The Noble Writ Wants Rioja...But Knows When to Fold 'Em
However, most of my experience with Rioja has been through two very traditional producers, Lopez de Heredia and CVNE (don't ask -- just look for CVNE on the label ), neither of which, as far as I can tell, are available in Missouri. So I undertook a quest to find quality examples to taste for this post.
|User "Shaury," Wikimedia Commons|
|A vineyard in the Rioja region of Spain|
If I wanted overripe, super-extracted, oaky messes, I could get them from just about anywhere -- and for quite a bit cheaper than the tariff Rioja carries.
Rioja has a storied history of producing elegant, aromatic red wines and unique (if polarizing) white wines, both the result of long aging in American oak. For centuries Rioja was considered "the" wine from Spain. However, over the past decade previously obscure regions such as Navarra, Priorato, Jumilla and Ribera del Duero have gotten much of the critical acclaim after many producers in these regions adopted boldly "modern" winemaking techniques. The sudden popularity of these "lesser" areas and the stratospheric rise in prices the new "modern" wines commanded must have been an awful temptation to abandon the traditions of Rioja.
As a result, many Rioja producers are trying something different. This has happened in countless other regions around the world, and the learning curve is predictable: producers push the "different" envelope too far and eventually have to dial it back toward "tradition." Where Rioja stood in this process I didn't know. So over the course of several weeks, I hit three of my favorite shops for some Riojas to taste.