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Albariño may be the king of Rías Baixas, but who are the princelings?
Rías Baixas (ree-ahs buy-shuss) is the home of great albariños, but is there more to this lush, foggy region of northern Spain? Rías Baixas (which means "low estuaries," referring to the coastal inlets that crisscross the region) is located in northwest Spain, in the province of Galicia. Its proximity to the coast of the Atlantic Ocean moderates temperatures and brings in plenty of fog to create the perfect conglomeration of elements for producing crisp white wines.
Almost 100 percent of wine produced in Rías Baixas is white, and 90 percent of that white wine is albariño. Rías Baixas albariño is known and admired around the world, but it is also a labor-intensive wine to make and can therefore be expensive. That’s when we turn to the other 10 percent of white grapes grown in Rías Baixas to provide interesting, affordable alternatives. There are six white varieties authorized to be planted in Rías Baixas — albariño, loureiro, treixadura, caiño blanca, torrentes, and godello, and all can make some very interesting wines. We’ll focus on the two most promising wines below.
Treixadura (tray-scha-du-ra) is a native Portuegese grape ("trajadura" in Portuguese) that lends crisp acidity and white flower, citrus, and lemony-pepper notes to blends of albariño and loureiro. Small producers in Rías Baixas are experimenting with bottling this grape on its own, and many are very excited at the potential they believe it holds.
Loureiro (loo-ray-row) is another high-acidity grape that blends well with treixadura and albariño. Its intensely aromatic nose — orange blossom, acacia, and its signature scent, bay leaf, and soft peach flavors make it a good wine on its own as well as in blends, and worth seeking out.
Wines we recommend:
VIÑA LUDY “La Val” 2010 (Rías Baixas) $13
ADEGAS MORGADÍO 2011 (Rías Baixas) $18
ADEGAS VALMINOR “L100” Loureiro 2011 (Rías Baixas) $24
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Explore the world of wines with these lesser known grape varieties
Cabernet Sauvignon. Merlot. Chardonnay. Riesling. Pinot Noir. These are familiar wine grape varietals, all of which go into the making of some of our favourite wines from around the world.
Yet the world of wine is a vast one, and for every wine made using a well-known wine grape – or group of notable wine grapes – there are many that’s vinified from lesser known grape varieties. Some of these are indigenous varieties whose names we can’t pronounce – or worse, have different names depending on where they’re planted. Others we may have never heard of, either because they’re normally made into table wines for consumption within their immediate communities, don’t appear as varietal wines on our shelves, or more commonly, are blended with other varieties to create wines for specific appellations.
True students of wine go beyond the appreciation of the finest wines from the most prestigious of appellations they also explore the unknown, to discover and learn about the lesser known grape varieties, the regions they come from, and the wines they make. Not to mention, this makes for more learned dinner conversations!
Thankfully many examples of wines made from lesser known grape varieties are quite readily available here if we know where to look. So whether it’s Cesanese and Lagrein from Italy, Spain’s Tinto Velasco or Georgia’s Kisi, here are our picks and where to find them. Pop up with one of these (relatively inexpensive) bottles at a wine party to impress.
A black grape varietal that’s mostly grown in the southern Italy winemaking regions of Basilicata and Campania, Aglianico is considered one of Italy’s top three red wine grapes but is unfortunately overshadowed by the more illustrious Nebbiolo and Sangiovese. In fact Aglianico goes into some of Campania’s most iconic wines, primarily those of Taurasi DOCG.
For those who enjoy rustic wines, the high-alcohol and low-acidity Aglianico gives you that and more. The grape generally thrives in volcanic soil, and it creates a robust, full-bodied red wine with baked leather notes with tinges of cured meat and black-skinned fruits such as blackberry and figs.
A shining example of modern Aglianico is the Marco Tinessa O’gnostro from the Campania-based winery, which leverages spontaneous fermentation and is even aged for two years in terracotta amphorae to enhance its rusticity. Most classic Aglianico wines – such as the aforementioned Taurasi wines – cellar extremely well the O’gnostro – which means “ink” in the local dialect – is done is a more contemporary style but can still derive some benefit from decanting and airing in the glass to bring out its best.
The Marco Tinessa O’gnostro is available from Arcodyn/Fermented Connections at a recommended retail price of S$79.
Native to Galicia, Albariño – or Alvarinho as it is known in Portugal – is a green-skinned grape that’s much beloved in Spain for making wines that exhibit huge stone fruit flavours complemented by fresh acidity and a touch of brininess. An ancient grape varietal, today it’s one of Spain’s more distinctive white wines because of its beautifully bright zing that makes it a superb accompaniment to seafood dishes.
The best of Galicia’s Albariño wines hail from a single DO (Denominaciones de Origen) called Rías Baixas that’s actually broken up into five subregions. A supreme example is the Paco y Lola Rías Baixas Albariño, vinified by a cooperative located in the largest of the five Rías Baixas subzones, Val do Salnés. Albariño wines are mostly made exceedingly bone-dry, although some expressions employ barrel fermentation and lees stirring to encourage complexity. This one from Paco y Lola leans towards a balance between both styles. It lets the wine sit on fine lees until bottling for a more rounded mouthfeel, but still demonstrates intense tropical fruit notes in grapefruit and lychee that’s accentuated by alluring notes of white flowers such as acacia, honeysuckle and jasmine.
The Paco y Lola Rías Baixas Albariño is distributed by Iconic Wines Singapore and can be purchased online at a recommended retail price of $48.
The white wine grape that is Bellone is believed to have been cultivated since Ancient Rome. Primarily grown in the Italian winemaking regions of Lazio and Umbria, the native Bellone is the principal white grape that’s most often blended into wines of various DOC and IGP wines around Italy’s capital city of Rome.
Then there’s Cesanese, an indigenous Italian red grape varietal that’s grown mostly in the Lazio winemaking region. Like Bellone, Cesanese has ancient origins and is most likely to have to been employed in winemaking since Roman times. Traditionally this grape was mostly used to make sweet red wines – and some of it sparkling – but in modern times winemakers have moved to a more contemporary still and dry style.
Single varietal examples of both Bellone and Cesane are relatively rare especially in Singapore, but premium food and fine wine importers Ferrari Food + Wine brings in a range of wines from Lazio-based Casale del Giglio, amongst which are the Casale del Giglio Bellone and Casale del Giglio Cesanese.
White Bellone – because there’s an even lesser-known dark-skinned cousin, Bellone Nero – typically makes light, fresh white wines with fruity and subtle mineral notes such as this zesty example from Casale del Giglio. It is also sometimes made into sweet late harvest wines. Cesanese actually has three DOC regions committed to it, and the wines it makes exhibit fresh red cherry characters with notes of earth and pepper.
The Casale del Giglio Bellone and Casale del Giglio Cesanese are available from Ferrari Food + Wine at a recommended retail price of $38 and $40 respectively.
Admittedly we’re unfamiliar with Moldova, and even less as a wine-producing country. But the landlocked Eastern European nation does have a relatively thriving industry, even it has taken a hit in recent times due to political spats with Russia, a key export market. One of the indigenous grape varietals is Feteasca Neagra – literally translated as “little black girl” or “black maiden” – which almost disappeared during the Soviet era. However, some notable Moldovan producers began replanting the variety in the last two decades, and today can also be found in Romania and Ukraine.
Feteasca Neagra is a versatile red grape varietal that’s commonly made into dry, semi-dry, or sweet wines. Some of the top Moldovan red wines are made with Feteasca Neagra, exhibiting smoky fruit notes with solid tannin structure. Unfortunately Moldovan reds aren’t readily available here in Singapore, but we’ve managed to hunt down the Fautor *310 Altitudine Rosé Merlot Feteasca Neagra, an elegant rosé from the award-winning Moldovan producer. Here the Feteasca Neagra lends big berry flavours to the Merlot-led wine.
The Fautor *310 Altitudine Rosé Merlot Feteasca Neagra is available from Elixir Code at a recommended retail price of $37.
Another highly underrated Italian grape variety is Friulano, a white wine grape that was believed to have its roots in southwestern France. It has however established its spiritual home in northeastern Italy. Today Fruilano features prominently in Friuli-Venezia Giulia, alongside the other signature white wines of that winemaking region such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Grigio. But Friulano – also known as Green Sauvignon or Sauvignon Vert – is also grown across the border over at Slovenia, where it’s known as Furlanski Tokaj.
Friulano is generally made to be drunk young – often within a couple of years from release. This grape is almost always vinified as a dry white, and typically expresses notes of wild flowers, almond and ripe white fruit on both palate and nose. A great example would be the Movia Exto Gredic, a youthful wine which combines the generous, well-rounded body of a Pinot Grigio and the bright acidity and expressiveness of a New World Sauvignon Blanc.
The Movia Exto Gredic is distributed by The Wine Distribution Co and is available from The Providore at a recommended retail price of $62.
Largely forgotten by winemakers in the earlier part of the 20th century, the white wine grape Godello almost went virtually extinct a couple of decades ago. Indeed, Godello – which has its roots in the northwestern part of the Iberian peninsula – had dwindled to a mere handful of vines by the 1970s in its native home of Galicia until a couple of Spanish winemakers decided that it was worth saving. They launched an ambitious project to rescue the varietal, and were so successful that today Godello is considered the second-most prestigious white wine (after Albarino) to come out of that part of the winemaking world.
It’s certainly one of the more exciting varietal wines from the lesser-known Galician wine subregions of Bierzo, Valdeorras, Monterrei and Ribeira Sacra. From the lattermost comes this glorious example that is the Ponte da Boga Godello – a deliciously clean and acid-forward example that’s rife with the green apple and citrusy notes of lemon, lime and grapefruit, with a light touch of mineral.
Just note that Godello is known by many synonyms in both Spain and northern Portugal depending on subregions and can get a little confusing there’s Godelho, Trincadente, Berdello, and Gouveio among many others.
The Ponte da Boga Godello is distributed by Iconic Wines Singapore and can be purchased online at a recommended retail price of $48.
If you’ve not heard of Graciano, that’s probably because it’s one of the lesser known indigenous Spanish grape varieties that tend to be eclipsed by its more eminent counterpart the Tempranillo in the winemaking regions of Rioja and Navarre. Another reason is that the black-skinned Graciano is used mostly in blends and is still relatively rarely found as a varietal wine. Spanish winemakers prize Graciano as a blending partner – particularly in classic Rioja – because its intense perfume lends expressive aromas to any blend, while its character and structure helps to round a wine out.
Aside from those better-known northern Spanish winemaking regions, Graciano is also grown in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia. A wine route known as Serranía de Ronda near Malaga combines a good number of quality bodegas to make up D.O. Sierras de Málaga, making wines from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Tempranillo, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. And Graciano.
A fine example of a Ronda wine would be the Decalzos Viejos DV+, which is elaborated from Graciano, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon. Here the Graciano lends an aromatic bouquet of dark flowers, blackberry and dusty cocoa to the wine, and adds a robust tannic spine at the same time.
The Decalzos Viejos DV+ – and other wines of Ronda – are distributed by Two Grapes and can be purchased from Wine Ronda online at a recommended retail price of $72.
Unless you’re a student of wine or love orange wine, chances are you’ve never heard of Kisi. This white wine grape is indigenous to Georgia, one of the oldest – if not the oldest – winemaking region in the world. And unfortunately, wines of the former Soviet state don’t tend to travel outside of Europe, much less to our part of the world. Like too many other obscure indigenous grape varietals Kisi almost became extinct at the turn of the last century largely due to a market preference for Rkatsiteli (another native varietal), followed by the collapse of the Soviet Union, and then, civil war. It’s also tricky to grow.
Thankfully, Kisi – also known as Maghranuli – managed to survive those turbulent times and today is widely grown in the Kahketi wine region east of the country. Kisi generally produces a still white wine that’s rife with aromas of dried orchard fruit and mint, but what makes it particularly exciting to adventurous wine connoisseurs is that it’s also increasingly used to make orange wine. The Nine Oaks Kisi + Rkatsiteli is a prime example of a Kakheti amber wine, and combines a crisp elegance with butterscotch notes and long, grippy tannins.
The Nine Oaks Kisi + Rkatsiteli is available from The Straits Wine Company at a recommended retail price of $76.30.
A Lacrima is easily identifiable by the nose alone Lacrima – or to be more precise, the Lacrima di Morro d’Alba – produces a rich and aromatic red wine that bursts with notes of wild strawberries and other red fruits, along with that sickly-sweet floral scent one most associate with potpourri.
What’s unique about Lacrima is that it’s a dark-skinned indigenous Italian grape varietal that’s almost exclusively grown in Italy’s Marche region. As Lacrima is rather susceptible to pests and diseases and thus relatively difficult to grow, it saw a marked decline and almost went extinct in the early 20th century. Thankfully for Lacrima a few producers stuck at it, and today it’s cultivated across a number of villages in the province of Ancona. Pretty much all of its production goes specifically into Lacrima di Morro d’Alba DOC wines. While the appellation allows for up to 15-percent of other grape varietals to be used, most producers make them 100-percent Lacrima. Which means what you find are generally single varietal wines, such as this Velenosi Querci Antica Lacrima di Morro. It is exactly what you’d expect from a Lacrima an explosively ripe berry basket and a burst potpourri satchel in one.
Lacrimas are relatively straightforward wines made to be drunk young and are seldom oak-aged. So drink this as soon as you get your hands on one.
The Velenosi Querci Antica Lacrima di Morro is available from Cornerstone Wines at a recommended retail price of $42.
Native to Italy’s Alpine northwest, the ancient red grape varietal Lagrein is cultivated mainly in the northeastern Italian winemaking region of Trentino-Alto Adige bordering Austria and Switzerland. It’s South Tirol’s most noteworthy red grape, in a region more known for producing excellent white wines. There it thrives on the sunbaked slopes of South Tirol’s valleys and especially along the banks of the Adige river.
The wine Lagrein makes tend toward being strong and full-bodied, ripe with dark stone fruit flavours in plums and cherries, along with lean acidic backbone with a touch of astringency. And while Lagrein is permitted for use in blends, it’s most often made into a varietal wine as allowed under both Trentino and Alto Adige DOC.
Lagrein is also increasingly being planted in the New World you’ll find examples coming out of various parts of Australia as well as Paso Robles in California. But to really understand Lagrein you’ll have to try one straight from its home in northeastern Italy. This Durer Weg Lagrein Suditirol DOC Alto Adige exhibits all the essential characteristics of Lagrein you can possibly expect from this Alpine varietal.
The Durer Weg Lagrein Suditirol DOC Alto Adige is distributed by The Wine Distribution Co and is available from The Providore at a recommended retail price of $57.
Like Godello, the indigenous Spanish red grape varietal Mencia is primarily found in the northwestern part of the country as well as in Portugal (where it’s known as Jaen or Loureiro Tinto). Previously Mencia was limited to making light red table wines meant for easy and early consumption, but in recent years has risen to prominence as a number of Spanish winemakers have worked it to create more complex wines worthy of international repute.
This renewed interest in Mencia has seen a number of Galician producers in the DOs of Bierzo, Valdeorras, and Ribeira Sacra actively cultivating it to produce quality examples, creating wines with fresh acidity, bright tannins, while bringing out fruit flavours such as sour cherry and blackberry with a hint of liquorice, mint and slate. Mencia is often vinified in stainless steel tanks for an easier-drinking, fruit-forward style, but can also be aged in oak to produce expressions that can keep and evolve for a number of years. An example of a more youthful Mencia would be the Ponte da Boga Mencia from Ribeira Sacra.
The Ponte da Boga Mencia is distributed by Iconic Wines Singapore and can be purchased online at a recommended retail price of $48.
A rising star amongst the indigenous grapes of Italy is Nero D’Avola, and certainly the most important red wine grape to from Sicily. But Nero D’Avola only gained prominence in recent times prior to the 1970s the varietal was largely exported to the Italian mainland – and even France – and used as a component to add colour and body in blends. Its fortunes changed considerably when notable producers such as Planeta and Donnafugata discovered its potential as a quality single varietal wine, which catapulted Nero d’Avola into the consciousness of wine enthusiasts. So where it was once limited to cultivation in the southeastern part of Sicily around Syracuse, today Nero d’Avola is far more widely planted across the island.
Nero d’Avola makes plush, full-bodied wines, and so is perfect for fans of Cabernet Sauvignon or New World Shiraz who are looking for something different. These wines typically exhibit notes of plum, liquorice, chocolate and even a touch of pepper, and like those counterparts make good food pairing wines especially with meat-heavy dishes.
A good place to start is the biodynamic Marabino Rosso di Contrada (which despite its name is 100-percent Nero d’Avola) the small Noto-based family winery pulls fruit from four different vineyards to create a classic Nero d’Avola that very well showcases its provenance. Drink this one young.
The Marabino Rosso di Contrada is available from Cornerstone Wines at a recommended retail price of $49.
You’ll be forgiven if you’ve never heard of the red wine grape Pelaverga Piccolo, even if it hails from Piedmont, one of Italy’s most vigorous wine producing regions. That’s mostly because it’s languished under the region’s star grape Nebbiolo, which goes into the making of the iconic Barolo and Barbaresco wines. Indeed plantings of this red wine grape has fallen sharply since its hey days today it sees only limited cultivation concentrated around Piedmont’s Cuneo province, most of which goes into making Verduno Pelaverga and Colline Saluzzesi DOC wines.
Pelaverga Piccolo – not to be confused with Pelaverga – makes a lighter style of fruit-forward red wine that evokes flavours of fresh cherries and strawberries with an occasional touch of spice. If you’re a fan of Gamay, a Pelaverga will hit the spot. But getting your hands on a Verduno Pelaverga or Colline Saluzzesi is somewhat of a challenge. Instead take a look at the Olek Bondonio Langhe DOC Rosso Giulietta, made by the tiny Barbaresco producer with 100-percent Pelaverga Picolo. This wine has all the typical Pelaverga Piccolo characteristics – especially with its heady notes of wild strawberry – but also a caress of tannin from spending two weeks on skins before being pressed and sent off to rest in tank for a year.
The Olek Bondonio Langhe DOC Rosso Giulietta is available from Arcodyn/Fermented Connections at a recommended retail price of S$79.
Known as Mammolo in Tuscany, Sciacarello is a red wine grape of Italian origin that’s widely planted on the French island of Corsica. While in Italy Mammolo is used as a blending partner for its more illustrious Sangiovese counterpart to make the wines of Chianti, Sciacarello is also used to make varietal wines under a couple of Corsican wine appellations.
Wines made Sciacarello tend towards a paler shade of red, and generally clocks high levels of alcohol (so they’re generally picked earlier) along with bright acidity and comes with notes of red fruit and spice. While Corsican-made Sciacarello wines are rather rare in our part of the world, we’re fortunate that we do have access to an example of Sciacarello closer to home from Australia. The Koerner Mammolo from the Clare Valley, South Australia producer is a modern New World take of Sciacarello, and given a lighter touch to bring out its freshness. The fruit mostly hails from the family-owned winery’s Vivian vineyard, and three months maturation in amphora followed by seven months in stainless steel helps preserve the varietal’s youthful vigour, bringing out fresh cherry and pomegranate flavours with a hint of light spice.
The Koerner Mammolo is available from Indigo Wine Co at a recommended retail price of S$308 for a pack of six.
One of the wine grapes that is commonly used in the making of port wine is Sousão, along with key indigenous Portuguese varietals such as Touriga Nacional, Tinta Cão and Tina Roriz. Originally hailing from Minho in northern Portugal, the dark-skinned Sousão is also widely planted in neighbouring Douro Valley where it’s used to help add a deep colour to port wine.
But Sousão – also known as Vinhão in other parts of Portugal, and Sousón in Spain – is commonly made into regular unfortified wine too, mostly in field blends and sometimes in varietal wines as well. This Quinta do Vallado Douro DOC Sousão is a classic example of the latter, exhibiting the intense dark berry, liquorice and rustic leathery notes that the varietal is known for.
You might be able to find examples of Sousão wines from other parts of the world – Australia, California and South Africa sees some acres planted to it – but if you get your hands on a single varietal Sousão/Vinhão, chances are it’s from northern Portugal like this Quinta do Vallado is.
The Quinta do Vallado Douro DOC Sousão is available from Alentasia at a recommended retail price of $55.
If you’re unfamiliar with Tinto Velasco, you’re not alone – we didn’t know of it either prior to writing this story. This indigenous Spanish black wine grape is native to the lesser-known winemaking region of Castilla-La Mancha in central Spain. Once popular, this rare grape has fallen into disfavour it’s suspected there’s less than 50 hectares planted at all today.
Thankfully all is not lost… yet. La Mancha’s family-owned Bodega Finca la Estacada makes a sustainable red wine from Tinto Velasco, and the Finca la Estacada Ocho y Medio Tinto Velasco produced by its American winemaker Todd Blomberg remains one of the bare handful of commercially available examples at all. Now we wouldn’t be able to tell if this elaboration is a shining example of Tinto Velasco – we simply have no benchmark. But its aromas of black fruit and roasted coffee are alluring, while on the palate berry juiciness combined with lively acidity and a slight salty tang in the finish make this an interesting wine to savour.
The Finca la Estacada Ocho y Medio Tinto Velasco is distributed by Two Grapes and can be purchased from Wine Ronda online at a recommended retail price of $31.
A very old red wine grape from Trentino in northeastern Italy, Teroldego have been cultivated for centuries and was once a favourite wine of courts across Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries. It’s seeing a bit of a revival these days too, with some 300 producers cultivating the varietal to produce the wine of Teroldego Rotaliano DOC (all of which are made entirely from grapes grown around the alluvial plain of Campo Rotaliano between the Adige and Noce rivers). Teroldego can also be found in Tuscany, Sicily and Veneto, but is mostly used in the blends of those regions.
Teroldego is traditionally trained on pergolas, but today the conventional guyot system is more widely used. A classic example of Teroldogo can be found in Villa Corniole 7 Pergole the family-owned Trentino producer makes the wine with grapes grown both guyot and pergola style in Piana Rotaliana. Expect a highly aromatic, elegant and well-structured wine with black cherry notes along with supple ripe tannins.
The Villa Corniole 7 Pergole is available from Wine Stories at a recommended retail price of $89.
Spring is transition time, a deliberate shift from the heaviness of winter to outward energy and light. Loimer’s Grüners are a shift from light to great pleasure. Austria put itself on the wine map via one grape, Grüner Veltliner. It’s the leader among grape varieties in the country and thriving in 41% of the total vine area. To learn more… Read more »
Rias Baixas & Albariño guide
Rías Baixas is practically synonymous with Albariño, and it’s not hard to see why. With the greatest concentration of Albariño vineyards in the world, Rías Baixas DO is considered the birthplace of this unique Galician variety and Albariño still reigns supreme as the main wine made in this remote northwestern corner of Spain, just above Portugal. When I visited Rías Baixas, I met up with consultant winemaker in the region and local expert, Pablo Estévez, to share with us his ultimate Rías Baixas and Albariño guide.
We spent the day visiting the pristine vineyards of Finca Garabelos where José and his wife Teresa meticulously look after their vines to make two different Albariño wines: La Trucha and Finca Garabelos. The peak of harvest can be a tense time but José and Teresa were as excited as small children at their beautiful grapes coming in. Obtaining healthy grapes is a challenge in the wet maritime climate of Galicia but the thick skins of Albariño cope perfectly with the conditions.
Fortunately I visited on a gorgeous, sunny day. After the morning harvest and grape sorting finished, while sipping on a golden glass of Albariño, I asked Pablo to divulge the secrets of Rías Baixas and Albariño in this expert video interview:
Where else Albariño is grown
Albariño today is grown far and wide, from Uruguay to New Zealand, but it is best known in Spain and Portugal in the neighbouring regions of Rías Baixas and Vinho Verde. It is native to this northeastern corner of Europe and particularly well adapted to the wet maritime climate.
What does Rías Baixas mean?
Pablo told me that the region of Rías Baixas was actually known as Albariño at one point, which is unsurprising given it is the most important wine variety in the region. Rías Baixas is the DO (Denomination of Origin) and any wine labelled as Rías Baixas has to come from the region and have at least 70% Albariño in the blend. Although Albariño vines dominate (it makes up 90% of plantings), there are 12 varieties permitted in the Rías Baixas DO and common blending grapes are other local varieties: Loureiro, Treixadura and Caiño.
Rías Baixas actually means lower rivers in the local dialect, and it is a reference to the Ulla and Miño rivers running into the sea.
Subregions of Rías Baixas
There are five subregions of Rías Baixas (all specialising in Albariño):
- Ribeira do Ulla – the newest and northernmost subregion. This region is inland with the Ulla River running through. It is one of the coldest subregions, along with Val do Salnés, but being inland it is a bit drier.
- Val do Salnés – northern and closest to the coast, Val do Salnés hugs the coastline and is the wettest and coolest subregion. It is the oldest subregion and has the most area under vine.
- Soutomaior – the smallest of the subregions, it is located inland but faces the Vigo natural bay. Hilly.
- Condado de Tea – one of the southernmost (with O Rosal) and bordering Portugal. The difference between Condado and Rosal is that Condado is inland and is therefore warmer and drier. It is the second largest subregion and formed of hillsides and terraced vineyards.
- O Rosal – also one of the southernmost subregions, but closer to the coast with a cooler and wetter coastal climate. Hillsides and terraces.
Climate of Rías Baixas
Albariño: a thick-skinned variety
Rías Baixas, and Galicia in general, is the greenest part of Spain with the wettest conditions and high rainfall (1,700mm per year). The temperatures are also much cooler, influenced by the cold, Atlantic coastline. However it can get warmer further inland where there is no morning fog influence.
The reason Albariño is so well-adapted is because its thick skins are more resistant to rot and humidity.
Soils of Rías Baixas
The soils across the region are dominated by granite, and in some places you’ll find schist. The granite is great for drainage (important in a damp area like this) and is also notably used in the vineyards as poles and building material.
Granite: essential to the soils & vineyard posts
Viticulture in Rías Baixas
Because of the high humidity, keeping air flow between the grapes is essential to avoid rot. Parral is the traditional vineyard training system, keeping the grapes high above the ground (and its humidity). However warmer and drier regions like Condado can manage with espaldera (as in the photo). The growers make sure they keep the canopies open with good air movement, especially close to the harvest period.
An example of espaldera, with open canopies, in Condado
Albarino guide to winemaking
Selection as the grapes come into the winery is also an essential part of avoiding any rot and spoilage from the wet weather conditions.
Hand-sorting grapes to ensure
Following that, winemakers usually ferment in stainless steel to maintain the fresh, fruit-forward character of Albariño. More complex styles are made by leaving the wine over its lees for several months to add more texture and complexity on the palate.
Typically Albariño has high acidity and bright stone fruit and floral aromas. It can also have quite a salty, mineral note, and vintages can vary wildly.
Albariño tasting notes
José and Teresa’s flagship wine, and their largest production, this is a lively, younger version of Albariño, which has had just three months on the lees to fill out the mid-palate. Bright, fresh and pretty, it is exactly the sort of Albariño you want to quaff before dinner, or with fresh seafood.
La Trucha Vendimia Tardia
This is a limited edition wine from their La Trucha line and it is harvested a bit later, offering greater ripeness of fruit, full and warm aromatics with a much fuller mouthfeel. The big sister to La Trucha.
This is José and Teresa’s smaller production Albariño, which spends about six months on the lees, depending on the vintage. It usually comes from their older vines and the wine is more concentrated. Older, warmer, vintages (like the 2012) show waxy notes of lemon peel and almonds, whereas 2014 still has an incredible freshness and floral finish. Each vintage has its own personality and these are wines to keep, enjoy and explore.
Rías Baixas & Albariño guide interview transcript
Pablo, for how long have you been making Albariño?
Well, this year it is 16 years working here in Rías Baixas DO.
Perfect, and how is Albariño in the vineyard – as a grape variety? Are they big grapes, small grapes?
No, it’s quite a loose bunch and spherical and small bunches.
And how does it behave here in the climate? Explain to us a bit about the climate of Rias Baixas and how the variety adapts to the region?
It’s very well adapted. It is a variety that finds adequate alcoholic levels and at the same time it conserves acidity. So we have wines that are very aromatic and balanced.
And how much is the average alcohol and acidity in a normal harvest (if that exists!)
On an average harvest it is between 12-12.5, and acidity at 8, 8.5. This is a normal harvest. In some harvests, like last year, the levels can be a bit higher, which is possibly to do with climate change.
In the last few years it has been adequate, values between 7.5 and 8.5. It is what I personally like in this style of wines.
And you manage vineyards in different ways here, tell me a bit about the difference between the parrals and other systems.
Yes, the habitual here in Rias Baixas is the parral. The parral helps the humidity to escape, because here we have an Atlantic climate and some years with a lot of rain. And so it helps separate the grapes from this humidity. The sub-zone we are in here, El Condado, we don’t have the same high level of rains as on the coast, it is a bit more of a transitional climate. And here we get both systems of training – the parral and espaldera.
And what differences do we find within Rías Baixas? Within the region, we have sub-zones that are more coastal, and others that are more inland. What diversity is there of climate, soils and aspects and how does that influence the character of Albariño in the glass?
Of course. Rías Baixas has 5 sub zones. The most productive and important in terms of volume is Salnés. Then at the north of Galicia, Ulla. Then by the Miño river we have Condado and Rosal. And then another, which is small but significant, Soutomaior. I work in many of them and, yes, I see the same variety but in different forms. Especially in their levels of acidity and aromatic profiles. It’s clear the variety behaves in a different way [in each place].
And in the zones closer to the sea, the acidity is higher?
Yes, that’s normal. The acidity is higher in regions that are more coastal and humid. They can also mature slower than the regions further inland.
Great, and can you explain to me the general character of Albariño? What aromas will we find, how is the body?
One of the principal characteristics is the aroma. It is intense, clean, with floral and fruit aromas. And this would be the principal characteristic of this variety. And this is united with the moderate alcohol… wines with lots of acidity, well-structured, and wines that are well sought after today in the market.
Perfect, and there are different styles of Albariño too – younger, fresher styles in stainless steel, and then you have more complex styles on the lees. Will you explain to us the diversity that you can find in Albariño within Rías Baixas?
Yes – as you say, the most common is fermented in stainless steel with controlled temperatures to make a young wine. But it’s also true that people are looking more and more towards styles with some age, sometimes keeping the wine on its lees for a certain time, and we get a very different profile of wine which also has its own fans. And then within Rias Baixas, it isn’t all Albariño! They aren’t all single variety wines, you can also find blends – here in particular blends with Albariño and Treixadura, or with Louerra and Godello. And in other subzones there is the Rías Baixas Rosal with Loureiro.
Billsboro 2019 Sawmill Creek Vineyards Albariño (Finger Lakes)
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Lemon and peach aromas are covered in a savory blanket of yeast on the nose. The palate is streamlined in feel, driven by racy acidity that leads to a lingering lemon-juice tone. Alexander Peartree
All tastings reported in the Buying Guide are performed blind. Typically, products are tasted in peer-group flights of from 5-8 samples. Reviewers may know general information about a flight to provide context&mdashvintage, variety or appellation&mdashbut never the producer or retail price of any given selection. When possible, products considered flawed or uncustomary are retasted.
Ratings reflect what our editors felt about a particular product. Beyond the rating, we encourage you to read the accompanying tasting note to learn about a product’s special characteristics.
Sponsored: Hydrotherapy Spas, Sailing and Michelin Stars Make the Wine Region of Rías Baixas a Rich Travel Experience Worth Indulging In
Rías Baixas, located in Spain&rsquos northwest region of Galicia, is renowned for the Albariño grape variety. It produces a vibrant, refreshing white wine that is synonymous with luxury for wine lovers. Jetsetters who visit this Atlantic coastal region savor the Albariño wines of Rías Baixas and a range of culinary delights at local wineries and restaurants, including many with the coveted Michelin star. Like Napa Valley, it&rsquos not just the exceptional wines and food that bring people to Rías Baixas. Travelers also indulge in hydrotherapy spas, coastal trails and a breathtaking landscape that is beyond Instagram-worthy.
Galicia is often referred to as &ldquoGreen Spain,&rdquo and its superstar wines share the same mineral-rich soils and cool climate as the world's other renowned white wine-producing regions, including France's Loire Valley, the Rhine region of Germany and New Zealand. The name Rías Baixas is Galician for the multiple &ldquoRías&rdquo, similar to Norway&rsquos fjord-like estuaries mixing saltwater from the Atlantic coast with fresh river water, these &ldquoarms&rdquo of the sea support a rich coastal culture and contribute to the distinctive geography.
Rías Baixas Albariño is celebrated as one of the finest white wines in the world. It offers exceptional fruit and floral aromas and flavors, distinct minerality and pairs perfectly with the region&rsquos abundance of seafood, which includes octopus, mussels and langoustines. Locally, the wines also match up with premium-quality beef, pork shoulder, cheese, peppers and potatoes. Travelers on the official Rías Baixas Wine Route can book winery visits and packages including exclusive lunches, dinners and visits. Some of the many award-winning restaurants along the way include: Maruja Limón in Vigo Culler de Pau in O Grove Yayo Daporta in Cambados and Casa Solla and Pepe Vieira in Poio.
Now that you&rsquove taken care of nourishing your insides, it&rsquos time to provide some equal pampering for your skin. The ancient city of Pontevedra has an ample supply of mineral and medicinal waters, with a deep-rooted tradition of hydrotherapy dating back to the Romans. The thermal towns of Mondariz, Illa da Toxas, Cuntis and Caldes de Reis have preserved this legacy with a range of wellness treatments&mdashincluding anti-stress, beauty and weight loss&mdashin addition to cultural and gastronomic experiences among spectacular natural surroundings.
No Galician journey would be complete without some outdoor adventure, and sailing along the Atlantic is one of the most popular ways to take everything in. You can charter a private excursion to discover the region by sea or book a longer trip that includes stops for winery tours, onboard cooking classes and Chef meals. For those seeking enlightenment, a walk along the Camino de Santiago, or the Way of St. James, is a must. In addition to the breathtaking vistas of the Galician countryside, the six inland or coastal routes you can follow feature the ideal combination of culture, heritage, nature and culinary experiences. Along the journey, many notice the strong Celtic influence when they see the architecture and hear the sounds of bagpipes&mdashjust one of the region&rsquos timeless discoveries.
Wine With Wanda
"At Vintae, we are restless, creative, and why not say it, rebellious. We currently make wine in fifteen different Spanish regions and we aspire to continue to revolutionize the world of wine without losing our family core." - Ricardo Arambarri
Vi sit the Vintae website and within seconds it becomes clear that this is no old-fashioned and stuffy winery. Striking photos and videos of handsome Spanish men working the vineyards, making the wine, and sipping the vino, make Vintae a party that I want to be invited to! Each bottle of Vintae is an invitation to explore different winemaking regions of Spain and a reminder that wine is meant to bring joy to our lives and connect us together.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting one of the dashing young men of Vintae - Ricardo Arambarri. CEO and co-founder of Vintae, Ricardo's family has had ties to Rioja since the 18th century and worked in wine for generations. The Vintae story begins in 1999 when Ricardo's father, José Miguel, decided to follow the path of his ancestors and planted his first vineyard in Rioja. Today, his sons Ricardo and José Miguel have joined him in leadership roles at Vintae and the company has expanded beyond Rioja to produce wine in 15 different regions of Spain.
Raúl Acha, head winemaker at Vintae
image courtesy of Vintae
Vintae winemaker Raúl Acha has roots in Rioja but travels many miles throughout Spain to produce wines that balance the traditional and the modern. In each region, Vintae is focused on producing superbly crafted wines that express the essence of the terroir and the incredible diversity of Spanish wine. Whether it is a refreshing Albariño from Rias Baixas or a complex Tempranillo from Rioja, each Vintae wine has its own personality but is quintessentially Spanish.
Atlantis Albariño 2016 ($15.99)
Region: Rias Baixas D.O.
If you're not drinking Albariño from Spain, you're really missing out - it is an absolutely delightful and flavorful white wine. Rias Baixas, in Galicia in the north of Spain, is widely considered the finest place on the planet for Albariño and Vintae's Atlantis shows why. This tasty vino is crisp, dry, and refreshing with lots of mineral texture, zippy acidity, and juicy flavors of green apple and a hint of pineapple.
Bodega Classica Hacienda López de Haro Blanco 2016 ($9.99)
Region: Rioja D.O.C.
The red wines of Rioja get all of the attention but the region also produces some charming white wines. Produced from the Viura grape, this pale yellow beauty has a crisp texture and layers of flavor - chamomile, white peach, citrus, and a hint of herbs on the lovely lingering finish.
Aroa "Le Naturel" 2016 ($13.99)
Region: Navarra D.O
Mostly Garnacha, the freshness of the grapes leaps out of the glass in this natural wine. Prepared with minimal intervention, this fruity and fresh vino is light but full of luscious berry flavors.
Proyecto Garnachas de España "La Garnacha Salvaje del Moncayo" 2015 ($14.99)
Region: Ribera del Queiles I.G.P.
100% Garnacha, this beauty is full of texture and flavor. Fruity and mineral with a hint of spice from the 5 months it spent aging in French oak barrels.
El Pacto Tempranillo 2014 ($16.99)
Region: Rioja D.O.C.
No discussion of Spanish wine is complete without Tempranillo - the red we all know and love. The name El Pacto (the pact) was inspired by the concept that all wine is a result of a pact between nature and location, the vineyard and human effort. Produced from organic vineyards with more than 70 years of age and aged 14 months in new French oak barrels, this wine balances richness with freshness. El Pacto's well integrated fruit, spice, and earthy flavors make it a very impressive wine at a very affordable price point.
Matsu "El Recio" 2014 ($29.99)
Region: Toro D.O.
Matsu means "wait" in Japanese and this collection of wines is an elegant tribute to the wine-producers that have dedicated their lives to the vineyards for generations. The handsome gentleman on the label is a real-life wine producer and like his visage, the wine tells a story and displays character. 100% Tinta de Toro (an adaptation of the Tempranillo grape in the Toro region), this is a bold and rich wine produced from a selection of old vines with 90-100 years of age. Aged 14 months in second use French oak barrels, Matsu is intense but silky and graceful with elegantly integrated tannins and rich flavors of black fruits with touches of chocolate. A very impressive vino!
Vintae's Bodega Classica winery in Rioja
image courtesy of Vintae
Are you ready to take your palate on a Spanish wine adventure with Vintae? Their portfolio has many more wines that express the flavors and passion of Spain. And the great price points make it easy to step out of your comfort zone and sip something new.
Costa da Morte
Marked by meandering rías (inlets), Galicia’s 1,500km (932mi) coastline conceals some of Spain’s outstanding and least-developed beaches. While this Atlantic pocket might not be as sunny as the Mediterranean, it’s wilder, quieter and a lot more dramatic.
On the westernmost tip of Spain, the untouched Costa da Morte (Coast of Death, named after the many shipwrecks that lie off its jagged shore) is Galicia’s eerily entrancing stretch of coastline. Little fishing villages such as Muxía, Laxe, Muros and Fisterra are dotted between towering wind-swept capes, remote powdery beaches, rugged sea cliffs and distant lighthouses that pop out of the mist. Most famed is the spectacular Cabo Fisterra, a rocky peninsula that the Romans believed to be the end of the world. The 2020 arrival of the brand-new Parador Costa da Morte hotel near Muxía adds to the area’s appeal.
The best way to uncover the Costa da Morte’s natural beauty is by hiking part or all of the thrilling, adventurous Camiño dos Faros (Way of the Lighthouses), a 2012-founded 200km (124mi) coastal path between Malpica de Bergantiños and Cabo Fisterra.
Market WatchThe Spanish wine category, including labels like the top-selling Marqués de Cáceres (vineyards pictured), is on the upswing in the United States.
Now could be the time for Spanish wine to shine. At least that’s what many marketers and importers are hoping, as they see positive growth signs for Spanish entrants amidst a crowded field of wine players in the United States. “I see Spanish wines as the next discovery,” says Dennis Kreps, co-owner of importer Quintessential Wines. “Consumers are bouncing around from region to region, and right now they’re focusing on Spain.”
Matt Foley, brand director of wines for Pernod Ricard USA, also believes that Spain is on its way to moving away from the wine sidelines in the U.S. market. “There’s a lot of diversity, so consumers have much to discover from Spain,” Foley says. “It’s no longer just traditional brands with very traditional styles. We’re seeing a wider range of styles and a wider range of designs and brands, which makes it more interesting and accessible for consumers.”
Spain, the sixth-largest exporter of wine to the U.S. market, has seen ups and downs over the past decade, but leading brands have recently shown some strong positive momentum. In 2013, the 18 top-selling Spanish table wine brands combined for a 15.9-percent gain to 1.23 million nine-liter cases, according to Impact Databank. Marqués de Cáceres is the leader at a steady 158,000 cases, followed by Marqués de Riscal, which registered a 2.3-percent increase to 132,000 cases. New entrant Don Simon had depletions of 120,000 cases, while Campo Viejo gained 5.5 percent to 115,000 cases and Bodegas Muriel more than doubled its volume to 105,000 cases.
Red and rosé offerings made with Garnacha do especially well at Beverages and More.
Sam Messina, co-owner of the Wine Connextion store in North Andover, Massachusetts, notes that positive press about Spanish wines has helped spur interest. “Of our 600 or so SKUs, about 50 of them are from Spain, and I plan to add another five offerings,” Messina says. “The region is taking a bite out of Argentina, and I think we’re going to cut back on Chile even more to make room for Spain.”
Over the past year or so, positive reviews of Spanish wine have been plentiful in outlets like Market Watch sister publication Wine Spectator, which named the 2004 Cune Imperial Rioja Gran Reserva the No.-1 wine on its “Top 100” list in 2013. Nicolás Bertino, international sales director for González Byass, says that the spotlight on a Rioja, as well as mentions of several other Spanish wines in Wine Spectator’s “Top 100,” helped underscore the quality and value message that marketers have been pushing for years.
Kreps agrees, noting that ranking a Spanish wine in such a high-profile spot “legitimizes” the category. “Consumers realize that one of the best wines in the world came from Rioja last year,” he says. “It spurs them to explore Rioja and see what it’s all about. Once consumers get into it, they discover there are great wines for the money at all price points.”
The boom in Spanish food in the United States is also driving more consumers to explore wines from the country. Julian Chivite, chairman and proprietor of J. Chivite Family Estates in Navarra, Spain, has noticed increased interest from importers. “That’s partly due to the popularity of the region’s cuisine, which is trendsetting at the moment,” he says.
Bertino notes the plethora of Spanish restaurants popping up around the country. “Spain is quite fashionable at the moment,” he says, noting that knowledge on the wine side still remains slim. “If you talk about the average wine consumer in America, they know very little about Spanish wines. The only category where they have a certain amount of knowledge is Rioja.”
The Four Seasons Hotel in Austin, Texas, sells a variety of Spanish wines to adventurous guests, including selections from Priorat and labels featuring Albariño.
This growing interest in Spanish cuisine is opening the door for more consumers to learn about the country’s wine. Spain is extremely diverse, boasting an array of varietals and regions with unique characteristics. Some varietals that seem to be capturing consumer attention include Albariño for white wine and Garnacha and Tempranillo for red.
“Rioja as a category is very strong right now, and Albariño as a grape is also very popular,” says Patrick Mata, cofounder of Olé Imports. “Overall, I see people shifting to more classic-style appellations. Within Rioja, people are seeking the old Crianza and Reserva styles. A few years ago people were running away from those wines, but now they’re very popular.”
Rioja is made primarily with Tempranillo, a grape that’s beginning to resonate with U.S. consumers. Foley notes that some major wine brands without defined countries of origin—such as Cupcake Vineyards—have launched Tempranillo line extensions. “It’s an indication that Tempranillo is on its way to becoming more of a recognized and mainstream grape variety in the United States, and that trend is really exciting for us,” Foley says. “We see it as one of the big opportunities for Spain.”
Foley also notes the expansion of Garnacha, which typically sells at the sub-premium or premium price level. “The growth of Garnacha has been an interesting development over the last two years,” he says. “It has a very approachable, fruit-forward style that’s helping attract more consumers.” Bob Paulinski, senior vice president of wine at Concord, California–based retail chain Beverages and More (BevMo), notes that Garnacha is “performing extremely well in both red and rosé styles.” He adds that dynamism is helping to fuel the overall Spanish wine sector at BevMo.
Regions are also differentiating themselves. “People are certainly buying across a broader spectrum,” Paulinski says. “Beyond Rioja, wines from the Toro, Navarra, Catalonia, Priorat, La Mancha and Ribera del Duero regions are also gaining traction. There seems to be more interest in the broad assortment from Spain.”
Ryan Arnold, wine director for several Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises properties, also notes the emerging regionality. “Right now, the Spanish wines that people are looking for come from Rías Baixas for white wine, as well as Rioja and Ribera del Duero for red,” he says. “Most of our selections come from those three regions of Spain, and they seem to be far and away the most requested.” Arnold adds that Spanish wines are represented on just three of the 10 wine lists for restaurants he works in, and Spanish wines continue to underperform compared to wines from California, France and Italy.
At the Four Seasons Hotel in Austin, Texas, beverage director Mark Sayre gets a lot of traction from Rioja and adds that wines from the Priorat region are increasingly easy to sell. “The power of these wines translates for many diners,” Sayre says. “We still live in a Cabernet-driven world, and Priorat delivers to guests who want a new experience. Many fantastic Old World wines won’t sway the New World drinker, but I find Priorat to be a fantastic segue.” One favorite at Four Seasons is the 2011 Alvaro Palacios Finca Dofí Garnacha ($154 a 750-ml. bottle).
On the white side, Albariño from Rías Baixas is resonating. “Beyond Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio, Albariño has crept into the canon of the more educated and adventurous wine drinker,” Sayre says, noting the “favorable price point” for most wines made with the varietal. One favorite at the Four Seasons in Austin is the 2012 Pedralonga Albariño ($48 a 750-ml. bottle).
Virtually every major Spanish wine region “is growing by leaps and bounds at Wine Connextion,” Messina says. “The prices are just spectacular for the quality.” One favorite is the 2012 Bodegas Viña Nora Nora from Rías Baixas, priced at $13 a 750-ml. bottle.
Navarra, Spain's J. Chivite Family Estates (winery pictured) has benefited from U.S. consumers' taste for pairing Spanish food and wine.
As the popularity of Spanish wine increases, some marketers continue to struggle with the “value” moniker that often is associated with Spanish wines. They want consumers to see a strong quality-value relationship, but are weary of Spanish wines’ reputation simply as inexpensive options. While some report a trading-up trend, old perceptions remain.
“We still have that bargain image,” says Luis Burgueño, export manager for Marqués de Cáceres. “There’s an upside to that reputation, but also a downside when it comes to selling higher-end wines. People don’t want to spend $50 on a Spanish wine because they think their money is better spent on a wine from another country. We’re fighting that trend and trying to get consumers to understand that we offer values when it comes to everyday wines, but we can also offer great prices at the high end.”
Chivite notes that importers are typically looking for wines at around the $10 mark and says the value reputation helps Spain move lots of volume in the United States, but it’s a handicap for the country’s higher-end offerings. Kreps, however, believes the battle is getting easier and notes that Spain is retaining a positive quality-value image. “Consumers realize that a good Rioja Reserva brand at in the $15-to-$20 price range is equivalent to a lot of other regions’ $30-to-$40 wines,” he explains.
Michel Rolland recognizes the potential for Spain’s super-premium wine offerings. The renowned enologist has teamed up with Spanish wine producer Javier Galarreta to launch a new label, Rolland Galarreta, that focuses on the Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Rueda regions. Galarreta sees potential for Spanish wine as a category at the $20-to-$25 price point at retail in the United States. “Spain is now coming up,” he recently told Shanken News Daily, noting that the country previously hurt its reputation with too much reliance on the bulk wine segment. “Today, Spain is much more concentrated on producing quality wines, and I think it can play a bigger role in the global wine industry.”
Those price points are at the high end of the sweet spot for current Spanish wine pricing at BevMo. “It seems to me that the hot spot falls between $15 and the low-$20 range,” Paulinski says. Pricing will remain a key variable as marketers gear up for what they hope will be a sustained demand boom. But overall, marketers remain bullish for growth. “Consumers are fueled by their sense of discovery,” says Foley, noting the recent emergence into the spotlight of so many Spanish brands, varietals, regions and price points. “With the way the Spanish wine category is set up right now, it’s poised very well to thrive in that realm.”
Spain&aposs premier red wine region, Rioja is located in North-Central Spain (which is also home to wine regions Navarra and Aragón). Rioja is famous for soft, rich reds that show aromas of cedar, vanilla, and dill. These qualities are a product of the American oak barrels that the wines are traditionally aged in (although wineries, called Bodegas, are starting to experiment with different types of oak treatments and winemaking styles). Tempranillo is the main grape of Rioja&aposs red wines, but it&aposs often blended with mazuelo, graciano, and garnacha.
One user-friendly aspect of Rioja reds is that the labels are color-coded, with each color signifying not only the style and aging time but also the price you can expect to pay. "Crianza" Rioja wines have a red icon on the back label they have been aged for two years with at least one year in oak barrels and the price should be around $15𠅋odegas Ramirez de la Piscina Crianza 2015 ($15.99, wine.com) is a delicious example. The next tier is "Reserva" Rioja, with a brown icon on the back label, meaning it&aposs aged for three years (of which at least 12 months is in oak and six months in bottle) and should cost $15-$30 try Bodegas Beronia Rioja Reserva 2014 ($22.99, wine.com). Finally, the top tier, "Gran Reserva" Rioja, is aged a minimum of five years (with at least 24 months in oak and another 24 months in bottle) and will cost more than $35. We recommend La Rioja Alta Vina Arana Rioja Gran Reserva 2012 ($45.99, wine.com).
White wine and rosé, here called rosado, are also produced in Rioja. The white wines are made mainly from the grapes viura and garnacha blanca, although chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, and verdejo, can also appear in the blends. Classic dishes to enjoy with Rioja are tapas like patatas bravas and tortilla Espanola, or hearty stews like Potatoes Rioja-Style with Chorizo.