There has never been a better time to be a fan of Rioja wines. Whether they're modern, fruit-forward reds produced from a single vineyard or traditional Gran Reservas, mellow and regal after years in American oak, the wines of Rioja offer elegance at surprisingly affordable prices.
Tempranillo Rules Most Riojas are a blend of several grapes, but the single most important is Tempranillo. An early-ripening variety, Tempranillo is often grown alongside blending partners Garnacha (Grenache), Mazuelo (Carignan) and Graciano, which is prized for its aromatics.
Geography Lesson Although there is a trend toward single-vineyard wines, most Riojas utilize grapes from three subdistricts: Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Baja. Rioja Alta, at the high, western end of the Rioja valley, produces wines renowned for their elegance and structure; Alavesa, located north of the Ebro river, is known for producing deeper-colored, more powerful wines; Baja, at the valley's southern end, offers wines that generally have a higher proportion of Garnacha for body and richness.