I’M guessing there wouldn't be much response if I shouted "hands up if you don't like rioja" as it's the go-to smoothie for so many wine lovers. In fact the only folk I've met who avoid it are those prone to headaches from red wine, which the heavy oak ageing of rioja tends to exasperate.

It's one of those accidental products to be honest because the region of Rioja has been producing wine for hundreds of years but most of it was as rough as a badger's backside until their neighbours, the French, showed up in the 19th century. The French headed south when their own vineyards were decimated by root bugs and thankfully they shared their knowledge of oak ageing with the winemakers of Rioja.

As it turned out, tempranillo, the main red grape of the region, took to oak like a duck to water and the rest, as they say, is ‘vanilla tinted’ history. It’s a fabulous partnership, because even today in the hands of modern winemakers, unoaked tempranillo smells a bit like Beaujolais Nouveau to me and if you haven't tried the latter, don't. It has an aroma like a guinea pig's hutch. Thank heavens the French only force it on us once a year.

Tempranillo has an amazing ability to age for decades in oak barrels if you have the patience, and it's not at all unusual for vineyards to release gran reservas with 20 or more years of age on them. The longer the wine has in contact with oak, the softer and more velvety it seems to become and the end result is often an incredibly smooth and complex wine with hints of cocoa, coffee, vanilla and, quite often, cigar boxes.

Belezos Rioja Gran Reserva

Yeah, I know, it's £28.50, but if you can find a better way to spend that amount, please let me know. Summer fruits, vanilla, polished leather and hints of coffee...or in other words, sublime, sophisticated and so, so lovely.

Corney & Barrow £28.50

El Duque de Miralta Rioja Gran Reserva

A cracking rioja, but give this one time to breathe for best effect. It's a darker style than normal with almost stewed black fruits, chocolate and a lovely hint of caramel on the finish.

Marks & Spencer £15