a young wine, but it is eminently drinkable already and will only get better with a bit of bottle age. This augurs extremely well for the Crianzas, Reservas and Gran Reservas we will see down the road from the 2019 vintage, as this wine is really excellent for its level! (Drink between 2021-2040)John Gilman | 90 JG

90
RP
As low as $13.99
2019 Muga Rioja Reserva Seleccion Especial

The subtle and harmonious 2019 Selección Especial reflects a very complete and good vintage. It has to be one of the finest vintages for this wine. 2019 is a powerful vintage with balance and freshness. The grapes ripened thoroughly and developed a full set of aromas and flavors. It’s complex and nuanced, with abundant, fine-grained tannins and a long, dry and tasty finish. Selección applies to the vineyards but also the barrels and everything that contributes to this wine; it’s not only a selection of lots, which was the case before the 1994 vintage. 274,992 bottles produced. It was bottled between April and June 2022 after 26 months in barrel.Robert Parker Wine Advocate | 95 RPFresh and demure nose with lots of cocoa powder, blackcurrants, blackberries and a hint of cigar and charcoal. Excellent depth and class here with a very juicy center palate. Medium to full body with a long and layered finish. Drink or hold.James Suckling | 95 JSBlack, somber and rich, this has the gravitas of old-fashioned Rioja. Selección Especial is made primarily from vineyards in the hills stretching from Villalba to Abalos, after the first cut from those lots goes to Torre Muga. These parcels, close to the mountains, are influenced by limestone in the soils, while two others, including a cool, north-facing parcel, add fruit from clay soils to the blend. That coolness shows up against the warm scent of rosemary and Mediterranean scrub, alongside this wine’s blueberry-skin tannins. Youthfully suppressed, it’s concentrated and substantial, suited to long aging. If you open it now, decant it long before dinner with a butterflied leg of lamb grilled with rosemary stalks.Wine & Spirits Magazine | 95 W&SThe 2019 Selección Especial blends Tempranillo, Garnacha and Graciano from vineyards on Montes Obarenes and the slopes of Sierra Cantabria. Aged for 26 months in the winery’s French oak barrels, this garnet wine offers a balsamic core with delicate cherry and elder notes, accompanied by hints of licorice. Dry, intense and creamy, the chalky flow lingers, concluding with a velvety, complex finish. This red stands out for its crystal-clear expression, showcasing a range of Rioja’s virtues.Vinous Media | 94 VMSavory aromas of forest floor, leather and tar transition to reveal a creamy core of crushed mulberry, cherry and wild strawberry fruit, red licorice and singed orange peel flavors. Shows muscle and focus, but this is elegant overall, marrying sculpted tannins with layers of flavor and length. Tempranillo, Garnacha, Mazuelo and Graciano. Drink now through 2034. 20,000 cases made, 6,000 cases imported.Wine Spectator | 92 WSDeep garnet to the eye, this wine has a nose of blackberry, green bell pepper and cedar chest. It is spicy at first sip, offering notes of eucalyptus, menthol and clove. Forceful tannins provide a backdrop for these spicy notes plus blackberry, black cherry, dark chocolate, violet and orange zest flavors that sail into a floral and cool herb finish. Wine Enthusiast | 90 WE

95
RP
As low as $39.95
2020 alegre valganon tinto rioja Spain Red

The house red 2020 Tinto showed superbly. It’s a blend of Tempranillo from the Obarenes Mountains (Sajazarra and Fonzaleche) with 20% Garnacha from Cárdenas on clay and some 5% white that has 14.2% alcohol but feels perfectly balanced and integrated. It has a serious, harmonious nose with complexity and depth but also youth. It has a soft and juicy texture with focused and clean flavors, finishing with an almost salty twist. Super tasty and easy to drink! Great value too. It matured in a mixture of 1,000- and 3,000-liter oak foudres and 225- and 500-liter barrels. 22,000 bottles produced. It was bottled in February 2022.Robert Parker Wine Advocate | 93+ RP

93+
RP
As low as $20.99
2020 bodegas exopto horizonte de exopto Spain Red

A traditional red blend of 80% Tempranillo with 10% each Garnacha and Graciano, the 2020 Horizonte de Exopto combines grapes from Ábalos and, since 2016, also San Vicente de la Sonsierra, as he cannot produce village wines from there as his winery is in Laguardia! This year he also added the new plots from Baños de Ebro that represent 15% of the blend and which he feels add fresh red fruit notes and silky tannins. It showcases the Sonsierra zone with fresher Tempranillo with balance, length and the chalky sensation from the limestone soils. It fermented in concrete vats with indigenous yeasts and matured 50/50 in 600-liter demi-muids and 225-liter barriques for 12 months. It follows the path of the 2019 with a little more freshness. 12,000 bottles were filled in November 2021.Robert Parker Wine Advocate | 93 RPHibiscus, blackberries and some cherry compote and spiced dark fruit. A full-bodied Rioja, loaded with juicy yet resolved tannins that seal off the palate, before a delicious, peppery finish. Tempranillo, graciano and garnacha. Drink now.James Suckling | 93 JS

93
RP
As low as $19.99
2020 sierra de tolono rioja tinto Spain Red

The entry-level red 2020 Sierra de Toloño was produced with Tempranillo from Rivas de Tereso, fresh and energetic, representing the high-altitude vineyards produced in a simple way. It has 13.5% alcohol and a medium body with good freshness, clean berry flavors, vibrant acidity and fine tannins. 35,000 bottles produced, the largest production by far. It was bottled in July 2021 after eight months in neutral barrels.Robert Parker Wine Advocate | 91 RP

91
RP
As low as $16.99
2021 sierra de tolono la dula garnacha de altura Spain Red

This is the fourth vintage of Sandra Bravo’s brilliant old-vine Garnacha from Rivas de Tereso and it’s every bit as good as its predecessors. Aged in 300-litre clay amphoras, it’s wonderfully perfumed and intense, with engaging bramble and red cherry fruit sweetness, tannins and a long, energetic palate. 2023-32Tim Atkin | 96 TA

96
TA
As low as $25.99
2021 sierra de tolono rioja blanco Spain White

The very young white 2021 Blanco de Sierra de Toloño is mostly Viura with some Calagraño and Rojal that is pure, fresh and straightforward, with a floral touch and a tasty finish from what Sandra Bravo described as "the finest vintage of my life." The grapes ripened late, at the same time as the old-vine Tempranillo. It has 12.5% alcohol and a pH of 3.23, medium-bodied, fresh, vibrant and tasty. Great value. 9,000 bottles were filled in March 2022 after resting in tank with lees.Robert Parker Wine Advocate | 92 RP

92
RP
As low as $16.99
2022 sierra de tolono rioja blanco Spain White

The 2022 Rioja Blanco bottling from Sandra Bravo’s Bodega Sierra de Toloño is composed entirely from Viura (albeit, with a bit of Tempranillo Blanco co-planted in the vineyard). Ten percent of the cuvée is raised in oak, with the remainder in stainless steel and the wine does not undergo malolactic fermentation. The bouquet wafts from the glass in a precise and complex mix of tart pear, lemon, salty soil tones, white flowers and just a whisper of vanillin oak. On the palate the wine is bright, young and full-bodied, with lovely depth at the core, good soil signature, zesty acids and fine focus and balance on the long and nascently complex finish. This is quite tasty out of the blocks, but will gain in complexity with some time in the cellar. (Drink between 2023 - 2040)John Gilman | 91+ JG

91+
JG
As low as $16.99
n/v murrieta rioja riserva vertical collection (2012-2017) Spain Red
As low as $295.00

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