A little indulgence for health-conscious wine drinkers

Rioja Reserva 2014 Ramon Bilbao
Rioja Reserva 2014 Ramon Bilbao

As the trend continues towards more healthy eating and drinking, watching our figures, our cholesterol and our intake of alcohol, more and more wine retailers are offering different size formats for alcoholic drinks, including wine.

Thus, the 50cl bottle (two thirds the normal size) is gaining in popularity. Containing just four good glasses, it is the perfect size for a little mid-week indulgence. Aldi, Waitrose and Tesco have all been trialling the smaller format bottles.

The Co-op has recently added to its range of 50cl bottles, with a Rioja Reserva 2014 by Ramón Bilbao and at £7 it represents great value at your local store. The producer is based in Haro in the heart of the Rioja Alta region and was established in 1924. Ramón Bilbao is now the best-selling DOC brand in the Spanish on-trade and is growing rapidly in the retail trade.

This Spanish red is made mainly from Tempranillo grapes, with small quantities of Graciano and Mazuelo giving added dimension. The winemaker Rodolfo Bastida has produced a wine with good fruit, medium body and soft tannins, designed for the modern drinker and as a good introduction for those who are new to the wines of Rioja. With some barrel ageing and bottle age, which produces the style and quality level of a Reserva, the wine still has all the structure, depth and character which typifies wines from this region.

Grapes are selected from vineyards throughout the Rioja region, including some from high altitude in the Rioja Alta, which give freshness and elegance, together with others from old vines, which have the structure and concentration necessary for ageing. With high quality fruit, the wood maturation enhances the flavours, rather than over-powering them. 18 months in American oak barriques, was followed by a further 18 months maturing in old wood. The Reserva quality level represents over one fifth of all Rioja imported into the UK.

A fruity, structured wine, with flavours of black fruits, liquorice and spice, this is the modern progressive style of Rioja, meeting the demand for easy-drinking wines, which have versatility, yet well-made enough to be taken seriously. With its 50cl format it’s ideal to accompany grilled spicy sausages, roasted chorizo or a full flavoured cheese.

Richard Esling BSc DipWSET is an experienced wine consultant, agent, writer and educator. An erstwhile wine importer, he runs a wine agency and consultancy company called WineWyse, is founder and principal of the Sussex Wine Academy, chairman of Arundel Wine Society and is an International Wine Judge. Twitter @richardwje. Visit www.winewyse.com.