Happy Thirsty Thursday: Pour Yourself a Glass of Rioja
It’s Rioja Wine Week in Chicago. It started last Saturday with Rioja Wine and Tapas Fest, a gathering of winemakers, wine reps, chefs, and salumi makers at Union Station. I was lucky enough to go with a press pass and access to the VIP lounge, which was the only place where there were Piedras de Chocolat (chocolate covered almonds from Spain). Those are the perks of working an unpaid journalist gig.
While most of the featured wines were rather underwhelming, I found a couple bottles that I really enjoyed, including those from Bodegas Riojanas and Vivanco. I also learned a lot about Rioja wine in general, and it has a pretty rich history. Rioja was Spain’s first wine region to receive government protection under DOCA regulations, Denominación de Origen Calificada. The wines are made with three primary grapes: Tempranillo, Garnacha, and Viura. What’s most striking about Rioja wines is their variety. They range in flavor from bright and acidic, to rich, barrel-aged wines, with a price point that often lies between $10 and $30.
Most importantly, Rioja wines are excellently paired with food. These are some of my favorite pairings from the festival:
Vivanco Tempranillo-Garnacha Rosé with Cana di Cabra, soft ripened goat cheese
2007 Bodegas Riojanas Vina Albina Reserva with Campo de Montalban, aged sheep, goat and cow cheese.
2006 Bodegas Riojanas Monte Real Gran Reserva with Pidras de Chocolat
West Loop Salumi Lardo on fried and sugared bread. No wine needed, though Cava would have been nice