There’s never really a bad time for a red wine, but what happens when you’ve exhausted yourself on the usual suspects—the merlots and the cabernet sauvignons and even the pinot noirs?
Answer: Head to Europe. Specifically, head to Northern Spain—the Rioja region—and check out Marques de Riscal, one of the oldest wineries (founded in 1858) in the region.
Before we get into which Marques de Riscal wines you need to try (easy answer: all of them, immediately), it’s important to know that there are four classifications of rioja wines. First, the youngest (less than a year in oak) are labeled, simply, Rioja. Next comes the Crianza class, where the wines are aged at least two years (one of which is in oak). The third class is Rioja Reserva, which is aged at least three years, with one in oak. Finally, Gran Reserva wines are aged at least two years in oak and three years in the bottle.
With all that in mind, here are three Marques de Riscal wines that you need to track down ASAP.
Marqués de Riscal Barón de Chirel Reserva 2010 ($75)
This Reserva is made with 30% native Spanish grapes and 70% Tempranillo and that are sourced from low-yielding vines that range in age between 80 and 110 years old. Cask-aged for twenty-four months in French oak, the Reserva is deep cherry red in color with a toasty and spicy nose that blends with notes of ripe berries. Smooth on the palate, it has a long, balanced finish.
Marqués de Riscal Rioja Gran Reserva 2005 ($55.99)
This Gran Reserva is sourced from vines over 80 years old and is cask-aged for 32 months in American oak. Made from 90% Tempranillo, 8% Graciano, and 3% Mazuelo, this wine (which has been aged for a minimum of three years) is a dark red-black in color with black fruit and tons of spice on the nose. Silky and sweet on the palate, the tannins work through to the end for a balanced, elegant wine.
Marqués de Riscal Rioja Reserva 2009 ($19.99)
This Reserva is cask-aged for twenty-five months in American oak and made from 90% Tempranillo, 7% Graciano, and 3% Mazuelo. The Tempranillo vines used for this wine, in addition, were planted pre-1970s. Bright cherry red to the eye, there are ripe dark berry notes combined with balsamic aromas. Full-bodied, the tannins give off a very nice mouthfeel that leads to a finish that reverberates with oak.