Rioja is Spain’s answer to Bordeaux: its famous region for serious reds. Like Bordeaux this river basin is near the Atlantic but elevated and a little inland, staying hot and dry in the rain shadow of hills just to the north. Only 15% of its wines are delicious whites, while only 15% of blended reds are Garnacha (and Graciano, et al). The great bulk are red wines dominated by the spicy and tannic grape, Tempranillo, whose berry fruit, leather and tobacco notes mesh nicely with Rioja’s heavy use of oak. Top Rioja enjoys the cedar note of French oak but American oak is more traditional, valued for its more pronounced coconut-vanilla infusion. Oak also defines the local hierarchy with ‘Joven’ (young) wines getting none, ‘Crianza’ getting one year in oak and one year in bottle and ‘Reserva’ at least one in oak and two in bottle before release.