You can now read 5 articles in a month for free on BostonGlobe.com. Read as much as you want anywhere and anytime for just 99¢.

Food-friendly, value Riojas can be everyday pours

We are always on the hunt for bottles that capture the spirit of a wine region but make only modest demands on the budget. We were reminded recently why a style of Spanish reds from Rioja fit the bill.

Mid-tier reds, made primarily from tempranillo, the flagship Rioja grape, are categorized as Crianza, easily identified by a bright red label with the date of bottling on the back. They age for at least two years before wineries release them to market, and at least one of those years is spent in oak. (Wines aged for less time are coded on the label with a green block; longer aged Reservas earn a burgundy label.) Most are priced around $15 a bottle, so they represent terrific value for everyday pours. Unlike wines that have been rushed to market, Rioja Crianzas taste like they have some age on them, but none we tried fit the stereotype of aged Rioja reds that have been in oak for so long, they’re off-putting to modern palates.

Continue reading below

Ana Fabiano is on a mission to educate wine drinkers about these bottles from north-central Spain. As US trade director at Vibrant Rioja, the marketing arm of the wine region’s regulatory board, she conducts tastings around the country. “People always say, ‘I love Rioja.’ But when I ask them ‘Which producer?’ or ‘What style did you try?’ they say they don’t know.” She has seen this gap in knowledge for years. To remedy that, Fabiano wrote “The Wine Region of Rioja” in 2012, a handsome tome that provides a comprehensive look at the history, geography, wine styles, and
notable producers.

We caught up with Fabiano last month at the Boston Wine Expo. One of the wines she was pouring was Ramon Bilbao Rioja Crianza 2010. This 100 percent tempranillo offers aromas of cherry, plum, and fennel frond, with a palate of vivid red fruit, smooth tannins for texture, and a spicy finish. Named for Ramon Bilbao Murga, an early 20th- century pioneer known for his expertise in aging Riojan wines, this Crianza is food-friendly. Fabiano herself emphasizes how these wines pair with a variety of fare. “People get so anxious about how to pair food and wine,” she says, “but these wines make it easy.”

The final chapter of her book offers recipes and suggested Rioja pairings. We plan to whip up a batch of potatoes and chorizo, or stuffed peppers, or creamy mushroom rice, and settle in with this appetizing bottle.

Bodegas Ramon Bilbao Rioja Crianza 2010 (around $14) is available at Atlas Liquors, Medford, 781-395-4400; and Blanchards Wines & Spirits, West Roxbury, 617-327-1400.

Ellen Bhang can be reached at bytheglass@globe.com.
Loading comments...

Wake up with today's top stories.

Want each day's news headlines delivered fresh to your
inbox every morning? Just connect with us
in one of the following ways:
or
Please enter a valid email
BostonGlobe.com will never post anything without asking.
Privacy Policy
Subscriber Log In

You have reached the limit of 5 free articles in a month

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com
Marketing image of BostonGlobe.com