White Rioja, or Rioja Blanco as it’s often called, is a fairly obscure white wine from the Rioja region in Spain. Rioja is well regarded for its red wines, but the white variants are definitely worth a try. With options ranging from light as a feather to heavy and full-bodied White Rioja is particularly versatile and a worthy compliment to almost any meal.
White Rioja wines are made entire from white grapes and contain a minimum of 51% Viura grapes along with a combination of any of the following: Malvasía de Rioja, Garnacha Blanca, Tempranillo Blanco, Maturana Blanca, Turruntés de Rioja, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Verdejo.
There are two main types of White Rioja with the primary difference between the two based on how long they are aged. Young, or Joven wines are no older than 15 months and are not aged. Aged wines on the other hand are aged for a minimum of 12 months. Aged White Rioja’s are divided into three categories depending on how long they have been aged. Crianza wines are aged for 12 months, Reserva wines are aged for 24 months, and Gran Reserva wines are aged for a whopping 48 months.
As can be expected, there is a significant difference in taste between young and aged White Rioja.
Fresh White Rioja is light with very little body and features a noticeable acidity and dryness. These wines tend to be quite fruity with noticeable flavours of melon and lemon.
Aged White Rioja like it’s younger sibling is also dry and highly acidic. Body is noticeably heavier, and drinkers should expect pronounced flavours of preserved fruits, roasted pineapple, hazelnut, and whiskey.
If you’ve been looking for the perfect wine to pair with tapas, look no further! White Rioja is the ideal companion to an evening of tapas, or in fact Spanish food in general.
Young Rioja’s pair well with grilled fish, shellfish, garlic, gazpacho, and fresh zesty salads. Older aged Rioja’s pair well with a number of flavour fish-based foods like roast fish, grilled hake, paella, fish stews, lobster. Along with fish-based pairings, Rioja also goes well with almonds, serrano, asparagus, grilled meats, and strong cheeses.
Wines to try
Good bottles of young White Rioja’s can be found for as little $12. However the aged varieties, particularly the Gran Reserva options can be considerably more expensive.
Bernie Rioja Viura 2015 ($12)
This delicate wine is an excellent introduction to the world of Rioja. This particular wine is gentle and easy to drink with delightful citrusy flavours.
Cine Barrel Fermented Rioja Blanco ($14)
This aged wine is rich in flavour and has a distinct oaky taste.
Rioja Vega Viura ($10)
Another excellent aged Rioja, this wine has a pronounced oak flavor along with a nutty and vanilla-filled bouquet.