Rioja is Spain’s answer to Bordeaux: a famous region of serious reds. Like Bordeaux it is a river basin near the Atlantic, though more elevated and inland, staying hot and dry in the rain shadow of hills just to the north. The great majority of wines are red blends dominated by the spicy and tannic grape, Tempranillo, whose berry fruit, leather and tobacco notes mesh nicely with the flavours of long oak aging that are a trademark of the region. Top Rioja carries the cedar note of French oak but the coconut-vanilla infusion of American oak is more traditional. Oak also defines the local wine hierarchy, with ‘Joven’ (young) seeing no oak, ‘Crianza’ having one year in oak and one year in bottle, and ‘Reserva’ adding to this year in oak with at least two years in bottle before release.