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Raves for red Rioja

Northside Staff
Tasters: Dave Pohl, ed., Dana Malley, Jason Wentworth, Mark Britten, Robert Bradley, and Jay Reed

The September 2013 issue of the British wine magazine Decanter features a blind tasting of red wines priced under $30 from Rioja, Spain’s best-known wine region. The tasting’s judges were extremely enthusiastic in their responses. One taster states that he would have been impressed if the wines were double the price. Master of Wine Annette Scarf calls it “one of the best tastings I’ve been to at Decanter.”

Indeed, the Decanter experts concluded, “the value for money these wines offer is unparalleled.” The staff at Northside Wines and Spirits was thus eager and curious to blind taste a selection of 15 red Rioja wines priced $25 and under.

The wines tasted were all of the crianza level. Crianza wines are aged in oak barrels and then in bottles for a minimum of two years before release. These wines were thus aged longer than wines labeled joven (young), but not as long as Rioja wines labeled reserva or gran reserva.

Northside’s staff was very impressed by the quality exhibited by this group of affordably priced wines. No wine received a below average score, an occurrence nearly unprecedented in Northside tastings. The general conclusion was that red Rioja offers wine drinkers some really terrific values!

A word that showed up frequently in the tasters’ notes was “balance.” The wines exhibited a seamless balance of flavor, acidity, tannin, and alcohol. It was felt that this characteristic made them excellent candidates to pair with a wide range of foods.

The staff selected the Torre de Ońa 2010 Rioja crianza “Finca San Martín” ($15 per bottle) as the top pick. A complex wine, its exuberant aroma mingles scents of cherry, leather, mint, and vanilla. Packed with flavor, yet elegant, the wine has a silky mouthfeel and exhibits a pleasantly “dusty” character on its long finish.

Try this lovely wine with a selection of tapas, roasted lamb or chicken, dishes containing mushrooms, or even with a seafood dish such as shrimp paella. Additionally, the Northside staff encourages its customers to sample a range of Rioja reds — there are plenty of pleasant surprises to be had at reasonable prices!


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