Rioja Review

‘Tis the season for tons of dinner parties and get-togethers. There’s nothing quite as nourishing — emotionally, intellectually, culinarily — as eating and drinking with friends. But I’ve always found bringing wine to a dinner party to be one of the most anxiety inducing parts of life that most of us deal with on the regular, due to all the conflicting requirements. On one hand, you want to bring something that tastes great. But you don’t want to spend too much. But you also don’t want to be seen as cheap. It’s a lot of conflicting messages to contend with. Welcome to December!

For this exact reason, I’ve recently been on a bit of a Rioja kick. I find Rioja to be insanely crowd-pleasing, but also age-worthy and impressive. But the kicker is, you’re getting all this for much less money than you’d ever pay for a wine from a similar “top five” wine region like Bordeaux, Napa, or Barolo. While there are definitely some Rioja bottles out there that are wallet-busting (and are also worth it when you want to splurge!), there are a good number of producers making great wine and selling it at prices much lower than what you’d expect to pay for the quality, thanks to a variety of reasons (mostly economic).

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The Campo Viejo Reserva is a bottle that is instantly recognizable to anyone who’s spent any amount of time at all in the grocery store. True, that means it’s made by a large company, which also means it may not have as much character as your more boutique Rioja offerings (which seriously you need to be drinking!), but that doesn’t mean it isn’t great, especially for this time of year.

Drinking this wine is like hanging out with that reliable friend you always have a good time with. It’s easygoing, delicious, and at parties I always find myself wanting to open another bottle. That’s because just like that friend, there’s something here for everyone to love. It’s got ripe fruit that tastes like biting into a ripe plum, and there’s also a nice, spicy note that gives this wine depth and character. It’s not your funniest friend, or your smartest friend, or your most beautiful friend. But it’s that friend who you always end up inviting to dinner parties because they have something to say to everyone. They are that crucial lubrication that a perfect dinner needs so all the sparkly other guests can shine.

And like that easygoing friend, it’s not high-maintenance at all. You can probably find a bottle for about $12.