Travelling again. Just for a few days.
One of the aspects of my ‘job’ (I’m embarrassed to call it that, even though I work very hard) that I most enjoy, is the ability to travel to new places, meet new people, and learn quite a bit in the process.
I’ve been to Rioja before, but just for a day. It will be nice to get a proper feel for the region. My preconceptions are, from tasting widely, that Rioja is capable of greatness – it possesses some superb old vine vineyards, and lots of them, planted in places that are good for growing wine grapes.
The reality, though, is that Rioja is dining out on its reputation. Most of its wines are pretty industrial concoctions, made in large wineries, and aged for far too long in poor quality American oak barrels.
Amid the sea of mediocrity, there are a number of ambitious producers. Some of them have gone down the path of spoofiness, making very sweet red wines from too-late-picked grapes, and then using too much new oak. Some are ultratraditional, and make interesting if difficult wines. Some have found the path of enlightenment, making serious wines with a sense of place.
I also suspect that serious white Rioja is a story yet to be told.
It will be interesting to see these preconceptions challenged on this trip. Pictured is an old Graciano vine in Rioja Alavesa.