What would be your ideal wine for Christmas? Probably, like most of us, there are lots you’d like to try – so many, in fact, that you generally come back to the old favourites because the choice is so baffling.
Well, let us narrow it down for you. There are some fabulous Rioja wines in the shops, and we’ve picked out a few real stars.
Our criteria? Simple. Quality, drinkability now, and value.
Let’s start in the High Street, at Thresher. Baron de Ley’s Finca Monasterio 2005 (£21.99) is just sensational: the epitome of modern Rioja. It’s deeply coloured and deeply flavoured, with bright, rich cassis flavours and lots of spice. Upfront and yet subtle, this is a serious, seductive wine.
Thresher also has Marqués de Murrieta Reserva 2002 (about £18). This is a far more traditional Rioja, with flavours of leather and truffles and those familiar vanilla notes. It’s a class act from a very reliable producer, and it’s perfect for those who love the flavours
of mature red wine.
Those who love the flavours of pink wine will love Faustino V rosado 2006 (Thresher £8.49). This is a beautifully made rosado,
with lovely balance and zingy fruit. It will go with food well, but you could drink it on its own, too.
There’s a very tempting modern red at Majestic: Ramón Bilbao Single Vineyard 2006 (£7.99). There’s oodles of concentration
here, and vivid notes of blackberry and cherry; there’s also the 2004 vintage of Ramón Bilbao’s Reserva, a more mature, tobacco-flavoured wine with notes of chocolate and coffee. Majestic also has Muga’s complex, characterful Blanco 2007 (£10.99) with its spicy, lime flavours.
Over at Waitrose (or rather Waitrose Wine Direct, its on-line operation) there is CVNE Reserva 2004 (just over £136 per case of 12), a complex, moreish wine from one of Rioja’s great old houses. And while we’re online, everywine.co.uk has Bodegas Ysios Crianza from Rioja Alavesa for about £137 for six bottles. We’re in modern Rioja country here - lots of bright fruit and a deep colour. The winery is a Spanish icon, one of the finest examples of inventive modern architecture you’re likely to find.
If you feel like going to a specialist independent wine merchant (they’ll deliver anywhere) you should try Laymont & Shaw.
This company has always specialised in Spain, and it has huge expertise. Barón de Oña Reserva 1999, Torre de Oña (yes, that’s all one wine, and it’s about £13) is almost black in colour but the weight and concentration are balanced with elegance and finesse: it’s a very fine wine indeed. And another independent, Tanners of Shrewsbury, has another must-try red: Roda II 2004 (about £22). It’s silky, powerful and irresistible. Enjoy.