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Bodegas Bohedal serves with Lamb
Rioja

Our Rioja Producer Guide

I’m guessing that if you’re reading this (Hi Mum!) then you are no stranger to Rioja and have sampled a glass or two of this classic Spanish wine over the years. Everyone knows and loves Rioja. It’s the comfy chair of the wine world, the default choice for many, it rarely lets you down and best of all, it’s pronounceable. Rioja has been loved by Brits for decades and I doubt even Boris’s Brexit fiasco (“Switch the comments section off Tarquin, it’s got political, it’s going to kick off!”) will slow its flow into the UK.

Our current Rioja offer is all about showcasing the different producers we work with. Rioja is a big region that produces a lot of wine at often wildly different price points and in numerous styles. One of the big disadvantages of having such a strong brand like “Rioja” is that some of the finer details around the producer, grape variety, and sub-regions can get lost.

It can be easy to see the word Rioja and see it as a guarantee of quality or style but it is only a guarantee of the region of origin and quality can vary. Let me introduce you to our producers and the key points that differentiate them.

Bodegas Aldonia

Brothers Ivan & Mario Santos farm 16 hectares west of Logrono. Their wines are dominated by the Garnacha grape variety rather than the traditional Tempranillo. They own a large amount of old bush vine Garnacha, many of which are located in higher mountain vineyards. You will not find the traditional age statements of Crianza, Reserva, or Gran Reserva on their bottles.

They age the wines for less time than the regulators require and so are not permitted to use them. The result is softer, fruitier wines with freshness and lighter oak flavours which do not mask the wine’s terroir. Find out more here

Bodegas Bohedal

Like Bodegas Aldonia, Bohedal also own their own vineyards and do not buy grapes from all over the Rioja region. They are located west of Aldonia, 10km outside of Haro. This is still in the Rioja Alta sub-region but the climate is more influenced by the Atlantic here which helps cool the vineyards and alcohol levels.

Unlike Aldonia, these wines are aged the required length of time to be classified as Crianza and Reserva but the key to Bohedal’s style is their choice of oak. Traditionally American oak which gave sweet, soft flavours were used but increasingly, in the search for more modern styles, French oak has been used which gives bigger, glossy, and pronounced oak flavours. Bohedal uses a combination of both along with Romanian oak. This mixture gives the wines their distinctive oak flavour but it is far more controlled and elegant and in perfect balance with the fruit. Find out more here.

Marques de Murrieta

Murrieta are Rioja aristocracy. Luciano Murrieta started to produce wines Rioja in the 1850’s and was the first person to establish a Bordeaux style Chateau with surrounding vineyards. The estate is like a Bond lair now with underground trains, restaurants, museums, and rebuilt sandstone castle. It also has the best sitting room in the world.

Murrieta stands out for me for two reasons. Firstly, they produce the iconic Castillo Ygay from a single vineyard situated on a plateau with a superb terroir. It’s expensive but with ageing one of the greatest wines of Rioja. Secondly, they prove fine wine is affordable. Others may disagree but to be able to buy a wine of this quality, with this amount of age for under £20 is pretty remarkable. It shows the strength of Rioja and the region’s ability to offer amazing value for the customer. Find out more here.

Contino

Contino takes Murrieta’s Bordeaux Chateau one step further and is Rioja’s first single estate Rioja producer. All their wines are made from grapes grown on the 62ha estate northwest of Logrono. This was a pioneering move in the 1970s and brings the idea of regions and terroir to Rioja.

It was not until 2017 that Rioja adopted a system of regional identification on their labels and is still very much in its infancy but in the coming years expect to see more sub-regions of Rioja mentioned (#moretolearn). Contino, like Murrieta, is one of the benchmark wines of Rioja and a real joy to drink.

CVNE Imperial

CVNE is a massive operation in Rioja and Imperial is their flagship brand. Like Murrieta they prove that you can be big and still produce remarkable wine. Imperial Reserva is an icon and shows just how good wine can be at around £20 a bottle. For me, it sums up Rioja. Approachable, affordable, and drinkable!

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