After reading Ana Fabiano’s engrossing and succinct The Wine Region of Rioja in one sitting during a cross-country plane trip, a lingering question was what the book’s author – who has travelled all across the region and sampled many more Riojas than one might ever hope to try – actually thinks of the wines.
Certainly, taste is a personal matter and differs widely among wine writers. But whereas the top-tier wineries in France are well known and have been for many decades, this is not always the case of their Spanish counterparts.
It would be great to have that context moving forward, I reasoned, so that even less knowledgeable consumers might be able to decipher often confusing Spanish labels and pick out the best bottlings.
Though I’ve enjoyed my fair share of wines from Rioja and other Spanish wine regions, I confess to being something less than a leading expert. With that in mind, I reached out to Fabiano’s team about her personal preferences.
Which bodegas and wines does this Rioja expert favor? Though admittedly somewhat skewed toward more established producers as opposed to small-scale, artisanal ones like those found in some regions like the Loire Valley, Fabiano’s list strikes me as a good starting point for Rioja generally. After all, Spain as a whole is less likely to provide a home to sole proprietor and grower vignerons, instead preferring the bodega model, where many grape growers sell their product on a graded scale to a central winery that then blends and ages the wines.
A few of Fabiano’s recommendations, with page number references: