The Spanish Rioja wines have a tradition of high quality. Only Rioja's French counterparts Bordeaux and Burgundy come out ahead, and that may be in name only.

Although the Rioja tradition in the area may go back to pre-Roman times, today's principal wineries date to the 19th century. They include Bodegas Bilbaínas, Martínez Lacuesta, CVNE, Paternina, López de Heredia, Berberana, Marqués de Cáceres, AGE, Lan, Franco-Española and Marqués de Murrieta. All these wineries are considered good and they produce wines up to high-quality Rioja Alta (literally High Rioja).

Most Riojas are red, although both white and fruity Riojas have been made for several years now. They are also light-bodied with a light aroma and a noticeable tast of oak, deriving from the barrels in which they are made.

Excellent Rioja years were 1964, 1970, 1981 and 1983. Very bad years include 1972, 1977 and 1980.

The young reds go well with dark-fleshed fish and light meats. The better, old reds, according to their age, make an excellent accompaniment to a variety of foods including non-red meats, fish with sauces, game and similar dishes. The young white Riojas go well with grilled fish and shellfish, while older ones are better suited to fish with sauces. Rosés are usually taken with egg dishes, pastas and rice.

If you understand Spanish, you may find valuable.

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