Booze-free January? Forget it. Here’s a red that’ll put some colour in your cheeks
Hello, and welcome back. January is a funny time of year: everyone is even poorer than they are the rest of the year after a Christmas blow out; the weather is horrible; everyone you know (and probably you yourself) will at some point be ill with a cold that they can’t seem to shake; and to add insult to injury, it seems that the new ‘in thing’ is to not drink throughout the month. Why? Personally, such behaviour goes right over my head, but to each his own. That being said, given winter food and winter weather one needs something deep, rich and warming, and what better than good old Rioja?
This week’s wine is the Rivallana Rioja Crianza. Crianza simply means that the wine has been aged for a year in an oak cask, which imparts the lovely vanilla tones that are synonymous with oak ageing. The producer, Ondarre, is based in Viana which is a small town a few miles away from Rioja’s capital. Founded in 1986, they have gone on to establish themselves as one of the standout producers in the region, winning many coveted awards year after year. This can be in part attributed to their continual investment in their barrelling process, using both American and French oak casks to help them obtain the characters they desire. The difference in oak has a big impact on the wine: French oak is used for more subtler flavours, where the American oak a achieves much bigger, fuller flavours.
This Rioja isn’t just full on Tempranillo, though it takes up the lions share at 85 percent. Grenache takes 10 percent with the remaining 5 percent going to Mazuelo, the third most popular planted grape in Spain, often used as a blending grape due to its high tannic and acidic properties. On the nose this wine is exactly what you would want from a good rioja, with plenty of vanilla coming through from it’s time in oak, with spicy fruit emerging at the end. In the mouth, intense red cherry with long oaky tannins that seem to drift off into eternity.
Invite your dry January friends round for dinner and cook them a lovely game pie, and then proceed to drink the bottle on your own, letting this lovely rioja warm your very soul.