Twice in the last week I’ve had people tell me they love red wine. “OK, what kind do you go for?” I enquire, to be met with a sheepish “I like Rioja to be honest…”
Now don’t get me wrong, I like a good glass of Rioja as much as anyone. But I can’t bear the thought of constantly buying from the same region when there’s such a vast and exciting world of wine out there. For anyone who has come to feel safe and comfortable with Rioja, and rarely gives anything else a second thought, might I suggest casting a glance over to Ribera del Duero? Funnily enough, that’s the origin of this very example, Altos de Tamaron.
Why Ribera del Duero then? Well, it’s still Spain. And, like Rioja, it concentrates on the Tempranillo grape. It also has a tradition of oak-ageing its wines. In fact, everything technical that I said about Rioja when reviewing the Cepa Lebrel also applies to Ribera del Duero.
This particular example was, in a sense, a risk. The 2006 vintage won a gold medal and ‘best in class’ award at the 2010 IWSC. That was three years ago, if you’ll excuse a brief statement of the blindingly obvious. So I was taking a small leap of faith in believing that the stuff in the bottle would have continued to age gracefully.
I wasn’t on the 2010 IWSC tasting panel (I think my invite got lost in the post), so I can hardly draw comparisons. But what I can say is that at seven years old, this wine is still drinking very well.
It’s probably oakier than your typical Crianza, offering up a satisfying, comforting medley of toast, vanilla and cocoa, all well integrated into the fruit, which has done well not to go missing and comes in the form of baked autumn berries. Think perhaps of a blueberry and blackberry pie (but ignore the pastry) and you’re in the right area. Delightful!
At £6.98 a bottle, this is probably at least as good, and perhaps better, than a typical Rioja Crianza costing £2-£3 more. For any Rioja lover looking for a wine to entice them out of their comfort zone and hold their hand as they take those tentative little steps, I think I’ve just found you a prime candidate.