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Some people say : “Rioja is Spain in a glass of red wine”. 

When we think of Rioja we also immediately picture Spain’s other famous culinary delights: beautiful slices of Jamon iberico, cheese and a bowl full of ripe green olives. One sip and we’re transported.

The wine is known for its structure and tannins, similar to the Cabernet Sauvignon, but it also has a fruity characteristic. This is a wine perfect for a drinker who loves Cabernet but is also looking for the dominant cherry flavor that’s often present in a wine like the Pinot Noir. 

When choosing to buy a Rioja, the most important thing to know is that the wine separates into four levels of classification, which depends on the amount of time the wine spends in oak, and is similar to the Cru Bourgeois classification system. The classification of each Rioja will be labeled clearly on the bottle.

The four classifications are:

  • Rioja: This is the basic form of the wine. It has been aged for only a short amount of time in oak, potentially only a few months, and then the wine is bottled and sold. It is in this wine where the juice will taste the “ripest” because the wine is very young.
  • Crianza: For a wine to be labeled a Crianza, it must spend a minimum of 1 year in oak. Following its removal from oak, the wine must spend at least another few months in the bottle, before being sold. This is the level of Rioja that is most widely available on the American market because it’s incredibly affordable, at prices that are usually around $15 or less.
  • Reserva: This is a Rioja made from the best grapes of the harvest. A Reserva must be aged a minimum of 3 years, with at least one year being in oak, and the rest in the bottle. One can find incredible Reserva wines in the $15-$30 range.
  • Gran Reserva: This is a Rioja that is only allowed to be made in years with exceptional growing seasons from the most exceptional grapes harvested. Gran Reserva’s must be aged in oak for at least 2 years, and then must spend at least 3 more years in the bottle. Gran Reservas bring out an immense amount of passion in those who drink them, and it was a Gran Reserva that received the “wine of the year” honor in 2013.


While Rioja goes well with almost anything, the wine goes best with savory flavors like meats and strong cheeses that stand up to the strength of the wine, a pairing that is similar to its peer Bordeaux.


Discover our Rioja selection : 



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