The Rioja is Spain's best known wine region. And while it used to have a reputation of producing very rustic, heavily oaked wines, that more resembled chewing on dead tree bark than drinking a glass of fermented grape juice, it is today (and has always been) a region where beautiful wines are made. Many wineries changed their style to please the palates of an international audience, resulting in more fruity wines, that still kept the unique qualities of Rioja.
A very good example of such a modern wine is Cune Rioja Crianza. We've seen both the 2004 and 2005 vintages on the shelf of OUA recently (at about 7.500 OMR) and both are equally good.
This wine aged in oak for 12 months (the legal minimum for Crianza), what resulted in a lovely combination of dark, ripe fruit (cherries and forest fruit), good freshness and a spicy finish. The use of oak is very moderate, adding a nice touch. Go for the 2005 if you're looking for fresh fruit and a slightly tannic finish, and choose the 2004 if you prefer your wine to be more mellow. The extra year in the bottle has softened the tannins, but also caused the fresh fruit to evolve into more secondary tones (spices, earthy notes).
We'd love to see more wines like this on the shelves, instead of the never ending stream of Autralian fruit bombs. There are plenty good, fresh, affordable wines made in Italy, Spain, Portugal, and France. Let's get them over here!