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).

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
Britons buy more than 30 million handsets each year, keeping them for an average of 18 months
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Alloysious Massaquoi, 'G' Hastings and Kayus Bankole of Young Fathers are the surprise winners of this year's Mercury Music Prize
musicThe surprise winners of the Mercury Prize – and a very brief acceptance speech
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
film
News
video
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

    Sales Manager - Commercial Cable & Wire - UK

    £60,000 - £75,000: Recruitment Genius: As a top tier supplier to the major Aer...

    ORNC Visitor Experience Volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...

    Junior Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    IT Systems Analyst / Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    Day In a Page

    Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

    A Syrian general speaks

    A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    ‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

    Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

    Fall of the Berlin Wall

    History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
    How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

    Turn your mobile phone into easy money

    There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
    Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

    Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

    "I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
    Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

    11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

    Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
    Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

    Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

    The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
    Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

    The school that means business

    Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
    10 best tablets

    The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

    They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
    Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

    Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

    The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
    Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

    Pete Jenson's a Different League

    Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
    John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

    Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

    The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
    The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

    The killer instinct

    Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
    Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

    Clothing the gap

    A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
    Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

    The Fall of the Berlin Wall

    Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain