As the BBQ's finally get going this year my mind turns to the smoky flavours of Rioja and Spanish wine in general - this is surely a match made in heaven. Those of you who have been to Rioja will be familiar with the classic dish of lamb grilled over dried vine twigs - just superb.
The Tempranillo (or "little early one" - so called because of the vine's small berries and early ripening) is the classic red grape variety of Spain. Long thought to be a possible ancestor of Pinot Noir but now proved to be indigenous to Spain, there is no doubt that the grape does bear a marked resemblance to Pinot Noir, which is why I like it so much.
This grape forms the basis for all Rioja as well as for a large
number of other wines from all over Spain where it is known by a
variety of different names including the mystical Ojo de Liebre (or "eye of the hare") in Catalonia.
Rioja is the only wine producing region in the world who age their wines for the customer which means that you are never in danger of drinking a wine too young. Some of the more traditional producers age their wine for years in barrel and bottle before releasing it onto the market - just for your benefit!