Rioja wines: Some whites and a rosé for good measure

If you think about Rioja wines, I bet you imagine a glass of smoky red rioja with lots of vanilla and cloves and spice. Who can blame you, as 75 per cent of the wines from the Rioja region are red.  

Let’s turn the tables and try a handful of Rioja wines but not red ones … some whites and a rosé too for good measure.

Rioja wines: Aromas of a herb border

Marqués de Cáceres Rioja Blanco 2015 (12.5% abv, £7.99 or £6.99 in a buy six deal at Majestic) This wine is produced from viura grapes – also known as macabeo which is a key grape in cava.

Marqués de Cáceres Rioja Blanco 2015 rioja wines
Marqués de Cáceres Rioja Blanco 2015

The wine has apples and pears on the nose and a subtle aroma of a herb border. A good sip and there’s more apples and pears and a refreshing acidity which just takes the edge over the fruit flavours.  

Rioja wines: A white with personality

Fincas de Azabache Tempranillo Blanco 2015 (12% abv,  RRP £10.99 www.sandhamswine.co.uk)  This unoaked white is made from a relatively new grape variety, tempranillo blanco, a mutation of the red tempranillo grape which is the backbone of red  rioja wines.

Fincas de Azabache Tempranillo Blanco 2015 rioja wines
Fincas de Azabache Tempranillo Blanco 2015

I loved the shape of the bottle; a wine with personality before I’d even opened it. Once poured, aromas of green apple, citrus and floral dance together above the glass, then in the mouth it is well-balanced and fruity with a bright citrus finish.   

Rioja wines: Concentrated flavours

Contino Blanco 2014 (13% abv, RRP £25.45, www.waitrosecellar.com, hedonism.co.uk, The Wine Reserve) With one sip, you can tell this is an elegant well-crafted wine and yes, the price suggests that. It is a blend of three grapes – viura (80%) with malvasía and white grenache in supporting roles – from old vines which deliver more concentrated flavours.

Contino Blanco 2014 rioja wines
Contino Blanco 2014

It is partially fermented in French oak barrels then aged on its lees for six months.  The winemaker’s hard work pays dividends in creating a fresh, complex,  fruity wine, with a citrus nose and a good blend of fruit and spice which leave a pencil-sharp juicy memory on the tastebuds.

Rioja wines: A pink to make you think

Muga Rosado 2015 (13% abv, RRP £9.99 at Waitrose, Majestic and The Wine Society)  Mmmm.  One of the nicest rosés I’ve tried all summer. The grapes? Viura and tempranillo are back again, but the mainstay is garnacha (60%) which is never backward in coming forward.

Muga Rosado 2015 rioja wines
Muga Rosado 2015

It delivers a summer fruit compote of aromas, though not sickly sweet strawberry syrup; but clean, fresh, breezy and uplifting. Ooo there’s a subtlety of fruit tart pastry and a hint of spice too; then to taste the red fruits stir the senses alongside a squeaky acidity which keep the mouth a-watering.

First published in Raise a Glass, Trinity Mirror regionals August 2016

Liverpool Echo – South Wales Echo – Daily Post Wales – Huddersfield Examiner – The Chronicle, Newcastle – Teesside Evening Gazette – Birmingham  Mail – Coventry Telegraph – Paisley Daily Express

Summer wine: Six wine choices for when the sun peeks out

It’s sunny outside. I’m happy. At the risk of tempting fate, I bring you summer wine choices – two sparkling, two whites and two reds – to enjoy while the sun shines and as autumn beckons.

Summer wine to cheer up  a staycation

Beau Beaujolais 2014 (12.5% abv, Majestic,  £8.99 or £7.99 in a Mix Six deal) The dog was having a holiday haircut (it cost more than mine!) and I spotted a Majestic Wine Warehouse across the road which tempted me. I like to browse wine shops, not shoe shops. I left the store clutching this beaujolais, whose gamay grapes are grown in limestone hills north of Lyon. It’s the basic style of  all the Beaujolais appellations and does what it says on the vin – it has fresh red fruits on the nose, is very easy to drink with a raspberry ripple and a subtlety of spice.

Beau Beaujolais 2014 summer wines
Beau Beaujolais 2014


Domaine de Sainte Rose Coquille d’Oc Blanc 2014 (13% abv, Waitrose, £7.49) This wine is a blend of four grapes, with chardonnay and sauvignon blanc having the majority share, and viognier and muscat tugging at the tailcoats. This is a lovely white for summer, so it’s a shame the summer was evading me when I tried it. It has a mix of peach, citrus and floral notes on the nose and then to taste the grapes deliver a touch of their own characters, zesty, creamy, and with flavours of both stone and citrus fruits. Very drinkable.

Summer wine with sparkles

Cruset Sparkling Blanc de Blancs NV (11% abv, The Co-op, £5.99) The price and the “blanc de blancs” tempted me as the latter indicated quality, the former indicated a bargain. This is a French take on prosecco – simple unassuming bubbles with simple floral aromas and a simple citrus taste from a blend of chardonnay, airen and muscat. It was more like blank de blancs but pleasant enough.

It's grand to pour a glass of sparklie Blanc de blancs #cruset #wine #winelover

A video posted by Jane Clare (@onefootinthegrapes) on

Brown Brothers Cienna 2013 (6.5% abv, www.slurp.co.uk, £9.95) I sipped this spritzy Australian wine with ice cubes (I know, sacrilege) and flavours are akin to a sangria but without the oomph.  The cienna grape  – created by scientists from cabernet sauvignon and sumoll – is at the heart of this sweet ruby-red wine laden with red berries and blackberries. It’s a pretty wine, and would be lovely with summer pudding or fruit-smothered meringue.

Summer wine from award-winning Wine Society

Léon Beyer Sylvaner 2014 (12% abv, £8.50) Sylvaner is  one of the main varieties in Alsace where it holds its head up higher than in Germany, where it is typically used in liebfraumilch. Ugh. This white has pear aromas, apple flavours, a hum of honey and  a savoury note. I’d cooked chicken stuffed with lemon and herbs and it was a perfect match.

Léon Beyer Sylvaner review
Léon Beyer Sylvaner

Altano Douro White 2015 (13% abv £9.99) Here is a bright white from Symington Family Estates which is better known as a key port producer. The wine is a blend of  fina, viosinho,  rabigato, códega de Larinho and moscatel galego, grown in the Douro Valley. It has vibrant aromas of  peach and pear and in the mouth those same stone fruit flavours sing with juiciness.  A decent acidity is a good counter-balance. A summer night must-have.

The society (www.winesociety.com) has won Online Retailer of the Year and Wine Merchant of the Year at the 2016 International Wine Challenge.

Summer wine … well, I like reds

Beronia Reserva 2011  (14% abv, Waitrose, Ocado, Majestic, tesco.com, RRP £13.49) This wine notched up several wins at the 2016  IWC, picking up a gold medal, Great Value Red under £15 and trophies including the Rioja Reserva Trophy.

Beronia Reserva 2011 wine review
Beronia Reserva 2011

I guess the judges liked it then.  Tempranillo makes up the majority of this blend, with tiny contributions from graciano and mazuelo. It’s a wine you just want to keep breathing in. There’s so much to enjoy on the nose, from cloves, to fresh red fruits, chocolate and a snap of bracken.  A hearty sip is rewarded with a rounded, full bodied wine, still-fresh fruits, white pepper spice and soft tannins.

First Class Pinot Noir 2015  (14.5% abv, £7.99 or £5.99 in a buy six deal from Majestic). This pinot noir from the Bio Bio Valley in Chile is great value. A  light  pinot noir is perfect for a summer’s day and when  the sun peeked out this week I bought this from Majestic. Characterful red fruits and pepper spice cloud out of the glass and in the mouth they combine to race across your tastebuds without being overpowering.

First published in Raise a Glass, Trinity Mirror regionals August 2016

Liverpool Echo – South Wales Echo – Daily Post Wales – Huddersfield Examiner – The Chronicle, Newcastle – Teesside Evening Gazette – Birmingham  Mail – Coventry Telegraph – Paisley Daily Express

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