There is a common belief in the wine world that smaller is better – that low-production wines from small producers are better made, more expressive, and generally a cut above their high-volume counterparts.
While I generally agree with this perception, I am often reminded that large-production wines can sometimes be excellent, both in quality and value.
A perfect example is El Coto’s 2015 Rioja Crianza, a widely available wine from Spain’s most famous appellation, or denomination of origin. It’s a steal at an average price of $13 on Wine-Searcher and is listed for less at many stores.
Rioja has strict aging requirements for its wines. The entry-level “crianza” wines must spend a minimum of one year in oak casks and a few months in the bottle. But the 2015 El Coto has aged for almost four years, and it shows. The wine tastes mature, supple, and balanced and drinks more like a “reserva” than a young crianza.
Made from 100 percent Tempranillo grapes, Rioja’s signature variety, the wine bursts with dark- and red-berry fruit tastes, with cedar and spice notes in the background, and bright acidity that makes it an excellent wine for a number of dishes — spice-rubbed grilled pork chops quickly come to mind.
While the Crianza outperforms at its price point, for even greater depth and dimension look for the Coto de Imaz Rioja Reserva or the Gran Reserva. The 2012 Gran Reserva, in particular, is a truly exceptional wine that shows the beauty and refinement that the greatest Riojas can achieve.
El Coto happens to be the biggest wine grower in Rioja and the largest wine brand in Spain. Its range and quality show that, sometimes, being big can be a good thing.