Some affordable, tasty Riojas

I’ve recently been doing some tastings for my Sunday Express column, and I’ve been reminded how good and affordable some Rioja can be. Of course, as with any major wine region, not everything is good, but this seems to be a region that every now and then throws up really interesting wines with some maturity and real complexity, at very affordable prices. If you are on a budget, these are good options.

Cepa Lebrel Rioja Reserva 2013 Spain
13.5% alcohol
£5.79 Lidl
This is a really good example of Rioja Reserva, with some nice savoury cedary notes from the wood and lovely crunchy, fresh cherry and berry fruits. Nicely structured, this is crying out for a fat ribeye steak. 88/100

Asda Extra Special El Mesón Rioja Gran Reserva 2011 Spain
14% alcohol
£11.25 Asda
This is a really serious effort. After a prolonged aging in oak barrels, it’s dense, concentrated and mellow, with cedary, spicy, woody notes perfectly integrated with sweet blackberry and cherry fruit. Lovely stuff. 92/100

Tesco Finest Viña del Cura Rioja Gran Reserva 2012 Spain
13.5% alcohol
£11.50 Tesco
Made for Tesco by well known producer Baron de Ley, this Gran Reserva combines mellow oak character with supple, refined cherry and berry fruits, with some nice herb and spice complexity. 89/100

Torres Altos Ibéricos Parcelos de Graciano 2014 Rioja, Spain
13.5% alcohol
£13.95 Mumbles Fine Wines
A rare varietal Graciano. This has a lovely nose with floral raspberry and black cherry fruit with fine notes of cured meat. The palate is sleek and supple with lovely acidity supporting the bright but refined blackberry and black cherry fruit. Shows lovely fruit brightness, but also some brooding depth and appealing meatiness. Finishes with fine-grained structure and some oolong tea characters. 93/100

Ramon Bilbao El Viaje de Ramón Reserva 2014 Rioja, Spain
13.5% alcohol
£7 Co-op for 50 cl
Showing lovely concentration of ripe blackberry and cherry fruit, with some  warm spicy vanilla and cedar oak notes, this is a substantial, full flavoured, yet quite traditional Rioja that comes packaged in a handy 50 cl bottle (two-thirds normal size). Lots of personality here. 90/100

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