Handpicked by IWSC

Top 10 great-value Riojas

With many collectors choosing Burgundy and Bordeaux over Rioja, we look at why the smart money (but significantly less of it) is on the classic Spanish red, and share ten IWSC 2020 award-winners

Words by IWSC experts

Bottle maturation cellar of Bodegas Campillo, Laguardia, Alava, Spain. [Rioja Alavesa]
Handpicked by IWSC
The ageability of fine Rioja – as seen here at Bodegas Campillo – bears comparison with the world’s premier fine wine regions

Are there any wine drinkers who don’t like Rioja? You’ll struggle to many who aren’t seduced by this northern Spanish region’s ability to produce rich, crowd-pleasing red wines that are drinkable when young but can also age so elegantly. They’re great with food and can be drunk on their own quite happily – and it’s this versatility that has made it a go-to red for so many people.

Tempranillo is the key grape in Rioja, with Garnacha, Graciano and Mazuelo (aka Carignan in France) all supporting partners in the blend. The result is a red that typically displays tempting notes of strawberries, spice and vanilla, with leather and tobacco becoming more apparent with age.

Barrels at La Rioja Alta
It's the smooth vanilla notes that come from ageing Rioja in American oak – as at La Rioja Alta, producer of Booths' Gran Norte Rioja Reserva – that wine drinkers love

Taste a classic Rioja style – such as a mature gran reserva – and you’ll discover how they can age just as brilliantly as any red Burgundy or Bordeaux. Sadly, as Tim Atkin laments, Rioja is all too often overlooked by wine collectors and connoisseurs for the more celebrated wines of Bordeaux, Burgundy or Barolo. One positive to come out of this though, is that top Riojas can be snapped up for bargain prices in comparison to the world’s other feted wine regions.

The new wave of Rioja is a different beast. You’ll still find the traditional styles, but Rioja in 2020 is all about more velvety, fruit-focused wines, with French oak adding subtlety and elegance. Another burgeoning trend is for young (joven) Riojas, which don’t spend any time in oak, and are all about bright, juicy fruit.

Scroll down to discover 10 award-winning Riojas from this year’s IWSC.