As it’s the long Eostre / Easter weekend my wife suggested roast lamb, which got a thumbs up from me as I’m very partial to lamb (sorry Flossie). There are a few classic wine matches for lamb; Saint-Emilion or Crianza / Reserva Rioja. As I happened to have a sample bottle of Crianza Rioja to hand the game was afoot!
Sierra Cantabria Rioja Crianza 2010 (14.0%, €17.95, O’Briens)
Rioja is traditionally made with a large majority of Tempranillo grapes, supported by small amounts of Garnacha, Graciano, Mazuelo. American oak is typically used for maturation before bottling, with the length of time linked to classification as Joven, Crianza, Reserva or Gran Reserva. All this together gives a “strawberries and cream” effect, especially for Crianzas.
But this wine didn’t taste like that at all!
Rather than strawberry or any other red fruit, the palate had dark, black fruit – blackberry and damsons. Instead of creamy vanilla there was a smoky, savoury edge. If I had been given this wine to try blind I think the closest I would have guessed would have been Ribero del Duero, not Rioja at all.
However, I should have read the “small print”. Not all Rioja Crianzas are supposed to taste like strawberries and cream! Modern style Rioja is often made with French oak (which gives smoky rather than vanilla flavours) and the grapes are well macerated to extract lots of colour and tannin.
So this is a lovely wine, and would actually go better with a steak than with lamb – but I’m not complaining, not me!