Neil Phillips, The Wine Tipster.
Although Rioja is principally known for its reds, there are some great traditional oak-aged whites, which I admit are not to everyone’s taste because they are not a fresh fruity style. However, for others, they will be a welcome discovery and a brilliant food match.
Reds from Rioja have always had a loyal fan base. The Tempranillo-dominated blends are known as crianza, reserva and gran reserve, depending on the time in bottle and in oak barrels. In the region today is an exciting mix of some producers who don their caps to the past and others who want to age their wines for less time in oak and make a more fruit-dominant style.
If you are a tinto fan and want to explore other areas of Spain, take in the en-vogue region of Ribera del Duero east of Valladoid which produces some of the most refined reds in Spain; although, in some cases, the wines come with a fashionable price tag! Or Priorat, near Barcelona, where you can find food-friendly, full-bodied reds with complexity and good balance. Over to the North-West is Bierzo, a super trendy region producing very exciting wines from the Mencia varietal.
For the blanco fans, Spain is now making a range of high quality fresh whites, including Albarinos - the smartest indigenous white varietal – from Rias Baixas in the North-West which are great to drink on their own or with shell fish or grilled fish. Meanwhile, inland in Rueda, fresh, crisp whites from Verdelho with a splash of Sauvignon Blanc can be found. In Somantano in the North, with the right producer behind them like Viñas del Vero, international varieties like Gewurztraminer and Chardonnay are really worth trying.
If pink is your tipple, look no further than Navarra, adjacent to Rioja, where Chivite produce quality rosado and tinto too.
If Spanish fizz is what you’re looking for there is plenty of good dry, crisp Cava on the market which is made mainly in Penedes (also good for whites), west of Barcelona, or alternatively, and increasingly my own choice, is a glass of fino sherry from Jerez in South-West Spain.
The Wine Tipster’s Spanish Selection
Bar and restaurant stockists: Fino’s Mayfair, Iberica Canary Wharf, Camino King’s Cross
A glass of fino sherry like Tio Pepe is the ideal dry, refreshing start to an evening out. Perfect with some nuts and olives.
Albarino Paco & Lola 2010, Adegas Rosalia de Castro, Rías Baixas (above)
Bar and restaurant stockists: All Bar One
From the exciting Rías Baixas region, made with the trendy Albarino varietal this dry,
stylish white is a lovely aperitif with lime and lemon fruit flavours and a creamy finish.
Torres Viña Sol 2010, Miguel Torres, Penedes (above)
Bar and restaurant stockists: Joe’s Brasserie Fulham, Union Cafe Marylebone
Simply one of the best easy drinking dry whites around and if you are ever undecided on your wine selection then Viña Sol will come to your rescue.
Bar and restaurant stockists: Scott’s Mayfair
Yes the vintage is correct! Made by one of the classic Rioja producers, this wonderful traditional white Rioja has been aged in American oak for ten years yet it is still youthful, dry and creamy with delicious fresh character and complexity. A great match with fish in cream sauce.
Bar and restaurant stockists: Fuller’s pubs, Brindisa
If you are looking for a friendly easy-drinking red which you can enjoy with or without food then this is your choice.
Bar and restaurant stockists: Iberica Canary Wharf
Refined winemaking by the talented Álvaro Palacios, this full-bodied red is packed with dark fruits and chocolate, with balanced tannins. A great example of the high level of wine Priorat can produce.
Bar and restaurant stockists: Corney and Barrow Wine Bars, Eyre Brothers Shoreditch, Moro Exmouth Market, The Goring Hotel Victoria, The Lanesborough Hyde Park Corner
One of the excellent wines from this vintage: medium full-bodied packed with blackberries, damsons, spice and subtle oak. This well structured red is a must with lamb or save it for the manchego!
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Neil Phillips, The Wine Tipster is a wine presenter, foodie, writer and horse racing pundit, Neil is the Food and Wine Ambassador for Taste of London and also the organiser of the Best in Taste Wine Awards. Check out the www.thewinetipster.co.uk and twitter.com/thewinetipster.