The best Rioja red wines are those that successfully balance the levels of fruit with just the right amount of oak, ensuring the perfect blend of berried fruit and toasty, vanilla notes.
There are, however, differing styles of Rioja, from the traditional bottlings that spend a long time in American oak, all the way through to more modern expressions that focus more on the fruit and are aged in French oak, heading for a more elegant, fresh feel.
But whichever style you plump for, there’s no doubt that red wines from Rioja are among the most desirable on the planet. These rich, crowd-pleasing reds are enjoyable when young and many are capable of long ageing. Not only that, but they’re just as pleasing drunk on their own as they are when partnered with food, and so Rioja’s versatility is the key reason why it’s so popular.
This year’s IWSC saw a bumper crop of Rioja medal-winners, with one in particular outperforming the rest, scoring an impressive 95/100. La Rioja Alta, Viña Ardanza Reserva 2016 displayed aromas of strawberry jam, dried cranberries and red plum alongside pronounced coconut and dill. There were also plenty of Silver medal winners boasting the kinds of flavours Rioja fans might be seeking, from sweet spice and dried fig to smoked meat and mushroom.
Each Rioja at this year’s IWSC was tasted blind by an expert panel, including Lay & Wheeler buyer Beth Pearce MW, wine writer and consultant Dirceu Vianna Junior MW, and co-owner of Neighbourhood Wine Mick O’Connell MW.
Rioja is one of the most consistent wine regions of the world, and the following are the pick of the crop from the IWSC 2022.
How do we judge these wines?
We run a tightly structured, rigorous wine tasting process. That means that each wine sample is pre-poured into numbered glasses and assessed blindly by the judges. Most importantly, our IWSC wine judges are experts in their field, who work across all sectors of the wine industry. For evidence, see our full list of judges.
How do we score these wines?
Only the best wines sampled receive a Gold or Silver award. For example, to win Gold, wines have to score between 95 and 100 points. Meanwhile, Silver wines range from 90 to 94 points. Click here to read more on our scoring system.
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