My own lockdown buying took place at the well-stocked wine mecca of the suburbs, Total Wine. There, I found myself strolling the aisles looking for both familiar and interesting bottles to get me through weeks of sheltering in place.
As I poured my way through my wine collection over the last two months, I was struck by how much Rioja ended up in my glass. This was not intentional, but as I go wine shopping I look for value wines that suit my palate and are dependable - and that's what I love about Rioja wines. Some of the go-to Rioja wines I can find in the Northeast U.S. are Lan, Camp Viejo, Marques de Riscal, Lopez de Heredia, Faustino, Muga, Dinastia Vivanco.
Here are the top 3 reasons I love Rioja wine:
Palate pleasing flavor - Red Rioja wines (or tinto as they say in Spain) use the grape Tempranillo. For me, this is one of the winners in the grape world. It produces wines with dried cherry flavors with a touch of tobacco and spice. I don't go for jammy, fruit bomb wines; I prefer drier styles - so Rioja is well suited to my palate.
Excellent food pairing - Rioja wines tend to be medium weight and they aren't so bold that they dominate a dish. Therefore, I drink them with lots of dinner staples, including pizza, roast chicken, all kinds of pasta dishes, hamburgers and more. They usually have good levels of acidity which is always a welcome aspect when pairing wine with meals. Unless a dish cries out for a white wine, I will very often pour a Rioja with what I'm having for dinner.
Terrific quality for the price - I find the Rioja wines that I buy offer dependable quality. Unlike with Burgundy, I don't break out vintage charts to make sure I'll like what's in the bottle. And I can spend between $12.99 - $18.99 and get really terrific wines that I know I'm going to enjoy. That's one of the top reasons that so many of them end up in my cart.
I hope that all my wine friends are staying safe and enjoying some home-cooked meals with wines that they love. And, while I have lots of wines from other countries in my collection, you will often find me in the evening with a lovely glass of Rioja keeping me company as I stay safe at home.