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Rioja CorkAs Becky Leach’s career path shows, we’re big on internal promotion. Becky joined the Chichester store team in 2002, moving into IT in 2005 and working her way up through the department – all the while retaining a love of wine that’s seen her excel in her WSET exams and diploma study. Here, Becky explains the ageing process for red wines in Rioja.

A map of Spain showing the Rioja RegionRioja is undeniably one of Spain’s finest wine-producing regions – one of only two to achieve the highest classification within the country’s wine laws. With such high standards to maintain, the minimum ageing requirements are longer in Rioja than other regions.

Crianza wines are aged for no less than 24 months, twelve of which must be in oak barrels. Marques de la Concordia is a fantastic example; the oak shows itself in a warming hint of spice that lingers on the finish, while red berry fruits still shine through.

At the next level, Reserva wines have an extra dimension that comes from at least three years’ ageing, including one in oak barrels. The beautifully balanced CVNE Reserva sees baked red fruits like cherries and plums perfectly interwoven with a hint of vanilla.

The pinnacle of Rioja, Gran Reserva, is only made in exceptional vintages and must be aged for at least five years (two in barrels). For a real treat, try the Monte Real 1978 Gran Reserva. It’s a gorgeous tawny colour with a dried-fruit nose, while on the palate, a subtle smokiness weaves its way through the fruit, leading to a savoury finish just lifted by a trace of cloves. Already into its fourth decade, this elegant wine illustrates to perfection the maxim that patience is a virtue.

Becky’s Pick

Rioja Reserva Imperial 2001, CVNE
£18.99 or £13.99 when you buy 2 bottles*

From an excellent vintage, this has plenty of red and black fruit on the nose, while its secondary characteristics are really developing well. Rich savoury notes with sweet spice and a touch of tobacco give a complex long finish.

Contino Reserva Rioja 2004/05
£25.00 £20.00*Special Offer

Ripe, juicy blackberry aromas follow through on to the palate, after which come the savoury notes and a flicker of liquorice. Wonderfully moreish, mouth-filling and velvety: perfect with roast lamb.

Rioja Crianza 2005/06, Marqués de la Concordia
£9.49 or £5.99 when you buy 2 bottles*

Marqués de la Concordia combines fresh New World style and traditional Old World terroir, resulting in a dark ruby-coloured wine brimming with ripe blackberry and strawberry fruit flavours. The palate shows lashings of vanilla and spicy oak, giving a rich, lingering finish. From an outstanding vintage, this is the perfect match to roasted red meats.

Rioja Reserva 2004/05, CVNE
£12.99 or £9.99 when you buy 2 bottles*

A soft luxurious wine, mid garnet in colour with a lovely brambly nose and a hint of Bovril. Nuances of warm leather, caramel and coffee cream over rich autumn fruit. Excellent balance and a lingering finish.

Monte Real 1978, Rioja Gran Reserva
£25.00 or £20.00 when you buy 2 bottles*

This wine is from the superb 1978 vintage and has been stored in the cellars of the famous Bodega Riojanas for over 30 years. Showing a complex nose of wild strawberry, leather and Christmas spices, the palate is amazingly fresh with dried fruits, smoke and a long refreshing finish.

*All prices valid until 1st February 2010

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