If you’re looking to expand your wine horizons, let’s talk about Rioja. This Spanish wine region is the real deal, holding the prestigious denominación de origen calificada (D.O.Ca.) status – the highest you can get in Spanish wine regulations.

Rioja wines are made from grapes grown in La Rioja and Navarre, as well as the Basque province of Álava. The region is divided into three zones: Rioja Alta, Rioja Oriental, and Rioja Alavesa, each with its own unique flavors and characteristics. Many wines traditionally blend fruit from all three regions, but there’s a growing trend in single-zone wines that really showcase the best of each area.

So, if you want to dive into the world of Rioja reds, get ready for a journey through some seriously top-notch Spanish wines! Cheers to expanding your wine knowledge.

Unearthing the Ancient Roots of Rioja: A Journey Through Centuries of Winemaking Tradition

The story starts way back in the 11th century BC with the Phoenician settlers, who were the first to kickstart winemaking in the Spanish region of La Rioja. Then, the Ancient Romans got in on the action and founded many of the Rioja vineyards, leaving their mark on the region’s winemaking tradition.

In the Middle Ages, pilgrims passing through the region on their way to the shrine of St. James at Santiago de Compostela spread the word about the delicious wines from La Rioja, giving them a well-deserved reputation.

Jumping forward to the late 19th century, the phylloxera epidemic had a huge impact on the Rioja wine industry. The devastation of the French wine industry caused an influx of French investment into the region and opened up the French wine market, bringing about significant expansion and modernization.

Today, along with Sherry, Rioja is one of the most internationally recognized Spanish wines out there. So, the next time you take a sip of a delicious Rioja wine, remember the rich history and tradition that has gone into making it what it is today

Exploring the Sub-Regions of Rioja: A Must-Know for Red Wine Beginners

If you’re looking to expand your knowledge of Rioja wines, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with the sub-regions of this famous Spanish wine region. Let’s start with Rioja Alta, known for its “old world” style of wine. Thanks to its higher elevation, this region produces wines with brighter fruit flavors and a lighter palate.

Next, we have Rioja Alavesa, located in the province of Álava in the Basque Country. Similar to Alta in climate, Alavesa’s wines have a fuller body and higher acidity. The vineyards here have low vine density due to poor soil conditions, giving the vines more room to thrive.

Last but not least, we have Rioja Oriental (formerly Rioja Baja). This region is the warmest and driest of the Rioja, heavily influenced by a Mediterranean climate. The wines from this area are deeply colored and highly alcoholic, with less acidity and aroma compared to wines from other parts of the Rioja.

So there you have it, the sub-regions of Rioja in a nutshell. Whether you’re a beginner or an intermediate red wine lover, knowing about these sub-regions will give you a deeper appreciation for the diversity of Rioja wines.

The Evolution of Rioja’s Grape Varieties: What Every Red Wine Lover Needs to Know

Let’s talk about the grapes of Rioja. Ever since its foundation in 1925, the Regulating Council of the D.O.Ca. Rioja has authorized seven traditional varieties, with four red and three white grapes.

For the reds, we’ve got Tempranillo, Garnacha tinta, Mazuelo (or Cariñena), and Graciano. And for the whites, there’s Viura (or Macabeo), Malvasía, and Garnacha blanca.

But in 2007, the Regulating Council gave the thumbs up for some new varieties within the denomination, including Maturana tinta, Maturana blanca, Tempranillo blanco, Turruntés (or Torrontés), Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc, and Verdejo.

If you’re a fan of single varietal wines, you’re in luck because the new autochthonous varieties allow for that. And when it comes to foreign white varieties like Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc, and Verdejo, they can’t be the main grape in the wine. In fact, if the varieties are listed on the label, the autochthonous white variety must always be listed first.

These new varieties were brought in to preserve Rioja’s viticultural heritage and to make Rioja whites more competitive on the global stage. So, the next time you’re sipping on a glass of Rioja, think about the journey of these grapes and the rich history they represent.

The Evolution of Rioja: Understanding the New Classification System

If you’re diving into the world of Rioja, it’s important to understand the different classifications that signify the aging process of these delicious Spanish wines.

First up, we have Crianza. For red wines, this means the wine has spent a minimum of two years aging in oak barrels and bottles, with at least one year in the barrel. Whites and rosés follow a similar timeline, with a minimum of six months in barrels.

Then, there’s Reserva. For red wines, we’re talking at least 36 months of aging, with a minimum of 12 months in oak barrels. Whites and rosés need a minimum of 24 months total aging, with at least 6 months in barrels.

Finally, there’s Gran Reserva. Red wines require at least 24 months in the barrel, followed by a minimum of 36 months in the bottle. Whites and rosés need a total of 48 months aging, with at least 6 months in barrels.

Now, it’s important to note that in 2018, Rioja introduced new classification rules that focus on the vineyard and regional microclimates, similar to the system used in Burgundy. This means Rioja is now all about showcasing the unique terroir of the wine, allowing labels to display the specific village or municipality of origin.

So, when you’re picking out a bottle of Rioja, keep these classifications in mind to choose the perfect wine for your taste preferences.

Breaking the Mold: The Bold New Styles of Rioja Wine

Let’s talk about Rioja wine and its unique winemaking styles that make it stand out. One of the key features of Rioja wine is the use of oak aging, which was introduced in the early 18th century by winemakers influenced by Bordeaux. This has given Rioja wines a distinct flavor profile, with pronounced vanilla notes. Some modern winemakers are shaking things up by experimenting with making wines that are less influenced by oak, but the oak aging tradition is still a big part of Rioja’s winemaking.

Originally, French oak was used for aging, but as the cost of barrels increased, many wineries switched to using American oak planks and fashioning them into barrels in a style similar to the French method. This meant hand-splitting the wood, rather than sawing, and allowing the planks time to dry and “season” outdoors. Recently, more wineries have been using French oak and aging wines in both American and French oak for blending purposes.

In the past, it was common for some wineries to age their red wines for 15-20 years or even longer before release. However, most wineries now focus on making wines that are ready to drink sooner, with the top wines typically aging for 4-8 years prior to release. Traditionalists may still age their wines longer but the shift towards wines that are ready to drink sooner is more common.

When it comes to white wine, the use of oak has declined significantly in recent times. It used to be common for white wines to be aged 2-5 years in oak, resulting in slightly oxidized wines with flavors of caramel, coffee, and roasted nuts. However, this didn’t appeal to a large market of consumers, and white wine makers are now focusing on enhancing the vibrancy and fruit flavors of the wine.

Some winemakers also use a technique called carbonic maceration, in which whole clusters of grapes are placed in large open vats and allowed to ferment inside the individual grape berries for a few days before they are crushed.

In the 1960s, Bodegas Rioja Santiago developed the first bottled version of the wine punch Sangria, which is based on Rioja wine. An import subsidiary of Pepsi Cola purchased the rights to the wine and began marketing it worldwide.

So, there you have it! Rioja wine is known for its oak aging and unique winemaking techniques that contribute to its distinct flavors. Whether you’re a beginner or an intermediate red wine lover, there’s a lot to explore in the world of Rioja wine.

Research for this article is based on: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rioja_DOCa and other sources