Ruby-red with violet hues, Ramón Bilbao’s Crianza Rioja is fruity but well-balanced with the best flavors of 100 percent Tempranillo grapes. It has a clean, open scent, filled with black and red fruits, nuts, and mild floral notes. A year in American oak barrels imparts to it the sweet aromas of nutmeg, vanilla, and a hint of cinnamon. On the palate, it is medium-bodied and somewhat intense, with trailing notes of berries and spice.
Rioja wines are great for aperitifs with friends. They pair well with a variety of soft cheeses and charcuterie. Crianzas are great with Iberian hams, especially the acorn nuttiness of a truly magnificent Jamón Ibérico Bellota Premium DOP Extremadura. Dinners of stewed rabbit or roast chicken will also benefit from a glass or three of this wine. If you fancy breakfast for dinner on a cool evening, a skillet mix of eggs, mushrooms, and onions will be completely elevated by the spice-and-black-fruit notes of a Crianza.
One of the marvels of the Rioja wine region is their simple but consistent classification system, judiciously monitored by the Consejo Regulador DOCs Rioja (Rioja DOCa Control Board). Formerly called “vin joven”, the basic Rioja wine is a young wine, a base-model Tempranillo. There are little to no tannins or oaky flavors here—but this wine has a zippy, fruity taste. Crianzas must be matured for a minimum of one year in an oak barrel, followed by another year in a bottle. They are bolder than Merlot, not too rich, well-displaying the natural high tannins of Tempranillo grapes. Reservas get serious. After a year in oak barrels and at least two in bottles, they tend to be of medium body, in between a fruity Crianza and very oaky Gran Reserva. This last, the Gran Reserva, spends two years in oak barrels then three in bottles to complete its maturation process. It is the oak-aging that lends the most flavoring here. These wines can be cellared for up to 30 years.
Store unopened red wines in a cool, dry, and dark place safe from constant vibration. Keep your bottle horizontal in a wine rack or cellar to retain the moistness of the cork. The ideal temperature for storage is between 16 to 18°C. Once opened, a bottle will be good for 3 to 5 days standing upright in the refrigerator.