When you go out in a group and someone says “choose the wine” it seems the safest bet, the way to a crowd pleaser, is to pick the Rioja. Job done.
But you might be missing out. Rioja is a great region (its a place in Northern Spain, not a grape) and they produce lots or red, some pink and a little white wine.
The producers divide into two camps; little old Spaniards living in caves, and huge funky labels with laboratories. Its the latter that mainly make it into our pubs and restaurants. The wine will be full of fruit and consistent. Safe. Tasty. But boring.
Reach for the label you don’t recognise or if you’ve a list go for another region of Spain if they have it: Toro or Campa de Borja are a great start.
Spanish wines always deliver on value, so it is a great place to start, but be mindful that there could be another, more interesting gem just below the Rioja on the wine list or supermarket shelf, for less money.