John Radford weighs in on Rioja in 2011

 I’ve said before on these pages that the two wine writers with the most comprehensive knowledge of Rioja are the Englishman John Radford and the American Gerry Dawes.  I’m waiting to do an interview with the elusive Gerry (he was sighted in Galicia, Bilbao, San Sebastian and Barcelona a couple of weeks ago) but his wine brokerage business is logically top of mind these days.

 Don’t worry, Geraldo, I forgive you.

Meanwhile, John has just completed a comprehensive tasting tour of Rioja to follow up on his book The Wines of Rioja, published in 2004.  The hardcover edition of the book, published by Mitchell Beazley, is out of print but JR has just informed me that a Kindle version has been produced, available from Amazon.

John suggests buying both the e-book and the 2011 follow-up, written after his recent tour, where he tastes 500 wines, rating 64 of them 19 points or more out of 20, and visits a number of new bodegas that either didn’t exist or he had no time to visit the last time around.

If you want to get John’s take on what’s happening in Rioja, don’t forget to pick up both the book and the 2011 postscript.

The URL for the books at Amazon UKis

 In the USA it’s

Prices are £10,99 and £5,75 at the UK site and $19,81 and $11,50 at the US site.



Two granpas and a grandma speak out about Rioja

Yesterday I had a doctor’s appointment.  As I walked into the waiting room I heard a very spirited conversation between two men in their 80s and a woman in her 70s about the 2011 harvest in Rioja.  Rather than follow my natural instinct to join the conversation I decided to keep my mouth shut and just listen.

I expected them to be sympathetic to the farmers but surprisingly, the conversation revolved around how farmers were complaining about low prices for their grapes this year and how much money they had made in the past.

“Crazy”, “Irresponsible”, “Never happy about anything”, “Look at all the years they made lots of money”, “They all bought apartments, pushing prices higher” were some of the comments I heard.

“Do you still own any vineyards?” one of the men asked the other.  “No, we sold them a long time ago.”  The woman nodded, mentioning that her family had also sold theirs.

Then the conversation turned to the economic crisis. The lady said, “Here in the north you really can’t see the effects of the crisis.  The bars are full, people are buying new cars…  My son lives in the Canary Islandsand he says you can really tell that people are unemployed.  The tourist business is really hurting there.”

Then one of the men was called by the nurse and the conversation died out.

These three people impressed me.  Nobody interrupted and when they disagreed (one guy said that the grapes this year had very little sugar and the other one said they had too much) they didn’t start yelling and gesticulating like younger people.  They knew what they were talking about and clearly enjoyed talking to one another.

It made me think that it would be fun if they had blogs or wrote an article in our local newspaper. Their attitude and points of view were refreshing. And they certainly made more sense than a lot of the things I hear and read around here.