If you’ve been following along it will come as no surprise that Rioja wines are my new favorite thing! Having just returned from a four day exploration of the region (read all about it here) we developed a new appreciation for the history behind this corner of the world and the wine that has made it famous. Like many wine producing lands, there are strict guidelines in the creation process and not just any wine can be termed a Rioja. The qualification list is firm and to the point. All of the details are broken down here, with the end result presenting itself in four classes: vino joven, crianza, reserva and gran reserva, the main difference hinging on the length of aging, in both the oak barrels and the bottle. The tempranillo grape is the star of this wine and sometimes stands alone or is accompanied by small amounts of garnacha, graciano and mazuelo grapes. We sampled a wonderful mix of all four offerings during our visit and brought home several bottles, most of which are not readily available in the states. Do not fret though, my wine-loving friends! Excellent bottles of Rioja are waiting patiently for you at your local wine shop. I was ecstatic to find this 2006 Marqués de Riscal Rioja Reserva at The Wine Rack on Frankfort Ave in Louisville. I adore the wide but not at all overwhelming collection that this shop boasts and they are always more than happy to offer a recommendation or help guide you to the bottle that best suits your tastes. I previously posted about a 2008 Zuazo Gaston Crianza, another favorite that is available at The Wine Rack. Both bottles are very reasonably priced and you will taste the value, particularly in this Marqués de Riscal Reserva. Notes of plum and blackberries present themselves in this smooth and supple wine. There is a hint of spice that offers and low and smooth kick in the finish. It is a perfect pair for beef, lamb or simply a relaxing night in. So whether it is this bottle or another, I encourage you to bring Rioja into your life. It will brighten it, one sip at a time.