When it comes to Rioja, there are no finer wines than the Gran Reservas or the rare Gran Reserva Especials. While I have mentioned that this classification simply refers to the time the wine is required by law to spend in barrel and bottle before sale, the truth is that the vast majority of Rioja Bodegas are only willing to make this huge investment with a product that will pay off in the end.

By pay off I mean a product that can actually benefit from this lengthy ageing process. At their best, Gran Reservas are all about contrasts. They are paradoxical wines in many ways, combining the nature of Tempranillo that is accented with several other grapes with the influence of winemaking decisions.

Photo courtesy Marcel Theisen via Flickr/CC