La Rioja is divided into 4 regions: La Rioja Alta and La Rioja Baja in the north, with the city of Logroño in between, and in the south La Sierra, which runs the full width of the autonomia. Rioja wine is only produced in the first three regions, as well as in neighboring autonomias north of the Ebro.
In some aspects, La Rioja, and the neighboring regions of Navarre and País Vasco, have inherited the winemaking techniques developed by the Catholic cradle of Castilla-León. The height, the funnel shape of the Ebro valley and the clay-lime soil made this region ideal for viticulture. In addition, the nobility (in almost every European country) had a fashion in the 19th century to import vines from Bordeaux, and then look for suitable slopes to grow them. That explains why Cabernet-Sauvignon and Merlot are found in a variety of places, from Uzbekistan to Tuscany. Spain had no shortage of nobility eager to do the same and Vega Sicilia in the DO Ribera del Duero testifies to such a successful experiment.
Wines from Rioja
The region of Rioja certainly has the status in Spain, which Bordeaux has in France. For a long time, wines from Rioja have been the core of Spanish wine, and almost no wine friend has ever drunk a Rioja wine. And although other regions have made huge strides, the Rioja wine, with its multitude of wine styles, remains and continues to lead the way in Spanish wine growing. It starts with the so-called Tinto Joven, (the label says Cosecha = vintage) the simpler wines from Rioja, which are not raised in wooden barrels or less than 12 months in wooden barrels. An important role also plays Rioja wines with the quality level Crianza, the quality level for wines from Rioja, which has been aged for at least two years, of which 12 months in oak barrels. Rosé and white wines need only have been in the barrel for six months. One of the most popular wines in Rioja, counts with the predicate Reserva, which are red wines of the Rioja, which have been developed for at least 36 months and of which at least 12 months in oak barrels. White wines take six months in the barrel and mature in the bottle for six months before they can call themselves Reserva. For a long time the absolute king of wines from Rioja de Gran Reserva. These are red wines, aged for 60 months, of which at least 24 months in oak barrels and then 36 months in the bottle, and white wines aged for 48 months, of which at least six months in oak barrels. Today, there are also a number of very good wineries, which renounce this and fill their absolute top wines without the names Crianza, Reserva or Gran Reserva.
The grape varieties of Rioja
A wide range of grape varieties have now been admitted in Rioja, because the control body of the qualified designation of origin Rioja authorized the approval of new grape varieties in 2007, in order to enhance the profile of the wines from Rioja. Nevertheless, as always, the Tempranillo stands out above all others and characterizes the image of the red Rioja wines. Garnacha, Graciano, Mazuelo and Maturana Tinta are also permitted as red grape varieties for Rioja wines. There was a true revolution before with the white wines of Rioja. Because with the Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and the Verdejo, three grape varieties can now be added, which have long been taboo for white wines from Rioja. Naturally, the classic white grape varieties such as Viura, Malavasía and Garnacha Blanca are also important, in addition to the ancient native grape varieties of Rioja such as Tempranillo Blanco, Maturana Blanca and Turruntés.
The famous Rioja wineries
Rioja has a huge number of excellent bodegas, which together vinify excellent Rioja wines. Hence, a list can always only be a crop, yet the following Rioja wineries are undoubtedly among the best and represent the different wines of the region par excellence. Among the great old traditions are Bodegas López de Heredia - Viña Tondonia, Bodegas La Rioja Alta and CVNE In the line of conservative makers, who also produce modern wines, Viñedos del Contino, Riojanas, Muga, Marqués de Murrieta and Marqués de Vargas. Modern Rioja wines come from bodegas such as Palacios Remondo, Abel Mendoza, Marqués de Griñón, Telmo Rodríguez and San Vicente, who have given Rioja wine a push in the right direction with excellent reviews from Robert Parker.
The main wine estates of the Rioja
Bodegas López de Heredia - Viña Tondonia
Bodegas La Rioja Alta
Viñedos del Contino
Marqués de Murrieta
Marqués de Vargas
Marqués de Vitoria
Marqués de Cáceres
Barón de Ley
Marqués de Riscal
Remírez de Ganuza
Marqués de Griñón