WINE

Accrington Observer - - LEISURE - ANDY CRONSHAW

Rioja has a bright new fu­ture pro­duc­ing easy drink­ing wines and more ‘bou­tique style’ wines...

IT once seemed that Rioja would get stuck in the mud of its own tra­di­tions. While other re­gions of Spain be­gan to in­no­vate, Rioja be­came a name which was as­so­ci­ated with wine-mak­ing from an older world.

But the re­gion now has a bright new fu­ture, pro­duc­ing both easy­drink­ing wines for the su­per­mar­kets, more bou­tique-style wines, and of course, fine, aged wines for cel­lar­ing.

New rules mean in­di­vid­ual vine­yards can now be iden­ti­fied on la­bels as well as the names of vil­lages. La­bels can also state whether the wine is from the larger sub-re­gions of Alta, Alavesa etc.

There’s also more free­dom for the mak­ers of white Rioja; a wine which has be­come re­vi­talised. Since 2007 wines can be made as sin­gle va­ri­etals us­ing any from a long list of grapes: Viura and Mal­va­sia, Gar­nacha Blanca, Mat­u­rana Blanca, Tem­pranillo Blanco, Tur­run­tés, Verdejo, Chardon­nay and Sau­vi­gnon Blanc. White Rioja is one of my per­sonal favourites, par­tic­u­larly when oak is used and the right bal­ance is struck be­tween wood­i­ness and fresh­ness.

Campo Viejo Viura-Tem­pranillo Blanco 2016 (£8, Tesco, Ocado)

What lit­tle oak used here goes largely un­no­ticed on the palate apart from adding a lit­tle weight and round­ing off the fruit. The aro­mas are floral with pear chim­ing in, both on the nose and palate.

The bal­ance is good for flavour­some dishes such as the mush­room and black truf­fle potato ravi­oli made by Basque chef Xabi Bonilla at this week’s Casa Camp Viejo wine-match­ing din­ner at

Loft Manch­ester.

Luis Ale­gre Blanco Lias 2016 (£9.50, Od­dbins)

From one of the new in­no­va­tors of Rioja, this is a fresh ap­proach for white Rioja made from Viura and Mal­va­sia. There’s no oak but in­tense stir­ring of the lees gives this wine a very aro­matic pro­file rem­i­nis­cent of some of my favourite oaked Rioja.

There’s a hint of vanilla and plenty of floral notes about the nose with peachy fruit, a full-tex­tured palate and de­cent acid­ity.

Nava­jas Blanco Cri­anza 2014 (£8.50 Wine So­ci­ety)

If white Bur­gundy is a lit­tle out of your price range for a mid­week wine then this could be the an­swer.

Al­though, of course, it’s made from an en­tirely dif­fer­ent grape, Viura, oak still con­veys a com­plex­ity here that puts the wine in the same con­text.

There’s a lovely co­conut and vanilla coat­ing about the nose with a palate that heads to a zippy lime fin­ish be­fore the but­tery tex­ture is able to take over.

Abel Men­doza Gar­nacha Blanco 2015 (£22.75 Wine Di­rect)

One of the finest, most in­ter­est­ing Rioja Blan­cos I have ever tasted.

It’s made by Abel Men­doza, from Gar­nacha Blanco, in Alavesa.

There’s a com­plex­ity and char­ac­ter which is quite rare in white Rioja with an in­de­fin­able edge to its hazel­nut and vanilla nose.

The tex­tured waxy palate gives way to zippy red ap­ples and a min­eral fin­ish. I ab­so­lutely loved this wine.

Viña Al­bina 2016 (£8.99 Noble Wines, Har­veys, The Vine­yard, Har­rods, Ad­nams Cel­lar & Kitchen)

Al­though some of this wine is ob­vi­ously ma­tured in oak bar­rels the ef­fect of the Amer­i­can oak, so of­ten very ob­tru­sive, seems quite sub­tle.

So de­spite a slight nut­ti­ness there is more of an ac­cent on floral notes on the nose, pear-like fruit on the palate and a crisp cit­rus fin­ish.

Abel Men­doza Rioja Blanco

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