Rioja and its personality: innovation in tradition
Rioja is a privileged region for growing grapes and making top-quality wines, with a unique personality and an exceptional aptitude for ageing. The Rioja wine region is located in northern Spain, on both sides of the River Ebro. The local terrain perfectly delimits the region and sets it apart from surrounding territories. The whole area benefits from the confluence of two distinctly opposed climates – Atlantic and Mediterranean – which provide mild temperatures and an annual rainfall of slightly above 400 l/m2 – ideal conditions for growing grapes.
THE THREE SUB-REGIONS
The Regulations recognise the existence of three sub-areas with distinct vitivinicultural characteristics. In Rioja Alavesa there is a significant influence of the Atlantic climate and the soils are chalky-clay situated in terraces and small plots. In Rioja Alta the climate is also mainly Atlantic, while the soils are chalky-clay, ferrous-clay or alluvial. Rioja Baja has a drier, warmer climate, thanks to the Mediterranean influence and the soils are alluvial and ferrous-clay.
MAIN GRAPE VARIETIES
The experience of grape growers and wine makers has resulted in a selection of those grape varieties that best adapt to the region’s climate and soils, while producing wine of the highest quality. This historical process has now been complemented by the innovative drive of the wine industry, always on top of market evolution and demands. This led to the approval of new grape varieties in 2007 for the first time since the Designation was created in 1925. The primary goal behind this is to achieve greater competitiveness in white wines and to bring diversity to wine production while maintaining the wines’ identity and differentiation.
The grape varieties that are currently authorised by the Regulations of the D. O. Ca. Rioja are:
- RED: TEMPRANILLO, GARNACHA, GRACIANO, MAZUELO y MATURANA TINTA;
- WHITE: VIURA, MALVASÍA, GARNACHA BLANCA, TEMPRANILLO BLANCO, MATURANA BLANCA, TURRUNTÉS, CHARDONNAY, SAUVIGNON BLANC Y VERDEJO.
Tempranillo is traditionally the most important grape variety in Rioja. Considered native to Rioja, it is the wine region’s most typical grape. It is the origin of the identity of its wines and one of the great grape varieties in the world. It occupies more than 75% of the region’s vineyards and it is very versatile from an oenological viewpoint. It is capable of producing wines that can withstand long ageing periods, with a good balance of alcohol content, colour and acidity, and an honest, smooth, fruity mouthfeel that turns velvety as it ages.
THE FOUR TYPES OF RIOJA
One of the traits that sets Rioja Wines apart is their excellent aptitude for ageing, a quality that is exclusive to great wines. Through appropriate ageing,. in which oak wood plays a decisive role, Rioja Wine evolves, its virtues becoming more prominent and acquiring new aromas and flavours. Rioja Wines are aged in 225 litre oak casks, where the wine experiences a slow evolutionary process of micro-oxygenation and stabilisation, and eventually acquires aromas and flavours released by the tannins in the wood. This is the traditional ageing method of great wines, a natural, more costly process than modern proposals of a more “industrial” oenology. The ageing process is completed in the bottle, where the wine continues to evolve in a reducing atmosphere until it reaches its peak. Great wines from historic vintages sleep in bottles for decades in the “sacristies” of the bodegas until they are transformed into true oenological gems.
Depending on the ageing process, Rioja wine can be put into one of four categories, identified by different numbered back labels or seals, which the Control Board issues to those wines that meet quality and tipicity requirements:
- Young wines: wines in their first or second year, which keep their primary freshness and fruitiness;
- Crianza wines: wines which are at least in their third year, having spent a minimum of one year in casks. For white wines, the minimum cask ageing period is 6 months. See our range of Rioja Crianza;
- Reserva wines: selected wines of the best vintages with an excellent potential that have been aged for a minimum of 3 years, with at least one year in casks. For white wines, the minimum ageing period is 2 years, with at least 6 months in casks. See our range of Rioja Reserva;
- Gran Reserva wines: selected wines from exceptional vintages which have spent at least 2 years in oak casks and 3 years in the bottle. For white wines, the minimum ageing period is 4 years, with at least one year in casks. See our range of Rioja Gran Reserva.
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