Rioja on a roll

Even so, "classic" riojas are now increasingly in the minority, as modern and avant-garde wines, made from grapes harvested when they're properly ripe, take over. In this traditional, red-dominated wine region of Spain, a fresh approach has been borrowed from the New World, emphasising the fruitier aspects of the tempranillo, garnacha, mazuelo and graciano grapes. Another major improvement is in the all-important use of oak. Wines aren't left to loiter in oak barrels to become dried out and toothless. Stylish French oak is replacing the charry American oak barrels that impart such overpowering vanilla, coconut and bourbon whisky characters. Even the traditional hierarchy of joven (young), crianza, reserva and gran reserva is being given el heave-ho, with reserva now often the best of the range.

You wouldn't expect Spain's best-known wine region to pigeonhole itself into a single style or quality level any more than you'd expect Bordeaux to stop catering for a spectrum of palates and pockets. And fogeys can stay in the comfort zone that Perry calls "classic" (and others describe as simply "old-fashioned") while the rest of us enjoy the region's fruitier, less oak-dominated tempranillo et al. Having said that, there's not a lot to shout about for less than a fiver. At the tasting, I picked out the gluggy strawberry fruit of the 2003 Primi Rioja (£4.99, Morrisons) along with the vibrant berry fruitiness of the 2004 Vina Tobia Rioja Tinto (£4.99, Halifax Wine, 01422 256333; Premier Cru Fine Wine, 01943 877004).

In the modern vein, the 2003 Ostatu Crianza (£7.99, Genesis Wines, 020-7963 9060), is a better example of the new-wave trend towards crafted, ripe, strawberry fruit flavours. Similarly the 2002 Viña Herminia Excelsus (£8.99, Oddbins) is a blend of tempranillo and garnacha in almost equal parts that doesn't stint on sweet and spicy aromas while delivering plenty of opulent cherry fruitiness. Top quality kicks in at the level of the 2001 Finca Allende Tinto (around £17, Harvey Nichols, Booths supermarkets), 100 per cent tempranillo, whose fresh berry aromas lead to a concentrated tinto full of succulent mulberry fruit. Similarly succulent is the 2000 Valenciso Reserva Red (£15.99, Decanter Wines, 01372 376127), a fragrantly fruity rioja whose deft touch of oak brings a seamless expression of tempranillo.

Graciano is a high-quality grape that a few bodegas are bringing back into the mainstream. The peppery, almost Rhône-like 2001 Ijalba Graciano (£8.99, Vintage Roots, 0118-976 1999) is a good example. If you're still wavering between classic and modern, Radcliffe's 1998 Gran Reserva Bodegas Almenar (£11.99, Thresher, £7.99 each in a three-for-two offer), has the light smokiness of American oak and the juicy, smooth-textured style that says traditional without being stuck in the mud. As does the classy, vanilla-infused, textured fruit of the 2000 Muga Selección Especial Reserva (£15.99, or two for £12.79 each, Majestic).

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

    Recruitment Genius: Transportation Contracting Manager

    £33000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A global player and world leade...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel and Spa Duty Manager

    £18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are friendly, sociable, ...

    Recruitment Genius: Payroll and Benefits Co-ordinator

    £22300 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This museum group is looking for a Payro...

    Day In a Page

    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
    Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

    Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

    Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
    John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

    Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

    'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
    Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

    Forget little green men

    Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
    Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

    Dying dream of Doctor Death

    Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy