Clean, crisp white from Viura grapes intended to be enjoyed with a fish or chicken or if you’re lucky in the sunshine.
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The Rioja region of Spain
Rioja has long held the crown as one of, if not the, most famous Spanish wine.
Sprawling for 120km along both sides of the bank of the Ebro river in northern Spain, the region’s name is actually derived from a combination of the words rio (river) and Oja, the name of a tributary off the Ebro.
Rioja is divided into three distinct sub-regions: Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa, and Rioja Baja.
Rioja Alta is has a large amount of clay in its vineyards and, much as the name suggests, the wines are at relatively higher altitudes. This has the largest vineyard plantings of the three.
The smallest area, Rioja Alavesa has terraced vineyards and feels less distinctly Spanish because of its very strong Basque influence, which can be seen not only in the language but in the local funding its wine industry has received, as the region boasts some state of the art technology and wineries.
The third region, Rioja Baja has soils that are also very compacted with clay and as the warmest of the three sub-regions, has wines that generally higher in alcohol.
Red Rioja is dominated by the grape variety Tempranillo, but blends seamlessly with Garnacha and Graciano, while Mazuelo (Carignan) is also coming back in favour, and as the internationalisation of the wine industries leaves no stone unturned, Cabernet Sauvignon can be found here too.
Rioja, as a wine style (as opposed to a region) is given various classifications, according to how long the wine has been aged; Crianza must be aged for a minimum of 2 years, one of which must be in oak; Reservas must be aged for at least 3 years, one of which must be in oak; and Gran Reservas, which are usually only produced in the best vintages, can only be released after ageing for 5 years, 3 of which must be in oak.
White Rioja is not uncommon either, an uncomplicated white wine that is largely made up from a combination of Viura (Macabeo), Garnacha Blanc and Malvasia Riojana and not does challenge the region’s red counterpart in terms of quality.
Also known as Macabeo, this is the most widely planted white grape variety in Spain which is used to make still and sparkling wines most notably in Rioja and Penedes in Catalonia. The wines it produces have a medium acidity and freshness. They should be drunk young when unoaked but in some top examples that have been aged and fermented in oak, usually from Rioja, the wines have the capacity to age for a number of years.
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CellarVie Wines are currently championing the deliciously award winning wines of Don Jacobo and so it seemed fitting to ask their charismatic winemaker, Javier Martinez, to tell us about his hypothetical perfect dinner party, complete with ideal guests, archetypal meal with his accompanying wine and his picture-perfect location, which perhaps unsurprisingly happens to be in Rioja…
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Rioja: The region and places of interest
Ahead of CellarVie Wines' focus on Rioja, we thought we would take a closer look at the region and its places of interest. Situated in the north, La Rioja is the smallest but arguably the most diverse region of mainland Spain and is located between Navarra and Pais Vasco to the north, Aragon to the east, Castilla La Mancha to the south and Castilla Leon to the west.
Salads & Vegetables
This wine would suit Caesar, chicken, egg, fish or seafood salad. Would also work well with root vegetables such as carrots, onions and parsnips.
Fish & Seafood
Seafood and firm white fish such as plaice, skate and sole are good matches for this wine. You could also pair this wine with a clam chowder, kedgeree and smoked fish.
Pasta & Other Sauces
This wine works well with fish based sauces or ones that are light and creamy such as hollandaise. You could also go for a nice parsley sauce or pesto base.
Whether it's grilled, barbecued, baked or casseroled this wine works with white meats such as chicken, turkey and pork but it also suits duck and veal.
Herbs & Spices
Works with big flavours such as coriander, fennel, garlic and ginger but will also work with basil, parsley or tarragon.
A great wine to enjoy with Thai, Chinese and light Indian dishes such as a Korma.
Matches well to Brie and Camembert but is very well suited to mozzarella and some mature Cheddars.