Ultimate Rioja Wine Tasting 🍷 Spain’s Most Famous Tempranillo!

By Brian Lemay 43 comments

OK, Rioja. What the hell is it? Where is it from? Why is it so good? If you’ve ever heard anything about Spanish
wine, read anything or drunk Spanish wine, you’ve probably come across Rioja. I’m James Blick, co-founder of Devour Tours. We run wine tastings and wine tours throughout
Spain and I want to make you a Rioja guru over the next few minutes. I’m going to give you some really fantastic
information that will get you up to speed, help you make better choices, drink better
wine. I’m also going to drink these three fantastic
Riojas in your company. So stick around. OK before we dive in and start drinking these
wonderful wines together I’m going to answer three really basic questions that we often
get asked about Rioja on our wine tours and wine tastings. Number 1: Is Rioja a grape? No, it’s not. Rioja is a wine region in Spain. It’s the most famous wine region in Spain. See, we have 69 wine regions in Spain and
Rioja, as I say, is just one of them. But it’s the most famous. 2. So if Rioja is not a grape, if it’s the region,
what is the grape in Rioja? Well in red Rioja the most predominant grape
and the most famous one is Tempranillo. This is actually the most famous red grape
in Spain. Number 3: Is Rioja always red? Is it always a red wine? No, it’s not. There are wine Riojas and some white Riojas
are spectacular. And there’s a long tradition of making white
wine in the region. But generally we think of it as a red region. If someone asks you for a bottle of Rioja,
they probably mean red. Alright, easy questions out of the way, let’s
dive into the wine and drink some together. And given we’re going to drink the wine now,
I should mention where we are. We’re in a wine bar in Madrid called La Fisna. It’s in the Lavapiés neighbourhood and it
is one of my favourite places to drink wine. They have a fantastic selection of Spanish
and international wine by the glass so check it out if you come and visit. OK, this guy. We’re starting with a wine that is a legend
in Rioja. It’s from a winery called López de Heredia
and it’s called Vina Tondonia. And this is a winery that’s been around since
1877 and as I say they’re really, really famous. And they make what we call “traditional Rioja”. And effectively what that means, is that they
make their wine in the style that the wines were made in that region 100 years ago. They haven’t changed a bit. They’re very stubborn and rightly so. So when you drink this style of Rioja from
this winery, you’re going to be tasting… it’s like a time machine, it’s like jumping
back into the past, tasting what the wines once were like. So what does that mean? We’ll, let’s have a smell and a sip and find
out.So with these wines you smell what we call tertiary aromas. You smell the ageing, because this guy has
been ageing for 12 years. And that’s very typical of old school Rioja. You’ll see the label says 2005. It was only released this year in 2017. It’s the latest vintage in a sense. And the result is something that smells of
dried figs, of vanilla from the oak. Wow, these wines are so spectacular. It’s like, how special to be able to taste
a wine like it might have so long ago. Savoury notes, like leather. There’s fruit in there. But it’s not super super fruity like some
more modern styles are. Now, if you ever go to Haro, where the winery
is. It’s a town in Rioja. You have to visit these guys. You’re walking into like a wonderland of wine. There’s moss all over the walls. It’s like a living organism. Barrels stacked. You can see how they make and toast the barrels. It is a truly wonderful visit. And so this is what we call a traditional
Rioja. Now we’re going to move onto a more modern
style. Now this is a personal favourite. And first of all I want to say thank you to
Maria Fernandez from the company that looks after the marketing for this winery because
I emailed all three wineries and these guys sent me two bottles. So that was very, very generous because this
is not a cheap wine. So thank you very much. Now, about this wine. So we’ve had traditional Rioja. Now we’re moving into modern Rioja. And Roda is a winery that opened 110 years
after the last guy, in 1987. And what happened in the meantime? Well, styles of wine changes a little bit. And so they became more fruity, more fruit-forward,
more intense. And that’s what we get in modern Rioja. And that’s what we get in Roda. Now one thing to keep in mind. When you go and visit Rioja – and Haro, that
particular town I was talking about – literally a 5 minute walk up the road from López de
Heredia, you can visit this bodega, this winery, and you can taste their wines. You can literally walk around and then you
can go and walk into the town and eat roast lamb for lunch. So, visit Haro, that wonderland of wine! Sorry, I’m babbling. Onto the wine. I’m going to try it. Ah, yes. Intensity, fruit, black plums, chocolate. Fuller, warmer, more fruity, dark fruit. I mean, it’s delicious. They’re both delicious. I suggest checking out these guys because
it’s really unique wines. They’re elegant but they’re really bold and
expressive. OK, wine number 3. Getting a little bit tipsy. Now we’re going to move to a really famous
winery that’s caused a bit of a stir lately. Let me geek out for a second and tell you
what’s happening in Rioja right now. So, the problem in Rioja is that you can buy
a bottle of Rioja that’s €3 all the way up to €600. And that’s really confusing for the consumer. And so guys – well, guys – wineries like Artadi
were saying please let us give a bit more specificity on the label and say “Rioja” but
then say exactly where in the region our wine in made. Because it’s made in a really famous part
of the region and the region is so diverse. So by knowing where it’s made, you might know
a little bit more about what the wine might be like. But see the Rioja labelling requirements didn’t
allow that to happen so you know what these guys did? They left the region. I don’t mean physically, but they left the
governing body and they took the little Rioja label off the back of their wines so they
could do whatever they want with their labelling. And now the Rioja region has responded and
in the future they will allow people to write the village or the area of Rioja that their
wine is made. It’s again that modern style, really extracted,
really dark, really fruity. Wow. That is a big, juicy, really rich wine. It’s delicious. I mean, this is a wine that’s just… it’s
a crowd pleaser. But not in a cheap and tacky way. This is one that you could serve for your
friends that’s really reasonably priced. Serve it for dinner and everyone with love
you. Trust me. So guys, check out these three wines. They’re all delicious from Rioja. They all tell a different story of the region. And they’re all a little bit unique. So do check them out. If you want to buy any of these wines, there’s
links below to do that. If you want to come on a wine tour or come
to one of our wine tastings then check out devourtours.com. If you want to drink great wine, come to La
Fisna when you’re in Madrid. And if you liked this video, give me a thumbs
up please. They sounds really beggy, but go on, give
me a thumbs up. If you want to see more videos about how we
eat, drink, live and love in Spain, then subscribe. Also, I have one more think to ask for. I want to hear from you guys. I have a question. Tell me what wines, what Spanish wine regions,
you want me to make videos about. If you’re interested in sherry, or if you’re
interested in – I don’t know – a wine region in Catalonia or in the north of Spain, then
just let me know in the comments below and I’ll make a video about it. I’ll drink 3 wines with you from that region
and tell you a little bit about it. Great to see you guys. I’m going to stick to my wine now, I’m going
to get back to it. Salud! Thanks again!



Nov 11, 2017, 8:05 pm Reply

Hi James- thanks for fabulous video…Spanish wine is our favourite yet we dont know an awful lot about it- so the more of these videos the better please! The nicest Spanish wine we ever had was from the Ribera del Duero region..in Galicia?..Would love you to try 3 wines from there and educate us!! Thank u!!


Nov 11, 2017, 8:17 pm Reply

Not such a fan of modern, over-extracted wines and those with way too much new oak — love LdH, of course! — so would be more interested in any Spanish wine region which could be described as traditional or evocative of a sense of place. Know Spain makes a ton of wine in a modern style so not too sure what else would fit this bill there beyond Rioja. You should definitely do sherry. Maybe cava, txakoli and Basque and Asturian sidra.


Nov 11, 2017, 8:32 pm Reply

Hi James,
Love your video (watching on a cold, overcast night in Bristol UK – I am, however drinking a Spanish sherry – amontillado 🙂 ; I don't have a Rioja to hand). You may perceive I'm a fan of your videos and all things Spanish! I'd love to try these wines. You asked about a wine region: how about the wines made on the island of Lanzarote – very unique.
Thanks a lot for your passionately informative videos.

Yolanda Martín Mendieta

Nov 11, 2017, 1:09 pm Reply

Great vid and awesome tips! My favourite wine, like the flamenco aficionada I am, is sherry, of course. I'd love you to do one on this fascinating wine!


Nov 11, 2017, 10:02 pm Reply

Vinos manchegos please!

Jeffrey Chan

Nov 11, 2017, 12:57 am Reply

cava my friend…

Spain Revealed – James Blick

Nov 11, 2017, 8:15 pm Reply

Question of the day: What Spanish wine region do you want me to cover in my next wine video? Answer in the comments below! 👇👇👇👇👇


Jan 1, 2018, 1:25 am Reply

Send me one bottle pls!

Leslie Sank

Jan 1, 2018, 12:19 am Reply

WOW! Thank you James. You just clarified what Rioja wines are all about is a fabulous short video. Thank you for boasting the Tempranillo cultivar, one that the average consumer does not know well(at least here in Canada), but once tasted, they realize the unique beauty and interesting aromas that pour out of this grape and the Rioja region. A well kept secret that needs no hiding.

How do the South American Tempranillo's compare?

Moises Corilloclla

Feb 2, 2018, 5:24 am Reply

Do some godellos or some wines from the Monterrei area…


Mar 3, 2018, 2:09 am Reply

Another great video! Love Rioja


May 5, 2018, 3:23 pm Reply

Hmm I'm getting thirsty for some Spanish wine.


May 5, 2018, 9:59 am Reply

Thank you so much for sharing these wonderful examples,

Austin Polanco

Aug 8, 2018, 11:27 pm Reply

I'd love to see a survey of catalan wines! Greetings from the US

thomas james Neary

Oct 10, 2018, 7:27 am Reply

Hi, James!, I married a woman from Toledo, and we went to a cellar in Navas de Estena (Ciudad Real), and was surprised to see that it had its own particular Denominación de Origen. We tried it, and we realized then that it was rightfully awarded. Here's their website dehesadelcarrizal.com. If you go there, eat at Mesón Montes de Toledo (Have "Migas", yum!). Cheers!

Cork and Java

Oct 10, 2018, 9:41 pm Reply

I'm jealous you're in Madrid tasting the terrior. Cheers!

John Tan

Oct 10, 2018, 10:32 am Reply

Excellent vid… going to Barcelona next month to drink rioja and have some Jamon Iberico….currently drinking Baron De Ley grand reserva while watching ur vid

Jack Thomas

Nov 11, 2018, 6:45 pm Reply

James: excellent lesson. Don't know a thing about Spanish wine and willing to learn. In the video you mentioned links as to where to buy the wines discussed but I could not locate them.

cristina millonaria

Nov 11, 2018, 12:12 pm Reply

Te lo as rrecorrido todooo!! El vino es el mejor del mundo!!


Nov 11, 2018, 12:10 pm Reply

Priorat, please!


Nov 11, 2018, 8:12 pm Reply

James, sabiendo que hablas buen español, me permito escribirte este comentario en mi idioma, pues es más fácil para mí:
"Rioja" es, como bien sabes, una DO: la más conocida… y probablemente también la más sobrevalorada de todo el país. Y es que hay cantidad de vinos en España que saben tan bien o MEJOR que un "Rioja" (que garantiza nada, más que la DO más popular) por una fracción del precio.
Y en ese aspecto, yo te recomendaría encarecidamente que probaras (si es que no lo has hecho ya) la DO "Cariñena" (de Zaragoza), que en mi opinión, tiene una relación calidad/precio INVARIABLEMENTE superior a lo que vas a encontrar en un "Rioja" de similar precio, por no decir formalmente superior… 😉
Un saludo!

trrme eu

Nov 11, 2018, 4:47 pm Reply

Hi there, excellent videos, to be used during English lessons. Why don´t you make one about albariño, one of the best white wines in the world, according to Parker?


Dec 12, 2018, 12:54 am Reply

For a future video maybe you could go to Trujillo's feria del queso. If you love cheese, you need to try Torta del Casar (featured in that fair in a lot of its variations because it is typical from Extremadura). Plus, Trujillo is a very beautifull village very close to Cáceres, which is also beautifull 🙂

Bianca Taimi

Dec 12, 2018, 7:43 am Reply

Make a video about Brandy de Jerez


Dec 12, 2018, 12:11 pm Reply


Aitor Navarro

Jan 1, 2019, 2:18 am Reply

Sherry, Brandy and Cava please !!??

Joe Collins

Jan 1, 2019, 10:20 am Reply

Great video on Rioja.Please a video on vino blanco de Rueda.Its history and why it has exploded in the last few years to become the most popular Spanish White.
I heard it was due to an Australian Master of Wine coming over to teach the Spanish how to make light Summer Wine by using stainless steel vats and not wooden casks so to control the temperature better.Prior to Rueda most Spanish White had a heavy oak taste.
Glad those days have gone
Keep posting on Spain and thanks for your information.
Joe [email protected]


Jan 1, 2019, 10:19 pm Reply

The López de Heredia bodega in Haro is amazing, I keep going there and never have enough. Perhaps you can show the bodega in one of your videos? On the other side and the best example of modern bodegas is Campoviejo. Whilst their wines are decent albeit not the best Rioja, the bodega where they are made in Logroño is just stunning. Please check it out and visit it if you have not done it yet. Thanks and congratulations for your you YouTube channel!

Karine Shine Cavalanti

Jan 1, 2019, 4:00 am Reply

Great video!! I’m planning my trip to Spain and enjoying your channel very much! Please a video about Cava!!!!

Joshua Perel

Jan 1, 2019, 1:25 am Reply

James please make the next video about Toro, I love Ribera del Duero and Rioja, but lately my favorite wines are from Toro.

Alberto Corcuera

Jan 1, 2019, 7:30 pm Reply

Hola James. En La Rioja también hay excelentes rosados o claretes, como les llamamos por aquí. En la zona de Alesanco, Cordovín, cerca de Nájera podrás disfrutar de estos maravillosos vinos.

Lily Cat

Feb 2, 2019, 9:44 pm Reply

Garnacha or Grenache


Mar 3, 2019, 9:59 pm Reply

Love your videos…..my story was all about Rioja and visiting the south of Spain…that was until I discovered Albarino from the Rias Baixas region last summer….the perfect summer white ! More info on this delicious wine please…….and I'd love a little Spanish language thrown in too….that would be a great help for those of us wanting to do a little more than just order 'dos cervezas por favor !!!'

Nag Kameya

Mar 3, 2019, 12:43 am Reply

We enjoy your videos and instagram stories. Thanks!

Jorge Castro Esteban

Mar 3, 2019, 2:04 pm Reply

I am from La Rioja! Proud you like our wine.

Ray Ham

Apr 4, 2019, 3:10 am Reply

Any chance of doing a piece about Ribera del Duero ?

Don Guillermo

Apr 4, 2019, 4:58 am Reply

Your enthusiasm is contagious. Tengo muchas ganas de volver a mi querido Espana!

Andrea Maronn

May 5, 2019, 1:29 pm Reply

I am in love w/ garnacha! Can you cover Campo de Borja? 🍷🍷😊

Jose Tavares

Jun 6, 2019, 10:38 pm Reply

The Priorat produces spectacular wines! The only other region besides Rioja with qualified status DOQ.

Michael Castro

Jul 7, 2019, 7:41 pm Reply

I have enjoyed watching your channel. I would like to learn more about Valdepenas wine region of La Mancha. I think I need to give that wine another shot. The first bottle I tried tasted a bit bitter for my palate.


Jul 7, 2019, 8:23 pm Reply

Loved the video I plan to visit Spain mid next year and I’m getting some wine knowledge in before! Would love to see more videos in detail of flavors what would be good to pair and hey maybe even some sangria taste tests. I subscribed and will go through your videos

Josef Wassermann

Jul 7, 2019, 11:02 pm Reply

Artadi is one of the best.

Allegory PR Services

Jul 7, 2019, 1:08 am Reply

Interested in Priorat, Rias Baixas & Txakolina 🍷👍🏻

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