Rioja Reserva: Quick Guide

red-rioja-reserva-tinto-infographic-what's rioja reserva taste like - what to pair with Rioja Reserva

Rioja Reserva Pronunciation: ree-oh-ha reh-serve-ah

Rioja Reserva wines are oak aged. Red wines age 1 year in barrel, 6 months in bottle (3 years total). White and rose age 6 months in barrel, 2 years total.

What Is Rioja Reserva?

rioja reserva - rioja red wine aging requirements

If you see “Rioja Reserva” on a wine bottle it means the wine was produced in the Rioja region of Spain. The winery aged the wine for you. This is an official designation and wine term.

  • Red Rioja Reserva wines age 1 year in oak barrel (American) and 6 months in bottle (3 years total before release).
  • White Rioja Reserva wines age 6 months in barrel, and 2 total years before release. White Rioja Reserva wine is uncommon
  • Rose Rioja Reserva wines age 6 months in barrel, and 2 total years before release. Rioja Reserva rose is uncommon.

Helpful Tip: The youngest red Rioja Reserva wine you will see in a wine shop is at least 3 years old. That’s toddler age!

What Does Rioja Reserva Taste Like?

Rioja Reserva wines will have noticeable fresh fruit flavors, along with aged wine flavors. Expect hints of crunchy red fruit, like cherry and strawberry, and dried fruit and other aged wine aromas, like dried cherry, tobacco, and dried herbs. This is because dried fruit and floral notes develop your 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 Reserva Taste Like?

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

  • Red plum
  • Roasted almonds
  • White pepper
  • Dark chocolate
  • Strawberry
  • Orange zest
  • Thyme
  • Dark earth
  • Fresh meat
  • Lavender
  • Strawberry
  • Cherry
  • Blueberries
  • Baking spice (clove)
  • Vanilla
  • Cigar box

Expect red Rioja Reserva wines to be dry, medium to full bodied, with chalky tannins and a noticeable tang thanks to medium plus acid. The finish may linger on fruit, mineral, or even herbal notes.

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. Your wine’s flavor profile will depend on the grapes that go into the blend.

What Does White Rioja Reserva Taste Like?

White Rioja Reserva, or Reserva Blanco, wines will have fruit, floral, and oak notes with definite aging notes. These wines undergo barrel aging, imparting a subtle touch of spiced complexity. Here’s a list of the possible aromas and flavors you might encounter in your white Rioja Reserva wine:

  • Pear
  • Stone fruit (apricot, peach)
  • Dried golden apple
  • Wet rocks
  • White flowers
  • Earth
  • Pine nuts
  • Pineapple
  • Marzipan
  • Mushroom

Expect white Rioja Reserva wines to be dry wines with a fuller body and. White Rioja Reserva wines aren’t widely made or distributed. Expect to pay $25 – $80+ for Rioja Reserva Blanco.

How Much Is Rioja Reserva Wine?

Entry level Rioja reserve wines are $15-$20. Premium Rioja Reserva wines are $25-$40.

Helpful Wine Buying Tip: Spain offers excellent quality for value when it comes to wine. You can find 90+ point Rioja Reserva wines for $20 and under. Sweet!

Is Rioja Reserva Dry or Sweet?

Rioja Reserva wines are dry. Rioja Reserva’s higher acid and fresh fruit can give the perception of juicy sweetness, but these are dry red wines.

What’s the Difference Between Rioja and Reserva?


Rioja is the winegrowing region in Spain famed for making some of the highest quality wines in the country. Reserva is a classification or designation for oak-aged wines that’s used throughout the Rioja region. So Rioja is the region; Reserva is a classification.

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.

Here’s everything you need to know about Rioja Crianza wines, the youngest official oak-aged classification in Rioja.

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