WineHandpicked by IWSC

10 award-winning Rioja red wines

Ripe berry fruits and toasty oak notes: no wonder Rioja red wines are among the most sought-after in the world. Here are 10 great examples from the 2021 IWSC

Words by IWSC Judges

rioja red wine barrel punching down
Handpicked by IWSC

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.

Tempranillo grapes on the vine in La Rioja
Tempranillo grapes on the vine

This year’s IWSC saw a bumper crop of Rioja medal-winners, with one in particular outperforming the rest, scoring an impressive 95/100pts. La Rioja Alta Viña Ardanza Reserva 2015 displayed aromas of cedar and rich cigar smoke with tempting notes of jamón ibérico and chorizo, balanced by caramelised orange peel and subtle vanilla spice. There was also more than 30 Silver medal winners, including famous names such as CVNE, Ramón Bilbao and Baron de Ley.

Each Rioja at this year’s IWSC was tasted blind by an expert panel, chaired by Dirceu Vianna Junior MW. He was joined by fellow Masters of Wine Victoria Burt, Simon Field and Jean Wareing, as well as Master Sommeliers Isa Bal and Eric Zwiebel.

Rioja is one of the most consistent wine regions of the world, and the following are the pick of the crop of the 2021 IWSC. We hope you enjoy them.

World-class Riojas – La Rioja region

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.

More from Club Oenologique

Club O is an exclusive community and the go-to platform for wine and spirit lovers. Our flagship Club Oenologique magazine offers even more insights for enthusiasts and collectors. Based in London, our editorial team tells informative, inspirational stories from the world of wine and spirits, gastronomy and travel, as well as covering recommendations and the latest trends in drink. You can take a look at our Explained series, for instance, where we’re tackling grape varieties, regions and styles of wine and spirits. Alternatively, visit our Ask the Sommelier section, where experts answer your wine-related questions.