Sunday, September 20, 2009

My favorite Rioja producers

My favorite Rioja Producers

People who knows me will tell you that I'm a big fan of Spain and its wines, Txakoli and Galicia whites but also Bierzo, Ribera del Duero, Priorat, Toro, Cigales, Ribeira, Taragona, Monsant, Jumilla, Navarra, La Mancha, Penedes, Xeres, etc....and more especially Rioja.

I visited Spain many times over the last 12 years and enjoyed it a bit more every time I was there. The climate is warm and pleasant; people are still friendly and less pretentious and presumptuous than in other European countries; food is quite good (not at the level of the best of France or Italy, but definitely not far, especially in the Basque and the Catalan region) and the wines are great, full and generous yet balanced and in most cases age worthy with earthy tannins.

In Spain, the landscapes is a bit like being in Disney world: the roads are usually brand new and very well maintained, almost futuristic (compared to New Jersey or even New York), yet if you look around certain regions seem to have remain in distant time, between the 12th and 16th century, almost like a decor, it is beautiful. Those of you who have been traveling in Rioja surely understand what I'm trying to describe. The town of Haro or even more specifically San Vicente de la Sonsierra, La Guardia and ElCiego are jewels from the past, worth to visit.

Some people may complain about the oak and the ripeness being too much (or too American palate oriented) in some classic Spanish regions like Ribera del Duero and Rioja, and I will agree for most of the wines imported toward the US, but if go there you will be surprise by the amount of wineries that continue to produce classic, traditional wines. Moreover, and not to forget, the woody notes mixed with red cherry fruits and earthy notes have always been a part of the tradtional nose and taste of Rioja (and Ribera del Duero) wines (there is nothing new about that, but it is true that some wineries are using to much new oak which can really impart the taste and quality of the fruit).

However, here are a few Rioja wineries (amongst my favorites and in my opinion) that will probably always remain classic and traditional in their own district (due to different convictions, ideals, styles, characters, locations, vinification, winemaking and ageing techniques and conditions):

Either located in Rioja Alavesa, Alta or Baja, you will also be surprise to realize how quite a few wineries in Spain's major regions including Rioja have evolved and already taken 2 or 3 steps ahead compared to other European countries by producing more polished wines and by being better adapted to newer generations and newer market, by creating multiple wines at different prices and level of quality to satisfy different purposes and palates (and all these within the same winery most of the time), ranging from the most classical and traditional (for the purist like me) to the riper and woodier style (for the "Parkerised" palates and fuller wines amateurs). Here are a few examples (here again amongst my favorites):

And complementing the previous list, here are a few more wineries that have also evolved and also created different brands, wines and labels, but also use more new oak and usually present a riper style compared to the more classic. Some have been called the promise and spirits of the "New Spain", being from a newer, younger generations somewhat more inclined to open their minds, ears and eyes toward the rest of the world and the newer market, than their predecessors (family or not), or simply because they decided to completely revamp their style compared to what they used to do before.

I could write plenty more (you know me) about each of these great wineries which represent (IMO) some of best that Rioja has to offer, but once again it will be too long (and I rather write a post for each of these wineries) so I just invite you to click on the above winery names to go directly to their respective websites. I'm sure that I forgot to mention many other wineries that should have been part of these lists, but I only mentioned the ones that really pleased me the most by the quality of their wines and their consistency amongst all the Rioja's wines that I've tasted over the past 17 years.

For more info and a complete list of most Rioja's wineries per town, go to:


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