Rioja wines: Some whites and a rosé for good measure

rioja wines reviews

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

Bretta & Co wine tasting: My picks of the reds and whites

bretta & co wine website

You’ve got to admire someone who follows their dream.  A few years ago Gary Adlen was on a business trip and found himself in a  New York bar which not only served food, but also had its own deli.

He dreamed of doing the same in his home town of Liverpool – and now he has,  together with his sister, Bretta. Now we can all enjoy the results of their shared enthusiasm at Bretta & Co (we can see what they did there).

Their latest step is selling wine online, and I was pleased to  be invited for a tipple taste test. It was a challenge, I know.

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Some whites from the Bretta tasting
  • We kicked off with a zippy white, a  verdejo from Bodegas Viore, with grapes from the  Toro region (which was definitely new to me).  A perfect zingy start to an evening, tropical, fresh, and mouth-watering.  (Find it in the Six Spanish Wines choice, £95)
  • The quality continued with the mineral, crisp, Klein Pinot Gris (£14.95) Now I’m always a pushover for a German grauburgunder (yes, it’s the same  – a pinot gris) and this had beautiful aromas of lychee and lemons with flavours that lasted and lasted.
  • Rene Mire Gewurtztraminer (£13.45) Wow, I’m pushed over again. Two of my favourite wines in one tasting.  There were clouds of rose petals rising from the glass, but with a little spicy spike of ginger in the background in this wine from Alsace. It wasn’t too sweet and had nice clean acidity.

bretta & co red wines liverpool

A couple of reds from the Bretta tasting
  • Old School Chateau-Maris Minervois (£13.95) is a blend of syrah (90 per cent) and grenache – both grown biodynamically. Neither grapes are known for being shy; they’re full on flavoursome and proud. Here they combine to create a peppery, fresh juicy nose with a “what IS that in the background” question from me. I decided it was sage. This wine is fruit, fruit, fruit all the way.

  •  Camino Terra Remota (£14.99) is Spanish and flamencos with flavours. It’s no surprise, as its a blend of four bold grapes; garnacha, syrah, cabernet sauvignon and tempranillo, each bringing their own character and personality.  There’s vanilla-edged cherry aromas – there’s white pepper too – and wet leaves. It tasted (I thought) of an earthy hot pot of  red fruits, with the mix of flavours reminding me of a red from the Rhone Valley.
Bretta & Co is on Heathfield Street, just off Bold Street, in Liverpool. It has an extensive deli and range of wines in store, as well as on line, and regularly holds tastings.  Click here to check out their events