Rioja is Spain’s flagship of wine production and each year one hundred of the best wines available in the UK are rigorously selected by a panel of exerts, including GOCV member Beth Willard, who shares her insights and experience below.
It’s always exciting to be surrounded by a few hundred bottles of Rioja. A little daunting, perhaps, when you know you have to taste all of them and pick out only the very best from an already high quality selection but that was the challenge we faced as judges back in May at the annual Rioja 10×10 competition. Not only has this become an important way to highlight outstanding examples of Rioja wines in the UK market, providing valuable third party endorsement, but it has also put a focus on the diversity and innovation in a region so often only talked of in terms of history and tradition.
I faced the task of tasting through the Crianza category – a huge number of wines – which threw up a myriad of styles. I believe there are more opportunities for the UK to push this category to mirror the success and dominance of Crianza in Spain. For everyday drinking, the winning wines offer just the right amount of fruit, spice and oak…perfectly balanced.
The difficulty in tasting through so many wines in this category was the underlying quality which made it even more challenging to select just a handful of the best.
It was also very encouraging to see so many single variety wines (not just Tempranillo), and in particular there were some excellent examples of Garnacha from old vines in some of the higher areas of Rioja. It is pleasing that wines from specific regions, vineyards, and even single vineyard sites are reaching the market more and more, quite rightly putting a renewed focus and energy on the rich tapestry that is the terroir of Rioja. It was exciting to taste so many wines whose main message is not just the ageing process and potential but rather the expression of the Riojan vines.
I’m already looking forward to seeing what the 2020 competition will deliver…
Other GOCV members that were invited to take part in the 2019 judging for Rioja 10×10 include: Tim Atkin MW, Sarah Jane Evans MW (vice-chair); Pierre Mansour; Nick Room (chairman); and Beth Willard.
To find out more about Wines of Rioja UK’s 10×10 Tasting (strictly trade & press only) visit: www.riojatasting.com