Rioja thrives on tradition, on an image of immutability. There’s some truth to this perception. Many of the region’s wines are made in pretty much the same way today as they were in the 1970s, give or take the incontrovertible influence of climate change. Rioja is very good at producing large volumes of reliably drinkable wine: supple, perfumed, sweetly oaked with immediate appeal but enough acidity to age.
Scroll down to see tasting notes and scores for seven wines from the rising stars of Rioja
Yet Rioja is also capable of rapid change. It happened in the boom years of the second half of the 19th century, when merchants from Bordeaux came to Spain looking for wine to replace what they’d lost in their phylloxera-ravaged region; it happened in the 1990s as a response to demand for the bigger, bolder, more concentrated wines that were in vogue in the US and elsewhere at the time; and it’s happening again right now.
It’s not widely appreciated, but Rioja is making the greatest reds and whites in its history.