What’s better than a night market?  How about a Spanish style night market with top chefs turning out next-level tapas bites to accompany the wondrous wines of Rioja? It happened in May at Toronto’s Assembly Chef’s Hall.


Kim Gertler spoke with the event’s co-host, Rioja Brand Ambassador and Trade Director for Canada – Ana Fabiano, who’s also the author of the definitive book, The Wine Region of Rioja.



Kim Gertler (KG):  Tell me about the event in Toronto where you paired Rioja wines with snacks from some of the city’s top chefs.


Ana Fabiano (AF):  We have partnered with U-Feast for the past 3 years to feature Rioja wine with cuisines of many different countries ranging from Canadian fare to Italian, Asian to Indian. So, having a walk around showcase featuring many of the wines and chef samplings was a natural and successful progression.



KG:  And it was delicious. Let's talk about combining Rioja wines with different flavours.


AF: The intrinsic qualities of Rioja wine make it what I have coined ‘cuisine compatible’.  The diversity of our product offering ranges from fresh clean roses to interesting whites and our flagship selection of reds as a leading red wine region of the world.  We really can pair with anything but at this time of year grilled fish or meats, seafood salads, and marinades all move easily with our offerings. Chefs, somms and the consumer can relax around Rioja for pairings- and trust Rioja too.



KG: What is it that people don't know - but need to know about Rioja?


AF:  Quality and an incredibly pleasurable palate experience. A Rioja would never ever offend a palate :). The trade has a diverse offering of Riojas in Canada over 110 wineries so there is much to explore. Tempranillo is our primary grape. All zones and wineries have different expressions but its core expression is one of balance with bright red or black fruit, harmony and soft tannins are its welcoming signature.  Quality control is also paramount.  In a world of escalating private labels, the trade and consumer can trust Rioja.  Rioja was and is an agriculture region.  Wine is a not a part of life here but a “way of life” imbued in our culture, rich history, by generational family growers and wineries.  Authenticity cannot be fabricated - and that truly reigns in Rioja. Today I had another experience that validates this, here in the Najerilla Valley, of Rioja Alta, with Bodegas David Moreno located in the village of Badarán.



KG:  What awaits the wine enthusiast on their first visit to Rioja?  Why should we experience Rioja firsthand?


AF:  A spectacular experience! Rioja is beautiful, delicious, historic, healthy, authentic fun and safe. Thousands of people contact me pre and post a visit and it is always positive. I love to hear about their experiences.  Nothing can replace experiential learning. Rioja looks exactly as featured in my book, The Wine Region of Rioja.



KG:  How did your love affair with Rioja wines begin?


AF:  My first visit to Rioja was in 1987 and from there has evolved like a Reserva or Gran Reserva of Rioja. It has been an evolutionary and stimulating journey with great concentration in the past decade.  I wear various different Rioja hats and enjoy all the dimensions of my work.  Rioja has evolved but without sacrificing its indigenous grape varieties and ageing traditions, and keeping the land and its wines in the working hands of its people.  This is quite amazing. Heritage is a guiding force here.