FOOD AND DRINK
Bottle Shop: Explore Rioja Through These Three Wines
Yes, they also make whites in Spain's most famous wine region
Viticulture in Rioja dates back to the Roman Empire, and it continues to be Spain’s most recognized wine region. If you’re new to Rioja, start pulling some corks to experience a wide range of styles and tremendous value.
Here are three bottles to get you started. (Ontario prices and listing links are provided.)
CVNE Monopole Blanco 2015
While Rioja is known primarily for its reds, it does make crisp, easy-drinking whites, mostly from the Viura grape (also known as Macabeo). Monopole is Spain’s oldest white wine brand, and Campañia Vinicola del Norte de Espagña (CVNE) has been producing this particular label since 1915. Pale gold with a hint of green in the glass, a quick swirl reveals scents of green apple, honeydew melon and white flowers. Like a cross between Sauvignon Blanc and unoaked Chardonnay, it’s fresh, balanced and imminently quaffable. Pair this unique white with raw seafood appetizers, baked halibut or chicken schnitzel.
Palacios Remondo La Vendimia 2014
When Alvaro Palacios took over his family winery in 2000, he had already made a name for himself by putting Priorat and Bierzo on the oenological map. At Palacios Remondo in Rioja Baia, he switched the focus from quantity to quality and starting making wines in a more modern, fruit-forward style. This flat-out bargain embraces the energy and spirit of joven (young) Spanish reds. An equal blend of Garnacha and Tempranillo, it was aged for just five months in wooden vats and French oak barrels, which allows those red berry flavours to shine. It’s big and juicy, yet surprisingly light on its feet for a wine with 14.5% alcohol. Open with roast chicken, meatloaf or pepperoni pizza.
Conde de Valdemar Gran Reserva 2007
Of the various designations for Rioja reds, Gran Reserva is the most august. Aged for a minimum of two years in oak and a total of five years before being released, these wines are only made in stellar vintages. One whiff of this Tempranillo-heavy blend is a crash course in the complexity of Gran Reservas: you get plums, cherries, coconut, vanilla and a meaty back note that comes from bottle age. This unapologetically old-school Rioja demands something carnivorous from the oven, such as braised lamb shanks or prime rib. Enjoy now with a few hours of airtime, though it has the grit to go another decade in the cellar.