Rioja…if any wine would be described as straightforward, uncomplicated, direct and downright nice, it would be a wine from this particular part of Spain. Notorious for oaking their wines to pieces, making them resemble vanilla cakes rather than quality brews.

However, during the last ten years or so in Rioja things have been starting to turn around. Balanced and lightly-oaked wines are now common. Roda located in Rioja Alta makes much sought-after wines, where the following wine is the simplest. A good thing about the Spanish wine classification is that it differentiates wines on the basis of maturation time. Crianza wines are matured for at least two years, with at least twelve months spent in cask, Reservas are matured for at least three years (at least one year in cask) and Gran Reservas are matured for at least five years (two in cask, three in bottle). Many producers mature the wines for longer periods than the minimum dictated by the classification. Good for the customer but bad cash management practice.

Roda Reserva 2006 shows vanilla tones, chocolate, leather and plum. A bit of a spicy taste. The oak is well-integrated and there is a slight bitterness to balance the sweetness of the vanilla. Full-bodied with very smooth tannins. If I were to recommend a wine to someone who’d never drunk a high-quality wine, this would certainly come to mind. As I wrote initially, this is very straightforward and decent. Anybody could appreciate the Roda, which may not sound like praise, but it certainly is. The only objection I have is that you are full up with it after a couple of glasses. It’s not like, say, a Pomerol which gets better and better with every glass until all of a sudden the bottle sadly is empty. 97% Tempranillo and 3% Graciano. 90p.

I have difficulties getting to grips with Chianti. So often they are grumpy, tart, tannic and thin. I am no going to argue that the 2008 Querciabella Chianti Classico is different. It’s not that bad though, but it nevertheless shows all of the features described in the above although not excessively. 95% Sangiovese and 5% Cabernet sauvignon. Cherries, raspberry, chocolate and coffee. Rather tannic and a bit thin. I aired this for an hour. Maybe it would’ve improved with further cellaring. I’ll save my second bottle a couple of years. I’m just not very excited about it. 85p.

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