Wine is a drink that promotes prestige and luxury thanks to its unique aroma and taste that derivates from a wide range of materials and ingredients. One of the main features that wines have is the fact that they age extremely well to the point that it is recommended to avoid opening wine bottles or reserves that were recently made as their flavor will not be on point when compared to other aged samples. However, due to the multiple types of ingredients and their different natural composition, not every wine supports aging in the measure, in fact, there is some terminology used to address how much time wine was aged.
Some particular wines can not age as far as others thanks to the natural composition of the grapes used. One of the biggest (yet common) mistakes that beginners commit is over-aging wine, and while they believe that the results will be outstanding, the final product becomes a complete turn-off due to the strange taste. That is why the next article focuses on aging terminology such as Crianza and how Crianza Wine is recognized.
Crianza Wine Term:
What does the Crianza in Terms of Wine Means?
Crianza is the term that is used to refer to the first tier of an aging terminology that originates from Spain. It is widely used to emphasize red wines in Spain that must be aged for a minimum of one year in an oak barrel and then another year in a bottle before they can be sold in wineries or stores in the region.
All of these wine aging terminologies have to do with Spanish Wine that is produced in DOCa Rioja. Most of these wines are exclusively red wines that have a strict guideline thanks to the ‘Old World’ appellations that are used in Spain. All of those designations are highly controlled by a regulatory group that is called the Consejo Regulador DOCa Rioja in Spain.
Unlike many ‘New World’ appellations, the wine aging terminology that is used in Spain is recognized for being more strict on the product and the aging process. The reason behind that behavior is due to the fact that an over-aged wine will only bring shame to the wine family and it could even become a turning point for wine enjoyers. That is why the terms of Crianza, Reserva, and Gran Reserva were created, to promote a safe, verified, and understandable wine aging policy.
What Makes a Wine Crianza?
As it was stated before, in order for a wine to be labeled as Crianza, it must meet a minimum of two years of aging, being one of those in the oak barrel and the other in the bottle. However, it is completely normal to see that many winemakers decide to go beyond that minimum, meaning that it is completely possible to find outstanding quality and well-aged wines under the Crianza category.
Keep in mind that all of these aging terminologies have an extreme connection to oak aging. The reason why it is important to be careful with the aging terminologies is because they are not related in any way to the type of grape material or variety that will be used for the wine’s production, meaning that it is also easy to fall from scams if the bottles are not acquired in the official stores or wineries.
However, do not panic! As many Spanish winemakers have a strong tendency of using the highest quality grapes for the production of the wines as promote a higher sugar concentration, making the final product be more defined.
Are Crianza Wines More Expensive than Traditional Wines?
Usually, it is not strange to see Crianza wines being more expensive than traditional wines, but there is a big reason for that price difference. As stated before, Spanish winemakers prioritize the quality of the grapes over anything else in the production process, and in this modern era, quality equals higher prices. Also since the aging process of Crianza (and the other terminologies such as Reserva and Gran Reserva) is more lengthy than other traditional wines, the storage space and production costs are usually higher than the standards of the industry.
In the wine industry, spacing is one of the most important details that every winemaker should cover successfully if good results are wanted. Since wines represent a massive share in the international commerce chain (even in the past) it is expected that popular wineries require gigantic spacing and production locations to store and successfully age the product on an industrial scale to avoid losses and potential sales.
That is why at the moment of choosing a price for the final product, the winemaker must go for a safe option that pays both efforts, work, and space investment to make some profit out of the sales, otherwise, it would be all for nothing, and there is nothing wrong than selling wine for practically nothing, meaning that years of expectancy and dedication would be wasted.
Are all Crianza Wines into the Red Wine Family?
This is something that many people fail to understand, no, not every Crianza wine falls into the red wine category as these aging regulations are also supported for the variety of the white wines. While white wines are supported, that does not mean that they are the main product, as the market stock is more flooded with Crianza red wines. That is the reason why Crianza white wine has different aging requirements.
In the case of Crianza red wines, the aging process must be under a minimum of 2 years, one year in the oak barrel and the other in the bottle. However, Crianza white wine must be aged for a minimum of 1 year, 6 months in the oak barrel, and the other 6 months in the bottle. In other aging terminologies the difference between each type of wine is usually one year less for the white wines.
Crianza Wines and The Wine Aging Terminology:
Just by the basic definition of Crianza wines, it can be noted that it is referred to as being the first tier of the whole wine aging terminology. This means that there are other tiers that are used for many wines, and they receive the name Reserva and Gran Reserva wines. While their names are completely different from Crianza, the whole idea is the same as they are wines labeled for having met the aging requirements of the industry.
Crianza Wines vs Reserva Wines:
In general, Reserva wines must meet a minimum of 3 years of aging prior to sale to receive the benefit of being labeled as Reserva. It is important to note that at least one of those years has to be in the oak cask or barrel and the remainders in a bottle. In terms of importance in the market, Reserva wines are often considered the sweet spot of wines as most winemakers decide to go beyond the minimum requirement, meaning that the highest quality wine is expected, and that is not something common to see in the next tier of this wine aging terminology.
Crianza Wines vs Gran Reserva Wines:
This is the last tier of Spanish wine aging terminology and in order for a wine to be granted the opportunity of being labeled as a Gran Reserva wine, it has to be aged at least for a minimum of 5 years, and 2 of those years must be done in an oak barrel. Gran Reserva wines are completely top-notch and probably some of the most exclusive aged wines that could be enjoyed (at least in Spain) but there could be some issues if the drinker is not aware and educated enough.
While Gran Reserva wines represent luxury and prestige, it is common to see many of the owners of these wines be extremely indecisive in regards to when to open the bottle, and that could be a problem because over-aging a wine beyond its recommended life span could destroy the unique taste and make it a failure, so it is always important to understand and check for how much time it is recommended to age these Gran Reserva wines even when they are already aged.
Conclusion – Are Crianza Wines Worth the Hassle?
If Crianza wines have to be ever described with a single word then it would be ‘quality’ without any single doubt. For a wine to be labeled as Crianza many requirements must be met, and the great majority of those requirements have a great impact on quality, meaning that the final product would definitely deliver results at least when it comes to the aging boost. Remember that while Crianza labels promote quality and certification on the aging process, it does not means that the used ingredients were of the highest quality, even when most winemakers in Spain decide to use the best materials, it is always of good practice to check details in order to avoid regretting the decision in the future (remember that Crianza wines are definitely not cheap and it could be a blow to your finances) over than that, Crianza wines are a good and safe choice for those that want to taste something different that goes beyond the traditional experience.