£25–£29, Laithwaites, Swig, Armit
Vina Ardanza is one of the true classics of Rioja. It's been around for 76 years and each vintage has the same overarching style – generous, inviting, elegantly oaky and spicy – but varying according to the growing season. 2009 was a hot, dry year, which isn't necessarily a good thing, but in this case September rains came at the right time to slow the pace of ripening and give succulent, sweet, spicy red fruit, nutty roundness and polished tannins. The blend is 80% Tempranillo from 30-year-old vines in the Rioja Alta sub-region and 20% Garnacha from a vineyard in La Rioja Oriental (a new source last year). The Tempranillo was aged in American oak barrels for 36 months and the Garnacha for 30 months before they were blended. It probably doesn't need any food recommendations from me but, for the record, Rioja is a meat-lover – most meat, but especially lamb, whether slow-cooked shanks, pink roast leg or lamb cutlets scottadito. If you don't want meat, something aubergine or mushroom-based is a good way to go.
La Rioja Alta Viña Ardanza Rioja Reserva 2009, Rioja, Spain
£25 (or £22.50 in a mixed case of 12), Laithwaites; £25 (£23.50 when you buy 6), Swig; £29, Armit