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Crianza, Reserva, and Gran Reserva are:

A. Names for different styles of Sherry based on the time they spend in solera

B. The classification hierarchy of wines in Rioja based on aging

C. New levels of vineyard designations in Spain, similar to French crus

D. Levels of barrel quality used to age Tempranillo-based wines

B.

Rioja has a classification system based primarily, but no longer exclusively, on how long the wines are aged. The aging hierarchy includes Crianza, Reserva, and Gran Reserva. Crianzas are young, easy-drinking wines. Reservas— supple wines with flavors of earth and old saddle leather, are aged longer and are made in very good years from superior grapes from top sites. Finally, Gran Reservas, made only in exceptional years, come from the very best vineyards and are rare. The top red Gran Reservas are silky and languorously mellow—the kind of wines that were once cultural imperatives, slipped, as they were, down the raspy throats of cigar-smoking Spanish men. Check out our red Rioja wine cheat sheet below:

The Red Rioja Aging Hierarchy

Crianzas

  • Reds: Must be aged for at least two years (one of which must be year in oak casks).

Reservas

  • Reds: Must be aged for at least three years (one of which must be in oak plus at least six months of bottle aging).

Gran Reservas

  • Reds: Must be aged for at least five years (two of which must be in oak casks and the remaining two years must be in bottles).

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