JWL Issue #062: Some Thoughts on White Rioja

July 30, 2019

This is an incredibly exciting week for me. This week, I’m shipping issue one of The Wine List.

Wine has often been a horribly intimidating world to get into. When I was younger, I remember branching out from my local Co-op into an Oddbins once. Having been fed up of Co-op’s limited range, I was now faced with dozens of unknown bottles, and I had no idea what I was doing.

Like so many before me, my eyes darted to price and then singled in on known phrases or regions. Côtes du Rhône. Chablis. Rioja. Beaujolais.

I was so eager to learn more and yet it I struggled in that shop. I picked up something (probably the second cheapest), declined any assistance, and strolled off out of there.

Books, columns, films, endless hours on YouTube. I tried a lot of ways to break this knowledge gap. But nothing ever stuck. Eventually, I threw myself in at the deep end and enrolled in my first wine course.

Starting with this weekly email, and the Instagram, I’ve always wanted to share everything I’ve learnt, back with people like myself a few years ago.

The Wine List is the next evolution of that: offering a wine education on a monthly basis, with two incredible bottles of wine thrown in. And this week I get to ship those to the very first founding members.

The two bottles for issue one will remain a surprise until next week. For all those who have joined already thank you so much.


Winery of Good Hope chardonnay (£9.50 from Buon Vino) would be a great chard for an oak/non-oak tasting. This is ripe, buttery with clean and elegant stone fruits to it. A real joy to drink with a lovely Sunday lunch recently with friends.

The first thing you notice about Au Bon Climat’s Wild Boy Chardonnay 2017 (£27 from BBR, £29 from Hennings) is the artwork. With a photo that looks like Bill Bailey mid acid trip, Wild Boy wants to stand out. While this has lashings of tropical fruits, it feels like a Santa Barbara ode to Merusault. This is endlessly rich, and charming. Also love the fact it’s titled shortens to ABC.

We drank a bottle of Vina Ijalba Rioja Genoli Blanco (£9.75 from Vintage Roots) with a seafood dinner at Peckham’s Montpelier the other day. First off, the food was incredible, second was this incredibly balanced and refreshing white Rioja. It was 35 degrees outside, and this was the freshest and cleanest tasting wines I’ve had in a while.


White Rioja You Say?

Rioja is known for its reds. Rioja used to be known for cheaper, and younger wines. But, when phylloxera struck in the mid-19th Century, Bordeaux winemakers invested in the area influencing it with oak towards ageworthy reds.

White Rioja represents just 10% of winemaking there, but there’s so many delights to find. Viura is the main grape (which is the start of this week’s tasting note), but you can also find white tempranillo, white garnacha, malvasia, verdejo, and chardonnay.

The whites have ageing guidelines like the reds. The younger ones are crisper, lighter-bodied, and leaner, while the older ones are rounder, more complex, and lean fuller in their bodies. I usually prefer the aged ones, but the young ones can be incredibly fresh too.

White Rioja is a great wine to get into. The very best examples usually cap out around £50-70 (as opposed to three or four figures as with other top wines). And there’s some amazing displays to be found in the £10-25 price range.

What are your favourite white Riojas?

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