Rioja Masterclass with The Online Wine Tasting Club

Over a year ago, Jamie & Alex had just opened the doors to their brand new tasting room & winery to share their passion for wine when the Covid-19 pandemic developed. Determined to overcome the new situation we all found ourselves suddenly facing, they set about creating the Online Wine Tasting Club! As lockdowns loomed, a virtual wine tasting with fabulous wines hosted by passionate wine lovers would definitely be a popular activity for many.

As a friend’s virtual birthday celebration I suggested we take part in an session to sample one of our favourite wines, Rioja, from the comfort of our own homes!

How it works

The Online Wine Tasting Club!

Tasting events are available as a single tasting or as part of their wine club subscription. The single tastings are perfect if you want to see what they are like, or if you’d like to focus on a grape or region you are particularly interested in sampling. Subscriptions are available for either the Discoverer series, which is the perfect entry point to wine tasting or the Adventurers Series, which is perfect for those of you who want to take the next step in your wine knowledge! By signing up to a rolling monthly membership you can save 10% on the wines and receive your 5 fabulous wines each month, but as it’s commitment free there is no minimum subscription length.

Virtual wine tastings definitely have their own hurdles to overcome, most notably the postage of the wine safely & in time – I’ve unfortunately experienced the huge disappointment of receiving broken bottles in the post on wine orders. This is where their winemaker’s engineering degree coming in handy they developed an innovative packaging that is absolutely fantastic!

The custom-built mailing boxes fit 5 individual wine boxes. They decant the wines into small wine tanks filled with ‘inert gas’ which avoids the wine becoming oxidised or sediment being boxed. They also ensure they sample a little of each wine before sending it out to check there are no faults (like corkage). The wine is then put into the individual sachets in exact measurements and inert gas in seconds! The film sachets are designed to protect your wine for all of the risks to it’s integrity – oxygen, light, heat & pathogens whilst also ensuring it doesn’t get damaged en route to you!

The kits contain 5 wines for your selected event, which is recommended for 1 taster. Subscribers can register for large packs which are sufficient for two to share, and there is also the option to purchase them as a full bottle set as well!

The wonderful packaging for the wine samples from The Online Wine Tasting Club

On the night of the tasting you simply log in to the exclusive Zoom meeting detailed on your wine information sheet to join a live tasting. The great thing is that the tastings can also be watched at a later date using the YouTube content available afterwards, which is perfect if your schedules with friends don’t align for the live tasting session. This was the ideal option for my friend and I who were both unable to attend on the night, plus it meant we could pause to chat throughout the tasting without missing anything!

The Tasting

The tasting pack will arrive in the week before the tasting is scheduled, and instructions on how to store it can be found in the pack. We had chosen an Adventurer session for a Rioja masterclass, which is based at the WSET Level 2/3 point and in the 90 minute session would teach us how the wines are made, the highlights of this wine region and were given a chance to meet the winemakers directly to learn even more about each of the wines we sampled. Around the wines there were also vignettes that explained some traditions from the area and some general wine making information as well to enhance your knowledge.

Ready for my Online Wine Tasting Club Rioja Masterclass!

Ready with 5 glasses, some snacks (to make sure I didn’t get too drunk!) and excited to learn we logged in to the wine tasting session ready to learn about the wonderful Rioja region and sample some fabulous wines! All of the wines are available to purchase after the tasting if you find something you fall in love with and they are across a range of price points as well. The wines we tasted ranged from £14 to £45 a bottle.

The Denomination of Origin Calificada Rioja is a region in northern Spain across both side of the River Ebro in 3 large specific sections that contains over 60,000 hectares of vineyards that produce a wide range of leading wines. The different sectors benefit from differing climates & soil profiles, that gives a great range of vines that can be grown & used to produce amazing blends.

Luis Canas

Although most rioja wines are red, we started the tasting with a new age White Rioja from winemaker Luis Canas. The Vinas Viejas was a 2019 vintage, and as a white wine had to be chilled before drinking. As part of the tasting there was an interview with the winemaker who explained the history of the vineyard and how the wine is produced. The wine is produced using largely Viura grapes to keep it’s white colour, which are grown on over 1000 plots in 14 types of soil!

Vinas Viejas White Rioja from Luis Canas

The pale lemon wine was a off dry wine that had a lovely citrus body and a richness from oak. It would be wonderful as a pairing with tapas or seafood or cheeses like manchego as well due to it’s high acidity. I haven’t tasted many white Riojas, and I was pleasantly surprised with how rich but light this was as a variety and it would be fantastic for spring/summer dining.

Badiola

For the second & third wines we were given two Badiola wines to compare and treated to an interview with a Master winemaker! When they decided to make a new wine they were focused on the region they had to grow in and how the minerality of the soils, altitude and personality of the village vines available to them would affect the final product. Their first vintage was release in 2018 and they compared the impact of the changes in vines by making the process from picking grapes, to producing, bottling etc as close as they possibly could.

Wine 2 & 3 from Badiola

The result is that by using the Tempranillo grapes from vines separated by 50 minutes in location they have produced two similar but distinctly different wines! I really didn’t think there would be much of a difference between them as they were so close, but you really can taste a difference. The first wine we tried was very smooth with toffee notes, depth and more legs on the wine than the second one which had a lighter, fresh fruit notes and a greater acidity. None of these differences came from the processing, it’s all from the different village vine locations! As the building where the wines is produced is not in each of the villages for economy and logistical reasons they are prohibited from naming each wine after the village that grows the vines! Therefore they have cleverly and uniquely named them using numbers and letters that denote each village, it definitely stands out.

Marques de Murrieta

Rioja is a type of wine that has legal stipulations around using the terms Crianza, Reserva & Gran Reserva that are only issuesd by the Regulatory Board in the region. These designate the minimum time that the wines must spend in barrels and bottles before sale and wines are then awarded special legal seals (which are different colours to help you differentiate!) that feature on numbered bottles. If you ever see a bottle of wine that says ‘Reserva’ and it doesn’t have the seal on it, it doesn’t actually mean anything and it won’t have spent the obligatory 2 years in a barrel and 2 years in a bottle.

The Marques de Murrieta wines we tasted were a 2015 Reserva (2 years in a barrel & 2 years in a bottle) and a 2014 Gran Reserva (2 years in a barrel & 3 years in a bottle minimum). The winery started producing in 1852 and the final wine we would taste was named the Best Wine in the world in 2010 by the Wine Spectator, so I knew we were in for a treat!! By tasting the two of these together it helped to show me the difference between the length of bottling on the wine.

Marques de Murrieta Reserva & Gran Reserva

The Reserva was a deep red and spends 10 months in oak before being changed in barrels. It was very balanced, with a fresh blackberry and balsamic flavour. The final wine we tasted was absolutely outstanding, I can see why it was named Best in the World! As one of the oldest and biggest Rioja producers they clearly know what they doing in producing excellent wine. I do think with the strength of the tannins in the wine it would be best served with food but was definitely drinkable on its own too. I loved that the winemaker even recommended to drink with with fish, normally not the done thing with red wine, but I can definitely see that this would be fantastic with smoked salmon.

Verdict

I had such a fun evening with friend learning about Rioja & sampling 5 delicious wines. The additional vignettes on La Battala de vino (which I now really want to go to!), tannins and oak were fantastic additional touches that made this a great advanced level tasting. I loved that we had the option to do the tasting live with everyone, or at a convenient time on our own, which also meant that we could pause and chat amongst ourselves as we desired. I’d highly recommend attending The Online Wine Tasting Club events to expand your wine horizons, whether for an introductory Discoverer session or a more in-depth Adventurer lesson.

The Online Wine Tasting Club Rioja Masterclass

Cost: £35 for an Adventurer Series Tasting, £25 for a Discoverer Series tasting for one. Options for two & savings available if you become a member.

Website: The Online Wine Tasting Club

Date: February 2021

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