| Photo: Campo Viejo.
Spanish wine sales are up even during the recession, which comes as no surprise, since Spain offers outstanding value for the price.
One of the premier wine regions in the country, Rioja is at the top of its game, delivering excellent-quality wine for a fraction of prices elsewhere -- especially since so much of the wine is held back and aged, which costs money, rather than getting rushed to market.
More Rioja after the jump.
Rioja's reds are a blend based on the Tempranillo grape, producing a medium-bodied wine with red fruit flavors, good acidity and a hint of rustic earthiness. Last time I wrote about Rioja on Slashfood, I explained the different levels of aging. I won't go over that again, except to say that in my experience, Rioja Reserva, aged for three years, offers the best taste and value. I just did a blind tasting of Campo Viejo's Crianza ($10), Reserva ($14) and Gran Reserva ($21). They were all good, but the real test? Later that day, I poured a glass of my favorite, the Reserva, for dinner.
Most people familiar with Rioja think of reds, which is natural since most wine made there is red. But don't overlook white Rioja, a blend of Viura, Malvasia and Garnacha Blanca grapes. I like the El Coto de Rioja Blanco 2008 ($10), a simple and inexpensive, easy-drinking white that tastes of pears and white peaches. It's a wine you can pop open and sip while you're making supper or serve with a light seafood-based dish. Some white Riojas are actually quite serious, most notably R. Lopez de Heredia, which makes a barrel-aged white Rioja that's almost like a light Sherry.
Got a favorite Rioja? Share in the comments!