We have looked closely on The Buyer in recent weeks at how different generic bodies and UK importers and distributors host and present their respective portfolio tastings. How do you make your event a “must attend” other than offering different wines to taste? Wines from Rioja has gone down the road of asking leading wine trade figures and buyers to pre-select 10 wines across 10 wine styles for its appropriately named 10×10 tasting which takes place tomorrow.
To help mark your card for tomorrow’s Wines from Rioja 10×10 tasting we ask one of the lead judges, Tim Atkin MW, to give his personal take on how far the region has developed in recent years and what to look out for on-trade wine lists.
What attracted you to take part in the 10 x 10 tasting initiative?
I’m a huge fan of the region and think that its bestsellers should be better known and appreciated.
How would you describe where Rioja is now as wine producing region to say five to 10 years?
It’s changed a lot in the last few years, while remaining true to its best traditions. Obviously, the recent changes with regard to single vineyard and village wines have garnered the biggest headlines, but there have been significant changes in terms of the white wines, better rosados and plenty of “generic” wines that don’t follow the Crianza, Reserva, Gran Reserva model. All these things have brought more diversity to the Rioja wine scene.
What has driven those changes?
Partly the region, partly international critical tastes and partly consumers. It’s a virtuous alliance.
Where do you see the potential for Rioja in the future? What can we look forward to?
More fine wines and more wines with a genuine sense of place that reflect individual terroirs. Rioja could develop in a way that Burgundy has, where people talk about different villages, not just larger sub-regions.
What do you think Rioja as a region and its regulatory bodies need to do to help take it to the next step?
Promote from the top down, rather than the bottom up. It’s important to realise that smaller producers, especially in the Rioja Alavesa, have an important role to play in promoting excellence and diversity.
Rioja’s popularity is clearly great news for Rioja, but what do you think its influence has on the rest of the Spanish wine industry?
Huge. It’s Spain’s largest fine wine region and its best known wine brand. So other regions look to Rioja for leadership.
What lessons can the rest of Spain, and other wine regions, learn from Rioja?
How to market a region with a strong communal brand. And, when necessary, how to recognise that change can be a positive thing.
What specific tasting trends did you pick out from this year’s Top 100 wines?
The whites were the thing that really stood out. But I’d also advise people to buy any 2010s they can. It’s an amazing vintage.
Where do you think Rioja can stand out in on-trade wine lists?
The strength of its name and its very good average quality. Very few regions make wines that are consistently so drinkable.
What is your favourite Rioja and food match?
It has to be a 2010 Reserva with a rack of lamb.