I used to have a hate relationship with Riojan whites and it took me a long time to give these wines the time and honour they deserve. I first tried Riojan whites back in the 70s and 80s before Spain went through it’s modern wine revolution. I read somewhere that Rioja used to mature their white wines in old sherry barrels, which may explain my dislike. I know it’s sacrilege to say but I’ve never liked sherry. However it’s more probable that the wine I was trying was a poor example. This was on the Costa Del Sol in its early days of tourism. The Brit bars would generally serve the cheapest wine they could find and I’m not sure it was always best protected from the sun and heat. You could strip paint with some of the wines back then,
Today all has changed and Rioja produces some very drinkable and crowd pleasing whites, along with some amazing aged whites. White wine production still only accounts for 10% of the wines made in Rioja. They are predominately made with the Viura (Macabeu) grape variety which must make up at least 51% of the blend. They can also include Garnacha Blanca, Tempranillo Blanco, Malvasia, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Verdejo.
There are two key styles of White Rioja: light, lemony-fresh tangy whites and the full-bodied, rich and nutty white (capable of ageing for over 10 years). Young or Joven wines are under 15 months with no ageing, Crianza wines are aged for 12 months, six of which are in cask, Reserva spend 24 months ageing (six of which are in cask) and Gran Reserva spend 48 months ageing (with six in cask).
On this trip we focused on the Riojan Red Wines – that is what the area is famous for after all – and there just wasn’t time to do the whites any justice. The fact is that Riojan White Wines deserve a trip all of their own. Perhaps next year 😁😁.