Rich, velvety, vanilla-oaky Rioja is Spain’s greatest red. No debate. And when you see Reserva on the label, you’re in for a treat. It means the wine has been aged for at least three years in barrel and bottle. This top example has one year in oak and has had another five years to mellow in bottle.
Ruth Chavarri makes stunning Rioja from vineyards first planted by her great-grandfather in 1882. For her 2005 Reserva (officially rated ‘excellent’ by Rioja authorities), she used fruit from prized 60-year-old vines and chose French and U.S. oak. Expect layers of ripe berry, licorice and vanilla.
Go for the traditional Spanish experience: decant an hour to open the toasted vanilla and strawberry flavors. Then, serve with roasted suckling pig or tapas of Jamón de Serrano and Manchego (a local cheese).