Rioja wines are some of our very favourites. Through masterful blending of different grape varieties and careful, time-honoured ageing techniques, Rioja produces a wide range of different styles. Surely every wine lover can find something to suit their palate from this region: whether that’s a zippy young Joven red wine, a barrel-aged white, a mature Gran Reserva red or anything in between. There’s something for everybody, certainly, though perhaps the biggest crowd pleaser of them all is red Rioja Crianza.
Red wines labelled as Rioja Crianza must legally be aged for at least two years prior to their release, with at least one year of ageing in oak. This gives rise to beautiful wines bursting with fresh red fruits, though balanced out with some weight and tannic structure from the wood. It really is a fine balancing act, as too much oak can be offputting for some people, and not enough can turn off others. Rioja Crianza achieves that sweet spot between the two, and is virtually guaranteed to please.
Five of the best Rioja Crianza wines
To illustrate just how much we love Rioja Crianza, we have picked out five of the best expressions of these wines. These wines range from entry-level to premium, demonstrating the value and quality to be had at every price point in Rioja.
- Siglo Saco Crianza is an unpretentious Rioja Crianza ideally suited to casual everyday drinking. A blend of Tempranillo, Grenache and Mazuelo, this is a fun and easy-drinking wine with lots of fresh fruit and spice character.
- Sierra Cantabria Crianza 2012 is a pure Tempranillo Rioja Crianza from leading producer Bodegas Sierra Cantabria. The same producer makes wines at much higher prices, so this wine gives an insight into that quality at a considerably more accessible price. It is quite typical for a Rioja Crianza, with a bright ruby colour, aromas of fresh cherry and spice, and with a rich, ripe and balanced palate. Guía Peñín awarded this one 91 points, and it presents good introductory value for money.
- Muga Crianza 2012 is another 91-pointer from Peñín, and is a blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha, Mazuelo and Graciano. Muga is a flagship producer in the region, and tends to make consistently excellent wines at all levels. This Rioja Crianza is no exception: Fresh fruit abounds, and there is an underlying spiciness that really draws you back in.
- El Puntido 2008 is a step up in price, but you can really taste it. This has been aged for sixteen months in French oak barrels, leading to a Rioja Crianza of more complexity than is typically expected. The palate is full-bodied with an almost sweet barbequed meat character that is quite charming. With 93 points from Robert Parker and 95 from Peñín, this is a serious wine worth trading up for.
- La Nieta 2012 comes from the same producer as El Puntido, Viñedos de Páganos, and is really approaching the top end of the market. Boasting a perfect 100-point score from Guía Proensa, as well as 98 from Peñín and 95+ from Parker, there is not much to say about this blockbuster that has not already been said. Highly recommended, virtually as good as Rioja Crianza gets!