Rioja is a variety of red wine that's grown in the northern regions of Spain, specifically in La Rioja, Navarre, and Alava. Like Champagne, a Rioja wine isn't technically a Rioja unless it's grown in these areas. It's similar to Cabernet Sauvignon because of its tannins and body, but it has a fruitier taste. Throwing a handful of fruit snacks in a Cabernet won't necessarily recreate the Rioja, so it's best to just buy a bottle of the real thing.
What Does Rioja Taste Like?
Rioja is hard to define and describe to others, just like you might feel after reading a Stephen Hawking essay. However, its tastes are usually broken apart into two groups: traditional and modern. While both are aged in oak barrels, each has different notes. Traditional Rioja has bright acidity and a full flavor, expressing hints of coffee and local spices. It's best enjoyed directly after purchase, so carrying a wine corker in your pocket might not be a bad idea.
Modern Rioja breaks from the traditional in that it isn't always ready to drink. Most develop their full flavor after being poured in a wine decanter. But when the party finally starts, you'll love the added fruitiness of the wine. If you can't bring yourself to wait a day, go with the traditional. If you want a great gift for a self-designated "wine connoisseur," head for the modern version.
What Food Pairs Best With Rioja?
Is there anything better than a wine that pairs well with many foods? We didn't think so. Most often, people pair richer meats with this Rioja, including steak, venison or chili. If you're searching for something a bit lighter, vegetable curries and bleu cheese tend to offer a nice complement to the fruity wine.
What Are the Four Rioja Ratings?
Rioja typically comes in four ratings.