Rioja Crianza: Quick Guide

Rioja Crianza Pronunciation: ree-oh-ha cree-ahn-sa

Rioja-crianza - red rioja wine aging guide

Rioja Crianza wines spend at least 2 years aging. Red wines age 1 year in oak barrel. White and rose age 6 months in barrel, two years total.

What Is Rioja Crianza?

If you see “Rioja Crianza” on a wine bottle it means the wine was produced in the Rioja region of Spain. The winery aged the wine for you for a minimum of 2 years.

  • Red Rioja Crianza wines age 1 year in oak barrel (American) and 2 years total before release.
  • White Rioja Crianza wines age 6 months in barrel, and 2 years total before release. Rioja Crianza white is uncommon.
  • Rose Rioja Crianza wines age 6 months in barrel, and 2 years total before release. Rioja Crianza rose is uncommon.

Helpful Tip: The youngest Rioja Crianza you will see in a wine shop is at least 2 years old.

What Does Rioja Crianza Taste Like?

Rioja Crianza wines will have fresh fruit flavors and some noticeable aged flavors. Expect crunchy red fruit, like cherry, and the beginnings of dried fruit, like dried cherry. This is because dried fruit and floral notes develop as wines age. Also expect flavors from oak, like vanilla and spice.

Helpful Tip: Older wines have more dried fruit and floral qualities, called tertiary notes.

What Does Red Rioja Crianza Taste Like?

Red Rioja Crianza wines are blends of different grapes, so red Rioja Crianza wines will have a range of fruit, floral, and herbal notes. They will also have some spice notes thanks to barrel aging. Here’s a list of what you might smell and taste in your red Rioja Crianza vino:

  • Red plum
  • Strawberry
  • Cherry
  • Blueberries
  • Baking spice (clove)
  • Vanilla
  • Cigar box

Expect red Rioja Crianza wines to be dry with a chalky finish that ends on bright fruit.

Helpful Tip: Red Rioja wines are blends of grapes. The main grape that goes into Rioja wine is Tempranillo. Here’s a quick guide to Tempranillo vs Rioja.

What Does White Rioja Crianza Taste Like?

White Rioja Crianza, or Crianza Blanco, wines will have fruit, floral, and oak notes. These wines undergo barrel aging, imparting a subtle touch of spice to the overall flavor profile. Here’s a list of the possible aromas and flavors you might encounter in your white Rioja Crianza vino:

  • Golden apple
  • Citrus blossom
  • Pear
  • Honeysuckle
  • White peach
  • Almond
  • Toasted oak
  • Vanilla
  • Clove

Expect white Rioja Crianza wines to exhibit a dry character with a smooth, lingering finish highlighted by vibrant fruit notes.

Is Rioja Crianza Dry or Sweet?

Rioja Crianza wines are dry. Crianza’s high acid and vibrant fruit can give the perception of juicy sweetness, but these are dry wines.

Is Crianza Better than Reserva?

Crianza isn’t better than Reserva. Reserva wines are aged longer in the winery, meaning that they need to be of higher quality to withstand longer maturation times (more intense aromas and flavors). The pleasant aromas and flavors in wine fade with time. Higher quality fruit must go into Rioja Reserva wines.

Helpful Tip: Here’s a full breakdown of Rioja wine aging requirements.

What Is Rioja Wine?

Rioja wines are made in the Rioja region of Spain. This is a storied and historic winemaking powerhouse of a region worthy of our time. Check out the curious backstory of Rioja wine and how it came to dominate Spain’s winemaking culture.

Thirsty for More?

Check out the different Rioja wine label colors here to help you pick great Rioja wines.

Love Spanish wines as much as I do? Here’s a list of other Spanish red wines you should be drinking.

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