My mates in the pub always give me stick when I recommend a wine over a fiver in my regular newspaper and magazine columns. They still can’t get their heads around the fact that as there’s only about 35 pence of wine in a five quid bottle it offers poor value. The remaining £4.65? That includes government duty, VAT, packaging, logistics and of course retailers’ profit. So, I had no problem recently, recommending a top bottle of Rioja with a £13 tag … that’s the price of a cinema ticket folks.

The most important thing to remember is that the quality of the grapes is the key to the quality of the wine; you can’t make top wine out of bad grapes, no matter how expensive the winery! I’m hoping that when my mates see how much effort goes into producing a bottle of Rioja they’ll see the light.

Rioja’s long been Spain’s most famous wine which is not surprising as these soft, red fruit favourites are mouthfeel friendly and offer good value, yes, even at £13!

Rioja comes from northern Spain where the region is divided into three districts, namely La Rioja Alta (high), La Rioja Alavesa and La Rioja Baja (low). The wine I recommended in my column was CVNE’s Rioja Reserva 2012. It hails from La Rioja Alta where Tempranillo (85%), Garnacha (Grenache, 5%), Mazuelo (5%) and Graciano (5%) combine to produce a lovely red with warm bramble spiced aromas and flavours, soft tannins (stuff from the skins that dries and puckers your mouth), and a lingering red fruit ‘finish’ (that’s how long the flavours stay in your mouth once you’ve swallowed). Don’t forget that the finish is a really good pointer to quality; the longer the finish, the better the quality. By the way, CVNE stands for Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España, a company that, founded in 1879 is still family owned. Keeping with tradition, their wines are still made in the company’s original Haro winery.

If you’re wondering what ‘Reserva’ means the best way to crack the code is to look at the red Rioja quality levels from the very top, namely Gran Reserva, the wines that by law have to spend a minimum of two years in the barrel and at least 3 years in the bottle before they can grace our shelves. ‘Reserva’ is next in the pecking order, being wines that have to spend a minimum of one year in the barrel and at least 2 years in the bottle before you’ll meet them on the wine aisle. For the record, winemaker Basilio Izquierdo aged CVNE’s Rioja Reserva 2012 in both American and French oak barriques, (barrels that hold about 225 litres, 300 bottles) for about 24 months before letting the wine rest in the bottle in CVNE’s cool cellars for a further 2 years before release.

“Talking oak”, French oak (oak from forests in France) imparts toasty flavours whilst American oak (oak from forests in America) will give the wine its characteristic vanilla overtones. As CVNE’s Reserva 2012 has been aged in both ‘French and American’ you’ll pick up both toasty and vanilla aromas and flavours in pleasing harmony with the ample fruit.

Completing the Rioja family tree, after ‘ Reserva’ comes ‘Crianza’, reds that have to spend a minimum of 12 months in oak barrels and a minimum of 12 months in the bottle before release. Don’t forget that although Crianza comes in at number three on the status ladder, it’s a quality wine that lines up proudly with its fellow Reserva and Gran Reserva Riojans. If you’re a bit skint this week, CVNE’s Crianza 2014, at about £9 will also make you smile.

So, pull a classic Rioja off the shelf this weekend; I’ll be happy to take the flak in the pub in the knowledge that you’re enjoying a cracking wine and getting really good value.