While for many people the Tempranillo grape may be synonymous with Rioja, the lesser-known varietals have been seeing a renaissance over the last few years, with producers reviving some of the indigenous grapes of
In 2007 the Consejo Regulador extended DOCa regulations to allow inclusion of nine new varieties in Rioja blends. Of these was the ancient Maturana Tinta grape, a varietal known for its small berries and intensity of flavour. Dionisio Ruiz Ijalba 2010, made entirely from Maturana Tinta, is the brainchild of Juan Carlos Sancha who feels this wine epitomises the Rioja character.
Another grape to spark interest in Rioja is Graciano. While this delicate varietal requires very specific growing conditions and is far more commonly used in blends, it can produce some elegant and highly aromatic wines when used as a single varietal. Barón de Ley’s Club Varietales Graciano 2009 will drink well now and with its high levels of acidity, has excellent ageing potential for the next two years.
While not usually seen on its own, Mazuelo – known as Carignan throughout the rest of the world – is renowned for producing wines with a robust, savoury character. Bodegas Riojanas has made full use of this characteristic with theirPuerta Vieja Selección Crianza 2009 made from a blend of 80% Tempranillo, 15% Mazuelo, and 5% Graciano.Alternatively, try the well balanced Bodegas Amezola de la Mora’s Crianza 2006. Aged for 15 months in French oak (40%) and American (60%) barrels, this wine is a fine example of a successful blend.
Barón de Ley Club Varietales Graciano 2009, £8.99, available from Tesco
Dionisio Ruiz Ijalba 2010, £16.50, available from Vintage Roots
Puerta Vieja Selección Crianza 2009, £9.99, available from ND John Wine Merchants, Uvinum
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