Is Campo Viejo Rioja your go-to Spanish red wine? With sales of around two million cases per year, you’re not the only one. Supermarket shelves are full of Campo Viejo wines, from its entry-level Garnacha all the way up through Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva Rioja levels. For many people, Campo Viejo Rioja is their reference point for Spanish wine.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but we think you can do better…
What’s the problem with Campo Viejo Rioja?
There’s no problem, truly. Campo Viejo Rioja range is a part of Pernod Ricard, the drinks giant behind other brands like Brancott Estate and Jacob’s Creek. Pernod Ricard is not in the business of making bad wine, and Campo Viejo is a clear case in point: It’s good Rioja. Sometimes, it’s very good. It’s usually very well-priced, too. What’s not to like about a Rioja Reserva wine for under €10? The “problem” with big brand wines like Campo Viejo is not quality or price, but scale.
Most of the best wine in the world is made in extremely limited producers. Artisans grow grapes on tiny plots of the best land, harvest by hand and do everything with love and care. Is it possible to achieve the same result on what’s closer to an industrial scale? Campo Viejo Rioja comes close, for sure, but there’s nothing quite like the real deal.
As an alternative to Campo Viejo, we’ve looked outside the Rioja region altogether…
Our top substitute for Campo Viejo Rioja
Vizcarra Senda del Oro
You probably haven’t heard of this one, but you’re going to want to try it. Not exactly a household name like Campo Viejo Rioja, but it’s the real deal. Vizcarra Senda del Oro 2015 comes from Bodegas Vizcarra, a small family-owned winery in Spain’s Ribera del Duero region. This place is Rioja’s biggest rival, and is home to some of Spain’s greatest names, including Pingus and Vega Sicilia.
Winemaker and owner Juan Carlos Vizcarra Ramos is the second generation to run the family property. Today the winery is gravity-fed, with minimal use of pumps. Juan Carlos carries out frequent experiments and microvinifications with plots of old vines in the search of an ever better expression of his family’s vineyard.
Alcohol content: 14%Serve between 12ºC and 16ºCOptimal consumption period: 2015-2018The wine does not need to be decantedBest served in Tempranillo GlassPairing: Legume, Mushroom, Roasts, Sausage, Stews.
Why fans of Campo Viejo Rioja will like it
Vizcarra Senda del Oro 2015 is a 100% Tinto Fino (Tempranillo) wine, the fruit picked by hand from 15-year-old vines. Tempranillo is the key grape in Rioja, too, and plays a large part in the blends of the various Campo Viejo Rioja wines. The two wines thus share some of the same fruit flavour profile.
Oak barrel ageing red wines is a signature of both Rioja and Ribera del Duero. Most Campo Viejo Rioja wines undergo a relatively long ageing period before release. With 7 months in American and French oak, Vizcarra Senda del Oro has had a short but respectable time in oak too. This puts it closer to Campo Viejo Rioja Crianza than Reserva, where it takes some structure from the oak but retains most of its fresh fruit flavours.
We can say that it’s all about the grapes, the winemaking and the family spirit. That’s not the whole picture, though. Price matters in wine and this one is priced very well indeed. For less than €10, you’ve got a quality red wine from a small family producer, with some nice critics’ scores (89 points from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate and 90 points from Guía Peñín) – all coming together to make a viable alternative to Campo Viejo Rioja!