It’s summertime! Time to fire up the grill! Want an easy, tasty grill menu? A grilled sausage feast and mixed seasonal vegetables paired with a Rioja Crianza is one of my favorite summertime go-to grilling menus. Tempranillo, the principal grape variety in a red Rioja from Spain, has an affinity to pair well with grilled meats from lamb and pork, (popular in Spain) to beef.
Join the Wine Pairing Weekend group of bloggers as we celebrate Rioja and barbecue. We will take to Twitter on Saturday, July 13th at 11:00 am ET to chat about the wine region of Rioja and our barbecue food pairings (follow and join the chat using hashtag #winepw). Also, check out my fellow Wine Pairing Weekend bloggers’ posts at the end of this one for more great Rioja and barbecue pairing ideas.
Get to know Rioja
- Rioja is Spain’s renowned wine growing region located in north-central Spain. Rioja is known for their red wines with 91% of the region planted to red grape varieties. Tempranillo is the flagship red variety accounting for 87% of the area cultivated.
- The red grape varieties of Rioja include Tempranillo, Garnacha tinta, Mazuelo (also known as Cariñena), Graciano; since 2007 Maturana tinta (also known as Maturana Parda or Maturano)
- The white grape varieties of Rioja include Viura (also known as Macabeo), Malvasía, Garnacha blanc; since 2007 Maturana blanca, Tempranillo blanco, Turruntés or Torrontés, ( not the same as the varieties named Torrontés cultivated in other parts of Spain and the rest of the world) Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Verdejo.
Rioja Regions That May Appear on the wine Label
- If the wine is labeled simply “Rioja” it is most likely a blend of grapes from all over La Rioja.
- 3 Official Production Zones
- Rioja Alta – Located in the western portion of Rioja. Higher elevations result in cooler temperatures. The wines are known to be higher in acidity and tannins with an overall elegance.
- Rioja Alavesa – Two separate tracts of land neighboring the Rioja Alta. The altitudes and macroclimates are similar to the Rioja Alta. The wines are known to express more acidity.
- Rioja Oriental (formerly Rioja Baja) – Located in the eastern portion of Rioja. Vineyards are on the flat plains. The climate is dryer and warmer with a greater influence from the Mediterranean. Wines are known to be fruitier and fuller bodied.
- Rioja has a total of 145 municipalities (villages) where grapes are grown; 77 in Rioja Alta, 50 in Rioja Oriental, and 18 in Rioja Alavesa, these village names may appear on the wine label*
- Single-vineyard wines; similar to the classification system used in Burgundy, wineries producing a wine from a specific vineyard can appeal to the Consejo Regulador to have that vineyard listed on the wine label*
*new regional labeling was adapted in 2018 and can be used from the 2017 vintage onwards.
Rioja Wine Aging Classification
Rioja (formerly called Joven – meaning young in Spanish) – Little or no oak aging
Crianza – Aged for 2 years total – red wines: at least one year in barrels – white/rosé wines: 6 months in barrels
These wines are generally a great value for $12-19.
Reserva – Red wines: aged for 3 years total with at least one year in barrels and 6 months in bottles – white/rosé wines: aged for 2 years total with 6 months in barrels – Sparkling wines: at least 2 years on the lees
These wines are a balance of fruity flavors and oak aging influence.
Gran Reserva – Red wines: aged for 5 years total with at least 2 years in barrels and 2 years in bottles – white/rosé wines: aged for 5 years total with at least 6 months in barrels
These wines can be made with some of the best grapes, aged for at least 5 years with high tannins, and have great aging potential.
Gran Añada – Sparkling wines: at least 3 years on the lees and vintage wines are hand-harvested.*
*new aging category added in 2018.
My Tasting Notes
Disclosure: The wine was provided to me as a media sample. All opinions are my own.
2015 Lan Rioja Crianza, Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa
13.5% abv | $12 average price (sample) | 96% Tempranillo 4% Mazuelo
Bodegas LAN website
The grapes come from 10-20-year-old vines in select vineyards in the Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa zones. The soils are chalky-clay with good drainage and sun exposure. The wine was fermented in stainless steel tanks with 15 days of maceration and continuous pump-overs for optimal color extraction and followed by 14 months of aging in French and American oak barrels and 9 months in the bottle.
Medium garnet in color. Medium body and acidity with medium(+) tannins. On the nose, black fruit and a hint of vanilla. On the palate, red cherries, plums, sweet tobacco, and notes of spices and herbs.
Food Pairing Notes
The easy drinking LAN Rioja Crianza pairs well with the rustic assorted pork sausages and smoky grilled flavors of the vegetables. The rich fattiness in the sausages is balanced with the wines fruit-forward flavors, acidity, and tannins. The spices in the sausages are echoed in the herbal and spice notes in the wine. The casual grilled sausage feast is ideal with a fruit-forward value Spanish Rioja Crianza.
Note: It’s worth the effort to find a really good butcher in your area. I purchased these roasted poblano and Italian sausages from Pine Street Market in Atlanta; they also are at my Farmers Market, Freedom Farmers Market on Saturday mornings at the Carter Center.
Check out some more grilling and chilling BBQ and Rioja wine pairings from the Wine Pairing Weekend group of bloggers ~
- Deanna at Asian Test Kitchen shares “Vegan BBQ: 3 Ideas to Pair with Crianza Rioja“.
- Lori at Exploring the Wine Glass shares “A Father’s Passion is Passed Down to Daughter and Expressed in Bottle“
- David from Cooking Chat shares “Grilled Paprika Pork Chops with a Rioja”
- Jane at Always Ravenous shares “Grilled Sausage Feast Paired with Rioja Crianza“
- Lauren at The Swirling Dervish shares “Paella and Bodegas LAN: Perfect for Your Summer BBQ“
- Jill at L’Occasion shares “On the Grill with Rioja Wine“
- Jennifer at Vino Travels Italy shares “Oven Roasted Italian Sausage with Rioja Riserva“
- Martin at Enofylz Wine Blog shares “Grilled Garam Masala Lamb Chops paired with Bodega LAN Reserva“
- Linda at My Full Wine Glass shares “Keep your cool with grilled steak salad and Rioja“
- Camilla at Culinary Adventures with Camilla shares “Robatayaki and Rioja Wines, the Perfect Summertime Party“
- Pinny at Chinese Food & Wine Pairings shares “Bodegas LAN Rioja Crianza and Thick-Cut Sirloin Steak on the Grill“
- Wendy at A Day in the Life on the Farm shares “Our Favorite BBQ Ribs with LAN Rioja“
- Gwen at Wine Predator shares “An American Summer BBQ with Spanish Rioja Wine: LAN Crianza and Beronia Rosado“
- Nicole at Somm’s Table shares “Cooking to the Wine: Bodegas LAN Rioja Reserva with Smoky Seared Octopus”
- Rupal at Syrah Queen shares “Bodegas LAN Rioja with Canjun Butter Steak”
- Jeff at Food Wine Click! shares “Smoking Low & Slow with Rioja Wines“