Rioja

The Rioja region is the most northern Spanish wine-growing region. And so it is close to the French border, about 350 km to Bordeaux. Rioja gets its name from the Rio Oja or the Oja River, this is a tributary that joins the Ebro at the town of Haro.

The fact that this region is close to France, is a big part of their history. When Phylloxera invaded Bordeaux, many of those French winegrowers went to Spain, and particularly to Rioja. They brought their art of blending, to create a homogenous substance. This would be a big change for the way of producing wine in Rioja. A lot of the Rioja wines were made in a French way.

In Rioja, there are both red and white are produced. The red wines are primarily made from the Tempranillo and Garnacho. White Rioja wines are made of the Viura, known as Maxabeo in Catalonia, and the classic Malvasia. Rioja wines are typically made in large Bodegas, or in other words: wine cellars. But there are only fifty of these Bodegas permitted in Rioja due to DO regulations, used for export.

West of Rioja we find Alta and Alavesa, these sub regions have a moderate climate. This means in this case that they do not have excessive rainfall nor hot summers. When we proceed down the Rioja Baja, the climate changes to nearly arid and very hot. The influence of this climate is to be seen in the taste and aroma of the eventual wine. For instance, Alta wines are more acidic and full-bodied. While in Baja the wines are stronger and bland. Winegrowers often choose to blend wines from the three sub regions of Rioja to create a better consistency and not to have the yearly variation of vintages.

In Rioja, they have a Consejo Regulador, or in other words: Wine Governor. This was started in the 1920s, this system was started to administer wine production and wine-marketing activities in the region of Rioja. A station is maintained in Haro, where the Oja and the Ebro meet. From here, there are people who inspect and make analysis of the proper way to produce wines in the region. But they also administer to regional regulations, that they are kept.

The types of Rioja wines are the following:

Clarete                 =             Light reds with a fruity aroma.

Tinto                      =             Dark reds, full-bodied and high in alcohol content.

Rosado                 =             Rosé wines, either light and dry or heavy and sweet.

Blanco                   =             White wines, both dry and green and golden and sweet.

Reservas              =             Red wines, chosen from better vintages and aged for at least six years.