Who wants to go to Spain?! While it’s usually overshadowed by Italy and France, Spain is a major wine producing country with vineyards all around the country. Rioja is a region in north central Spain that specializes in producing Tempranillo. In Rioja, more than 75% of the vineyards are dedicated to Tempranillo. The grape is also grown in Portugal, Argentina, Australia, and the U.S. It tends to have a combination of earthy and fruit flavors, and has a medium to full body. Tempranillo is an ancient wine with evidence of it in Spain dating to 800 BC.

Today we’re trying the 2012 Marques de Murrieta Reserva Rioja. Like many other wine producing regions around the world, Rioja has set standards for how wines are classified. There are 4 classifications for Rioja wine: Rioja, Crianza, Reserva, and Gran Reserva. The Reserva we’re drinking today means the grapes used are high quality and they’ve been aged for at least 3 years, with at least one year of that in oak casks. Reserva wine has good body but it’s not super oaky, which can be off putting if you’re not into it. This makes it a nice, drinkable wine.

The Marques de Murrieta Reserva Rioja is aged for 2 years in oak and 1 to 1 ½ years in the bottle. The wine is predominantly tempranillo, with about 17% made of Graciano, Mazuelo, and Garnacha grapes. While it is fuller bodied than many grapes, it is much more approachable than a Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah, so it’s not overly heavy. The first taste is on the fruitier side, with cherry and plum notes, which quickly dries due to the tannins and becomes more leathery. Despite the tannins it is pretty easy to drink with food or by itself.

Ready to have it with dessert? Try it with peanut butter and chocolate- the first taste might be slightly harsh but it smooths out with the second and tastes very nutty.

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