The Best Rioja Wine? Marques De Riscal Reserva

Rioja wine is a fantastic wine choice, but not all types are equal. People have been cultivating and enjoying wine for thousands of years and there are all different types of wine to choose from. Rioja wine is a more recent variety of wine. While it is usually red, there are also some white rioja varieties, although they are less common.

This rioja wine review will focus on a very particular type of rioja produced by Marques De Riscal. I bought a 2017 reserva and it certainly had some interesting flavors to remember. But first, let’s explore what rioja wine is exactly.

What Is Rioja Wine?

This type of wine is a DenominaciĆ³n de Origen Calificada (D.O.Ca) wine. This means that its production is rigorously controlled and specific. If its production does not follow certain guidelines, it cannot officially be considered rioja wine. For example, rioja has to come from the Rioja province of Spain or it can’t be considered rioja.

Rioja is usually made from tempranillo grapes, however, some types of rioja are also blended with other types of grapes. Rioja wine is known for being one of Spain’s best wines and perhaps even its staple. Since it is a DOCa wine, it is indeed of the highest quality.

The unique thing about rioja is that it is aged in oak barrels such as American or French oak. Usually, rioja needs to be aged for a minimum of 12 months. However, many wine producers including Marques De Riscal decide to age their wine for a longer period of time. The wine may not stay in an oak barrel the whole time during the aging process.

Aging wine in an oak barrel for too long will produce an overpoweringly strong oak flavor. Reserva wine, like the one I decided to purchase, is usually aged for around 3 years and one of those years has to use an oak barrel. But what was my experience with rioja, you might ask?

Rioja wine

Marques De Riscal Reserva 2017

Before even opening the bottle, I immediately noticed the beautiful detail of the wine’s label. Besides the label, the entire bottle was wrapped in a delicate golden mesh. On the front of the label, you can see all the most important information such as the DOCa print, the brand of the winery, the year, and more.

I decided to get rioja wine in particular because it originates in a region of Spain that is near the region where my great grandfather was born. The first thing I noticed about this wine is that it was high in tannins. This made the wine have a somewhat astringent taste, but not overly so.

The overarching flavors I gathered were leather and black cherries. I thought the taste was somewhat similar to merlot. However, the oak flavors gave this wine a particular type of richness that I haven’t experienced with merlot before. Besides the rich, leathery base notes, there were also some hints of caramel and earth.

The Details

Needless to say, the body of the wine was very full. The color was very dark and not much light would filter through it.

I let the wine decant for about 30 minutes beforehand and drank it at room temperature. While it may not be a standard pairing, I decided to match the wine’s flavors with Mexican food. As it turns out, the spice and fattiness of the Mexican food, specifically bean burritos with plenty of red salsa, contrasted very nicely with the wine.

The high tannins broke down any overwhelming flavors of the Mexican food and left behind a very balanced taste. Of course, it is best to pair rioja with red meat. However, I argue that the best pairing for rioja wine (and one that is true to its Spanish roots) is with manchego cheese. I managed to enjoy this pairing while living in Spain for a brief period.

Manchego cheese is equally as Spanish as rioja. Its fatty nature pairs perfectly with the high tannins of rioja wine. If you ever happen to get your hands on a bottle of rioja, you won’t want to miss pairing it with manchego and other Spanish cheeses. To start trying some delicious wines, click here.

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