D.O Rioja – A large and varied region and Spain’s quality flagship. Sub-regions Alta and Alavesa are the high altitude cooler parts that show elegant and almost Burgundian Tempranillo wines. Baja is the low hot lands sub region where Garnacha (Grenache) becomes more important. Producer is the most important determiner of quality as producers range from traditional savoury wines to modern silky, pure wines. The whites can be neutral and simple through to pretty and silky affairs.
Reserva – Red wines aged for a minimum of 36 months. At least 12 months in oak.
Tempranillo – Top quality grape grown all over the Peninsula (with many pseudonyms). It can be used for Rosado or Joven (released after 6 months) all the way up to Gran Reserva (60 months in the winery). It ages very well and top examples are said to compare to Burgundy. Cherry and cola are typical descriptors, it has moderate to low acid, moderate tannin and the naturally high pH allows for a silky mouthfeel that is not seen in other red wines.
Garnacha – Spain’s gift to the world. We know it as Grenache and I think everyone has a soft spot for it in some way. Almost too exuberant in expressing its sweet red fruits and high alcohol, it often needs a little bit of other wines to add moderation, structure and depth. Much like Abbott and Costello. Despite this the wines of Priorat, Chateauneuf du Pape, Rioja and Aussie GSMs have an amazing ability to age for the long term.