Located just beneath the protective veil of northern Spain’s Cantabrian Mountains, the La Rioja wine–making region is situated on what Spaniards call a mesa, or plateau. The high peaks temper the climate, shielding the area from fierce winds and allowing its vineyards to thrive. Much of the resulting wine, known as rioja, is derived from a noble, thick–skinned Spanish grape varietal called tempranillo.
The hallmark scents and flavors of tempranillo grapes are derived from finely grained tannins reminiscent of tea leaves. This herbal, earthy scent, combined with the grape’s low levels of acidity, make tempranillo a soft yet sturdy, full–bodied wine.—Condé Cox