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All about our Rioja wines

Author: Des Howartu

I am a red man. Red in face when ran forth in exceeding speed. Red in face from the beating emissions of a sizzling yellow sun, especially upon my ginger haired paled faced complexion. Red in face when a dense and opulent bottled Spain slaps me with crimson tint awash. This is my beloved of the few that do, although a randy red is the peek. From belly bursts to faceted face I totter in admiration for this fine region of red. It’s been my staple through the student years. A firm favourite in the hedonistic raving 20’s and now that I approach the early mid thirties it seems to have bounced upon my brow once more. I almost feel that alcohol was invented for me with the creation of Alco-pops in my teens, Jager-bombs in my twenties and the explosion of regional craft beers in my thirties but back to the wine. The red red wine…

RIOJA IS ITS NAME and in this world of plenty for the fortunate it has tested time with its quenchable beauty. From ancient Romans introducing the vineyards, to medieval pilgrim’s traipsing through and taking the wine to many quarters of Europe. From Don Manuel Quintano visiting Bordeaux and taking the formula of oak barrels, thus increasing shelf life and rapid expansion to the Americas. To the mass devastation of the Bordeaux wine industry by vineyard sapping bugs called by a certain Doctor Who the Phylloxera. Who in-turn pushed the French to the region of Rioja and brought about style, skills and knowledge to the area that was exponentially reused. Recently the modern Rioja has taken on a couple of World Wars, when the vineyards were replanted with wheat to feed the populace and not replanted till the 1960s, however from this did bring upon the peek vintage of 1970. The 80’s saw high prices but low quality due to mass investment and over saturation. It seems the region got its funk back in the early 90’s and from then on the region was awarded the Denominación de Origen Calificada. It’s title of premier wine constituency.

Thank you, Wiki.

But why does this boy babble with booze on a very typical wine in which most of us have consumed by the pint and given no toss to the cheap cost of hoofing down the plonk of a questionably respectable six quid bottle… or maybe that’s just me. Was me. Very rarely me it seems, these days. Old student habits Diehard. Great film! Love da Bruce. Although he is a whiner instead of a wino when it comes to interviews, and seems a bit of an arse if you listen to Kevin Smiths You tube speeches. Sorry I digress. Back, to the babble.

Why do I babble? Well, there was a new boy or girl or transgender or whatever we want on the block - Milu Bicicleta Voladora. It’s from the same makers as one of our previously best-selling reds, you may have heard of or drank called Milu.

Here the new wine was an old wine. Instead of the oak aged process that was craftily taken from the French all those moons ago here one of our favourite winemakers German R Blanco (Bond villain in waiting indeed) has gone back to push forward a fresher more modern take on Rioja. Fashion it seems circles and not just in fashion. This beauty of a young to be drank soon Rioja has a fresh fruity redness mixed with floral tone. This mainly Tempranillo with slight squeeze of Garnacha gives good acidity and tongue tints of tasty fairground treats such as candy floss flavoured quince. The work done on this bottle is kept to a minimum and the grapes left to speak for themselves. Cement tanks are used for fermentation leaving no cross over of manipulation. German is a great winemaker, with good moral principles in the manner of wine. He even blooming steps on the grapes from time to time.

Now over to our legendary contender… a Rioja that has been here longer that the time I’ve committed to this dear bespoke wine and craft beer shop. Though I have only just reached the celebratory two month mark! I am as napoleon said. A shopkeeper… for this is a nation of such.

Here is the classic.

Decenio Las Orcas, Rioja. This titan of a glass is a real performer. Gracing the wooden boards of vineyard theatrics for years with its solid performances, tight grape line stability and quaffing vocabulary. It’s more for the autumn and winter months but during these chilly Easter spring eves it gone down like a Mark Rylance Shakespearean birthday performance at the Abby in the style of promenade. This bottle is my ideal from all those student years ago. It would have tipped oneself earlier to the revelries of a more superior recital of a scene I had rehearsed many a time. Think orange peel and frosty spice. Arnold Schwarzenegger cigar and un-trodden forest floor. This wine is purely Tempranillo and speaks volumes of its region. There’s so much variance in the land that this particular bottle takes in the nose of the mountains, the body of the river Ebro and the tail dipped in the Mediterranean atmosphere.

Here be the food item to pair with such fine wines. As I am from the Red Rose of Lancashire, a northern pedigree chum I will bestow the beauty that is the humble making but complex tasting LANCASHIRE HOTPOT. The Rioja’s will blend the meat and juice quite finely, adding a delectable partner for each others grip as they ride down the Pleasure Beach double dipper hand in hand. Just don’t forget the side of red cabbage me duck!

After the food is digested, here is a jingle to be danced amid red wine in hand. A playful ditty that chorally reminds this writer of hypnotic sunsets at the Café del Mar. It’s a transcendent tune to frisk with or just drink the plonk and wander amongst your own reminiscences.

I would like to thank Chef Nigel Haworth for this supreme recipe:


Serves 4

1 kg under shoulder, neck and shin of lamb (Cut into 3-4cm thick pieces)· preferably regional lamb, 700g thinly sliced onions· 1kg peeled King Edward potatoes· 25g plain flour· 40g salted butter, melted· 150ml chicken stock· 3tsp sea salt· White pepper· Hotpot dish - stoneware, diameter 8"/21cm, height 3.5"/9cm·


  1. Season the lamb with 1 tsp of salt and a good pinch of pepper, dust with the flour. Put the lamb into the base of the hotpot dish.
  1. Sweat off the onions in 15g of butter with one tsp of salt for 4-5mins (to sweat is to cook without colour in a covered pan, on a moderate to hot temperature). Spread the onions evenly on top of the lamb in the hotpot dish.
  1. Slice the potatoes horizontally (2mm thick). Place in a medium size bowl; add the remaining 25g melted butter, season with 1 teaspoon of salt and a pinch of white pepper-mix well.
  1. Put the sliced potatoes evenly on top of the onions, reserving the best-shaped rounds for the final layer and add the chicken stock.
  1. Place the Hotpot, covered in a pre-heated oven for 30 minutes on 180-200C (Aga equivalent bottom of the baking oven) then for approximately 2½ hours on 130C (Aga equivalent in the simmering oven).

So there be the Riojas at your disposal from our quaint bespoke local wine shop. I do hope they may add some juice for the day's squeeze.

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