Conde Valdemar Rioja Rosé 2018

Rosé is just right for these hot summer days. Here’s another one, this time a blend of garnacha (aka grenache) (70%) and viura (a white wine grape commonly known as macabeo outside of Rioja) (30%). This rosé is an easy to appreciate with a full bodied and dry expression of strawberries, some refreshing acidity and no oak. An on trend salmon pink in colour. Ready to drink now. Rating: Acceptable to Good. Abv: 12.5%. Price: $16. Website: Reviewed: December 2019.

Viñedos Real Rubio Crianza Rioja 2010

There’s a lot of value to be had in red Rioja. This Rioja crianza is 8 years old and an 80/20 blend of tempranillo and graciano. It saw 18 months in barrel and is from an organic vineyard. In the glass, there are aromas of game, cedar, leather, spice and red fruits. The tannins are softening, the length is good, and this wine is entering its best drinking window. A lot for $30. Rating: Very Good. Abv: 14.5%. Price: $30.50. Source: Sample. Read more:

Herederos del Marqués de Riscal Rioja Reserva 2013

A second Spanish wine review, also from the same producer. I wasn’t initially entirely taken by this wine – a Rioja Reserva. That said, drinking it now a couple of days after opening, I am enjoying it. For this reason, I would suggest a long decant. It has a caramel and cedar driven nose, with a mid range intensity of colour. On day 2, it is more spicy. The palate is between medium and full bodied with sour cherries and a dark chocolate overtone. Pleasant drinking. Rating: Good. Abv: 14%. Price: $30.

An outstanding Spanish wine tasting – part 1 (Rioja)

I recently attended a wonderful Spanish wine tasting, with each wine presented blind.  I don’t drink nearly enough Spanish wine as I should, which in part, I think, is a function of access and living in Australia.

Here are my notes on the Riojas among the mix.  But first some key points on red Rioja.  It is divided into three subregions – Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Baja.  Tempranillo ripens well on the clay and limestone slopes of Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa, which share a similar climate.  Rioja Baja is warmer, with more alluvial soils and iron rich clay, and is broadly more suited to garnacha.

Rioja labelling terms are less obvious.  The task, and it is a task, of working out what exactly the differences are between the rules applicable to Joven, Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva wines in each particular Spanish appellation continues to defy ready recollection.  From what I read, in Rioja, (red) Reservas need to spend 1 year in barrel, and 2 years in bottle, while Gran Reservas require 2 years in barrel and 3 years in bottle.  Such long prescriptions of time spent in barrel is controversial, but that is for another day.

2001, 2004, 2005 and 2009 are each identified as “5 star” vintages in J Barquin, L Gutierrez, V de la Serna, The Finest Wines of Rioja and North West Spain, 2011 (University of California Press).  Notes on the wines tasted follow.

Bodegas Franco-Espanolas Royal Reserva 1970, Rioja
There is something quite special about tasting a 46 year old wine.  The cork promptly returned to dust at the first available opportunity after its long wait for release.  The contents however were still sound.  Entirely tertiary in character, the aromatics had nutty, soy, lactic and leather reminders, with some toffeed characters at the edges.  The palate was full bodied, with an expression of coffee and walnuts and no perceptible acidity.  A remarkable experience.

La Rioja Alta Cosecha Gran Reserva 2004, Rioja
This wine has aromatics of redcurrant, liquorice and some volatile acidity (VA) characters.  The palate is full bodied, with low acid, and lactic, leather and soy characters.  The length is long, and this is a very satisfying wine.  Rating: Very Good to Outstanding

Herederos del Marques de Riscal Gran Reserva 2001, Rioja
The Marques de Riscal provided a particularly intense expression of Rioja.  It has aromatics of soy and resonant licorice overtones, with some VA notes.  The palate is full bodied, the length long and supplemented with licorice flavours and huge tannins.  I had a question as to the alcohol balance in this wine and its soaring intensity.  It’s 14%abv for the record.  Rating: Good to Very Good

Vinedos del Contino Reserva 2009, Rioja 
This wine will show its best with decanting.  It has classic Rioja aromatics of balsamic vinegar, redcurrant and soy.  The palate is towards full bodied, with flavours reminding of licorice and bound together by quite firm tannins and long length.  Return to in 5 years.  Rating: Good to Very Good

Price, quality and a Rioja wine

Price and quality are not always correlated.  This humble wine from Berberana, a Rioja Gran Reserva from the 2005 vintage, ably demonstrates this point.  I found it for around the $20 mark in the “other” section of a major retailer, reviewed it back in 2012 (see here) and promptly returned to buy the remainder on the shelf.  Budget permitting, I buy or standby what I recommend here.  Four years later, the wine is still impressive and largely my tasting note still stands from 2012.  Remarkable for the price.

Perhaps though it is the Rioja region itself that tends to throw up these types of aged bargains, particularly in the Reserva and Gran Reserva categories (as long as you don’t mind the barrel ageing)?  Since seemingly every other wine style I like enjoys fanatical and determined demand at the pointy end of the quality pyramid, it is nice to find something out there that is underpriced.  Maybe, just maybe though, there are more out there.  To that end, suggestions as to other regions (or better still producers) that you think are underpriced relative to quality gratefully received…

Glorioso Rioja Reserva 2009

Desperate for a last minute match for an impendingly delicious paella, I gave this Rioja a go from Liquorland (part of the Wesfarmers group).  It’s ok.  “Reserva” means it’s seen at least 36 months in bottle and oak, and in Rioja, with a minimum of 12 months in oak.  Aromatics of earth, chocolate, plum and blueberry are typical Rioja.  The palate is full bodied, but the length quite short.  A journeyman expression of this region’s wares.  The paella was still delicious.  Acceptable

Abv: 14%, Price: $27, Vendors and website:, Tasted: 2015

Campania de Vinos Telmo Rodriguez LZ Rioja 2013

Some initial bottle stink here and the palate seemed stretched and thin.  I moved a step closer to the sink, but a moment of patience stayed my hand.  A spark of hope then appeared with some committed swirling, and the wine’s aromatics of fruit cake, currants and plums gently came to the foreground.  The palate unfurled too, proving balanced with a medium body and a pleasant impression.  Good

Abv: 13.5%, Price: $31, Vendors and website:, Tasted: 2015

Viñedos Real Rubio Rosado 2012

There’s something rather compatible between rosado (rosé by another tongue) and summer.  This rosado is made from 100% garnacha (grenache) and is produced by Viñedos Real Rubio in Rioja in Spain.  The style will not be unfamiliar to the Australian palate, since some of the better known higher quality South Australian rosés are also based on grenache.  Aromatically, even served cold as all rosé should be, there’s interest in the glass, with notes of apple skin, crab apple and spiced pear.  Dry on the palate, there are savoury edged notes of pear and apple, with the gainly breadth of the garnacha grape tucked in by acidity at the edges.  Ready to drink now, this is a good example of its style.

Rating: Good, Abv: 13%, Price: $24.50, Source: sample, Vendors:, Website:, Tasted: 2015

Burgo Viejo Tinto Rioja 2012

Rioja seems to be a thing for me at the moment.  Few miss the mark in terms of quality and they seem leanly priced.  This wine from Burgo Viejo is a blend of 85% tempranillo 10% garnacha and 5% mazuelo.  It has aromatics of blueberry, earth and juicy blackberries.  These aromatics carry through to the palate, with the addition of some fleshy texture and plum characters.  This is a very drinkable wine indeed, and is balanced with a medium length finish.  The bottle disappeared quickly from the table.

Rating: Good, Abv: 13.5%, Price: $22, Source: sample, Vendors:, Website:, Tasted: 2014

Bodegas Latente Crianza Rioja 2010

This is yet another excellent import from Ce Soir Wines.  A blend of tempranillo (80%), graciano (10%) and mazuelo (10%) from Bodegas Latente in Rioja, it has complex aromatics that remind of plum jam, blackberry, old leather, anise and game meats.  The palate is in balance, with savoury flavours reminding of old leather, plum, game meats and chocolate too with time in the glass.  Ready to drink now, its long length and complexity lead to a wine whose quality well surpasses its modest price point and I highly recommend it.

Rating: Very Good, Abv: 13%, Price: $20s, Source: sample, Vendors:, Website:, Tasted: 2014