Traditional Rioja Done Right

rioja_bordon_crianza.1by Andrew Chalk

Bodegas Franco Espanolas is a wine maker founded in 1896 in the town of Logroño by Spanish and French vignerons to produce Rioja wine. Today, the winery is totally under Spanish ownership and committed to producing quality wines in the traditional Rioja style. Last week, export director John Perry came through town to show the latest vintages of the company’s wine and I was an invited guest at a trade tasting.

Franco Espanolas wines’ intrigued me not least because they appeared to be such good values. Furthermore, most Rioja nowadays is in what is called the ‘modern’ style of forward fruit and French oak. By contrast, Franco Espanolas expressly adheres to the traditional style of using American oak for ageing. Also, a winery characteristic is that they age their wines longer in oak and in bottle than is legally required. The result is a better consumer experience on purchase as a result of finding the wines nearer peak aging.  

At our tasting we went through the wines in normal way of tasting Rioja as listed in the table below: white before red. Reds in increasing order of quality.




2012 Royal White


100% Viura. Light, good acidic, lemon flavors. A good match for oysters, most shellfish, simple fish dishes.

2010 Royal Red


80% Tempranillo/20% Garnacha. Part of the  Tempranillo underwent ‘carbonic maceration’. Aged with just 6 months in white American oak and 6 months in bottle. A fruit-forward red exhibiting red fruit (raspberries) and low tannins. Serve as a party wine or with red sauce pasta or barbeque.

2009 Rioja Bordon Crianza


Serious reds start here. 80% Tempranillo/20% Garnacha. Aged for 15 months in American oak and 15 months in bottle. This wine qualifies to be labelled a reserva but gets the lesser Crianza label.

This wine showed some complexity, especially in the nose. Early notes were fruit and wood. Later coffee and chocolate came through.

This wine would pair well with pork, duck or veal and reward an hour’s breathing before serving.

2007 Rioja Bordon Reserva


80% Tempranillo/15% Garnacha/5% Mazuelo. 20 months in American oak, two years in bottle.

Intense red fruit wrapped in sweet tannins. Will age several years if desired. Serve with hearty red meat dishes (e.g. steak, lamb, game). A true bargain for a wine that noted critic Robert Parker rated 90 points.

2004 Rioja Bordon Gran Reserva


80% Tempranillo/10% Garnacha/5% Mazuelo/5% Graciano. A complex and brooding wine that has fruity, earthy and spicy notes in equal proportion. Can be drunk now but will keep several more years and likely improve. Great value.


Availability (not all stores have all of the wines):

Pogo’s, PK’s , McKinney Wine Merchant, Wine Poste, Monticello Liquor, Brian’s Wine.


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