A load of Rioja – do you know your Tempranillo from your Crianza?

wine and chocolate


Tempranillo is finding it’s feet in the New World as it becomes a popular grape in vineyards across California. However back in Europe it still remains the native red grape of Spain. Deep in Northern Spain is a region called Rioja, Rioja is wine region which creates fine, elegant and interesting wines mainly with Tempranillo and Garnacha red grapes.


If you have tasted a Rioja you will be familiar with the firm tannin structure and ripe red fruits of a Tempranillo. However what you may not be familiar with is the term Crianza. Crianza is commonly mistaken as another type of red grape grown in Rioja when it is actually just another name for Tempranillo.

Red grapes grown in regions across the world are commonly aged in oak barrels. When the Tempranillo grape is aged in used oak barrels for a minimum of 1 year with an additional 1 year in the bottle it is known as Crianza.

The levels of Tempranillo

The palate of a Tempranillo will usually be bursting with ripe red fruits such as cherries and there will leather notes. Crianza is known as the first ageing level of Tempranillo as is aged in used oak barrels. As we move up the ladder to Reserva and Gran Reserva the bouquet and palate becomes much richer and oaky.

At a Reserva level the wine is aged longer in the barrels and a better yield of red grapes are selected. The wine becomes distinguished with a greater tannic structure than a Crianza and less fruit.

At Gran Reserva level the wine is aged for a further year or two in oak barrels and is stored in the bottle for a minimum of three years. By now the aromas are intense with mature fruits, leather, roasted coffee and tobacco.

Food pairings

Foods that pair wonderfully with a Crianza Rioja would be cured cheeses. Tapas dishes and red meat appetizers also compliment the wine extremely well. As we move onto wines that are more oaked, such as Reserva and Gran Reserva, you will find that foods such as lamb chops, game stew and rich sauce fish dishes match well.

For those with a sweet tooth an aged Rioja is for you. They accompany any dessert with the main ingredient of chocolate irresistibly well.


Wine Club

Wine ClubTempranillo is featured in our Wine Club First Selection – click here to learn more about our great Wine Club deals.

Alternatively why not try our Rioja’s as part of a mixed case of 6 bottles.

by Rebekah Hilton

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