Drinking in Rioja, Spain

2015 Summa Rioja Reserva and Glass of Summa

The Main Character: 2015 Summa Rioja Reserva

On December 21, 2020 I took a little trip to Rioja, Spain for my birthday. I decided to plan this trip a few years ago. You only turn 42 once! Don’t get your nickers in a bunch. I didn’t travel on a plane and there was no need to quarantine. By simply un-corking a five year old vintage of Summa Reserva from Rioja, Spain I was quickly transported to its birth place.

Map of Rioja, Spain. Courtesy of riojawinetrips.com

Every bottle of wine carries a birth place and a story or you can call it history. Rioja has been known as Spain’s leading wine region. Located in the Northern area of Spain you will find over 157,000 acres of vineyards. Rioja is often referred to as “Spain’s Bordeaux” and even has connections to France.

The most well-known variety is tempranillo grapes. Rioja’s red wines must be aged longer before they are released than most of the other wines in the world. I have such a deep respect for this process. There are two styles of Rioja. First are the traditional wines which are aged for long periods, most of the time in American oak barrels and second, modern high expression wines. These wines are made from riper grapes and aged in new French oak barrels.

The grapes grown in Rioja provide many varieties such as: chardonnay, which I’m a sucker for, tempranillo blanco, sauvignon blanc, garnacha, tempranillo, and mazuelo, just to name a few. Our focus today is on the 2015 Summa Reserva from Rioja, Spain. Reserva is a wine produced only in excellent years. Red reservas from Rioja, must be aged for a minimum of three years, one of which must be in barrels. Once you know this, it sets you up for understanding the greater depth of this wine and its complexities.

The Wine Maker

The 91 point rating out of 100 points is prodcued by Bodegas Olarra Winery. Bodegas Olarra is located on the outskirts of Logroño, which is located in the core of the Rioja, Spain. Established in 1973, Bodegas Olarra Winery has been noted for the magnificence and intricacy of its 111 hexagonal domes. The winery is commonly known as the Cathedral of Rioja, which in my opinion adds a superior amount of class and humility.

Picture of Bodegas Olarra Winery

After much research and study the wines are only produced with exceptional years and the vines are over 40 years old! As I mentioned before, but its worth mentioning again, aging is done in new oak barrels for no less than 18 months, then laid down in the bottle for no less than another 18 months. If I did my math correctly, that is a 3 year process. It is such an intriguing process.

The Tasting

In my opinion I must say it was well worth the wait. I purchased this wine with the intention of cellaring it for a little longer. When you cellar a wine you make the conscious decision to take the wine you purchased and store it in a cool, dark place for a number of years. This allows the wine to improve as it sits in the bottle for longer periods of time. It can be tricky and addicting. Hence what led to me collecting wine, which will be discussed in a later post.

Because I had this in the wine cellar for a decent amount of time I knew there would be sediment in the bottle. In order to avoid having the sediment show up in the wine glass I had the bottle stand upright to allow any sediment to slowly work its way to the bottom of the bottle. I then chose to carefully decant the wine.

Glass Decanter and Wine Glasses

Decanting wine means you slowly pour the wine from its bottle into a different container, known as a decanter. The goal is to do this without disturbing the sediment at the bottom of the bottle. Why the “fancy” process to enjoy a glass of liquid bliss? It seems like a lot of extra work. There are two specific reasons for decanting wine.

The first reason to decant wine is to separate the wine from sediment that has formed during aging or cellaring process. The second reason, wine geek moment, is the effect of the oxygen. Decanting has an affect on the aroma and texture of the wine. Most of the time the wine you purchase from a store or online is ready to drink. Every now and then you may need to decant the wine. If you are unsure simply reach out to me and I am more than willing to offer advice. History tells us the drinking window for this wine is between 2018 and 2024.

Looking at the wine you will see a dark color with a fine ruby outer ring near the rim of the glass. The aroma of the Summa had a well married mixture of youth and age. I picked up aromas of vanilla, dark cherries, raspberries and even hints of earth. When I took the first sip, my mouth watered in reaction. On the palate I tasted overwhelming hints of cherries, raspberries, spices, vanilla, blackberry, blueberry, slight hints of tobacco, and earth tones at the end.

Food Pairing

This wine pairs well with any food and is good for any season. If you are looking for specifics I would suggest steak, burgers, beef stew, roasted chicken, veal stew and or braised veal chops.


Doing the research will always pay off. You will discover red wines from Rioja are a prized possession. What I personally enjoy about Spanish wines, is they are most often than not, a great bang for the buck. You have the ability to afford higher quality wine on a wallet-sized budget while keeping your bank account out of the negative.


The Traveling Somm YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCW6hOqu0-vT3dgFPxtswhQg?view_as=subscriber.

Wine Purchased: https://winelibrary.com/

Instagram: @the_traveling_somm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: