Rioja 10 x 10: 100 of Rioja's Top Wines 2016
Diversity in Rioja’s perfect 10 line-up
Tim Atkin MW and Sarah Jane Evans MW introduce us to Rioja 10 x 10 and tell us what’s exciting them from the region
Judging the 10x10 competition was a pleasure again this year, with knowledgeable and enthusiastic tasters and unruffled organisation. Despite some tricky recent vintages – the last outstanding harvest was in 2010 – marked by rain in some cases, and extreme heat in others, Rioja showed that it is large and adaptable enough to cope with whatever nature pitches at it.
I expected the Reservas and Generics to be strong, which they were, partly because of the presence of a number of excellent 2010s, as well as the comparatively large number of entries, but all 10 categories impressed this year.
I was particularly pleased to see the improvement in the quality of unoaked whites and the rosados, traditionally two of Rioja’s less celebrated styles. The Crianzas – such an important presence in the market – delivered too.
Rioja’s classic category, Gran Reserva, proved a varied mix; while in some cases the age of the wines seemed to be more important than their quality, the best examples displayed complexity and maturity, highlighting that Rioja Gran Reserva can still deliver some of the best value mature wines on the market.
Overall, however, the tasting demonstrated that Spain’s largest fine wine region is making better wines than ever, producing some exceptional reds, whites and rosados – mostly at very affordable prices.
What’s more, Rioja is increasingly diverse, thanks to rediscovered varieties such as Tempranillo Blanco and Maturana Tinta, which have brought another dimension to the area’s line up of grapes, and the emergence of Graciano as a stand -alone variety.
I’m already looking forward to next year’s tasting.
Tim Atkin MW
Tim Atkin MW is an award-winning journalist, and is a member of the Gran Orden de Caballeros de Vino and the Cofradía del Vino de Rioj
What a great opportunity this tasting gives to take a snapshot of Rioja. The judges did a great job, finding the headline wines in every category, and editing down the selection. Not easy.
The good news is that whether you are looking for a smart, finely oaked white, or a modern powerful expression of Tempranillo, or anything in between, you can find it here. Some of the categories were really hard fought over – Crianza and Generics especially. Hard-fought because of the quantity of wines, but also because of the range of styles. These are our recommendations, now you need to try them for yourself.
Some categories look destined to grow. The oddly but accurately named ‘non-Tempranillo reds’ category is a brilliant selection of Gracianos, Maturana Tintas and Garnachas well worth exploring. The best have a distinctive individual character.
Other categories were a pleasant surprise: ‘oaked whites’ turned out to have some excellent wines and, as in general right across this tasting, well-handled balanced oak.
This year for the first time we made our Chairs’ Choices. These were the stand-outs from the different tables, and our personal favourites.
How delicious to be able to select and enjoy a great Gran Reserva, an elegant Viura and a 100% Tempranillo. as well as others tempered by Garnacha or Graciano. Diversity, that’s what Rioja is all about. Whether the producers choose to blend across the region, or to concentrate on an estate, the results can be delightful.
Sarah Jane Evans MW
Sarah Jane Evans MW is an award-winning journalist, Chairman of the Institute of Masters of Wine, joint-Chair of the Spain panel for the Decanter World Wine Awards, member of the Gran Orden de Caballeros de Vino.