Rioja must be one of the best known, and perhaps most popular, wine regions in the world. That doesn’t mean it’s well understood by the average wine drinker though. So, in my usual style, here’s a quick crash course first.
Most Rioja is red and there are two principal grapes: Tempranillo and Garnacha (aka Grenache). Both are associated with the same flavours – red fruits above all else, but they do produce wines with slightly different characters.
They’ve long been into oak-ageing in Rioja, even if the modern trend is to do less of it. The terms ‘joven’, ‘crianza’, ‘reserva’ and ‘gran reserva’ indicate increasing levels of ageing, with ‘joven’ often not aged at all before release.
American oak is more popular than European oak, and it’s noted for adding coconut and/or vanilla flavours (yes, seriously). The danger is always that the fruit flavours pack their bags and leave if the wine is aged or oaked to excess though.
Back to our example. ‘Cepa’ means variety, and ‘lebrel’ apparently means greyhound. I’m guessing this wasn’t intended to suggest the wine is thin and races its way down your neck though. It’s only £5.99 a bottle at Lidl, but is it any good? Or will it leave you barking mad that you didn’t pay more for something else?
You definitely get the flavour of ripe strawberries. That’s a good start. What about the oak though? This is a ‘reserva’ after all.
Well, you can definitely tell it’s oaked. But is that enough? Can I say that there’s a definite taste of coconut and/or vanilla?
No. I can’t. There is a taste that vaguely resembles these two flavours, but nothing more than that.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t bet on this wine. There is a decent balance of soft-ish tannins and some acidity, so it dries your mouth out a little and then makes it water. A more pleasant sensation than my words make it sound. And even if the flavour from the oak is nothing to write about (even though I’ve managed it), it does give the wine a pleasant, smooth texture.
A ‘good example’ of rioja reserva this is not. But it is pretty good value if you want an easy-drinking, oaked red and you don’t want to pay more than £6.