In the north of Spain, on both banks of the Ebro river, flanked by the majestic Sierra de Cantabria and Sierra de la Demanda mountain ranges, lies the thousand-year-old wine-growing region of Rioja. Synonymous with premium and delicious red wines, Rioja is one of the world’s and Spain’s leading wine regions. In this article we dive into why it is one of the most prestigious wine regions in the world.
Leaders in Excellence
With 100KM of diversity, and over 600 wineries Rioja is the leading Spanish wine region crafting honest and excellent wines built for wine enthusiasts. It is one of the most recognized wine regions in terms of quality, uniqueness and sustainability and it is the Spanish D.O. with the greatest number of award-winning wines. Known for strict quality standards and for its pioneering spirit Rioja is a proven leader in premium wines highly regarded by wine critics and judges.
The remarkable diversity of climates and terroirs makes Rioja the perfect place for crafting high quality wine. With an obsession with excellence for making world-class wines, Rioja is one of the top regions in the world when it comes to traceability, quality and transparency. In fact, Rioja is the first and one of the only two regions to receive the highest designation of Denominación Calificada. The DOCa is the highest category reserved for wines maintaining a proven consistency and quality over a long period of time.
There are three distinct growing areas of Rioja – Rioja Alta, Rioja Oriental and Rioja Alavesa. There are also seven valleys in the Rioja – which is only 100KM in length. Overall, the region produces 91% red wine and 9% white wine – so if you’re a red wine lover this is a great place to explore! The climate is mainly continental with Atlantic and mediterranean climate influence, depending on the vineyard. With a strong diversity of climates, valleys, altitudes, municipalities, landscapes, grape varieties, colours and styles there is a wine made for every palate and a lot to discover.
Rioja is deeply committed to sustainability and to protecting and preserving its treasured territory, especially old vines, and landscape. Known for barrel aged red, each bottle of wine that comes from the region of Rioja is clearly marked with a D.O.Ca. trust seal. Each seal ensures adherence to the strict wine and aging qualifications – as well as the quality standards required by the D.O.Ca the highest recognition of quality in Spain) Rioja is one of only two regions to have earned this prestigious label.
Rioja is made from a blend of grape varieties, with the native grape Tempranillo being the dominant varietal in the blend. Garnacha, Mazuelo (also known as Cariñena) and Graciano are typically used as blending partners with Tempranillo. Together these grapes create award winning wines that can stand the test of time, age well and impress wine lovers around the world.
Considered native to Rioja, Tempranillo is the wine region’s most typical red grape. If there was one ‘super star’ grape of the region, Tempranillo would be it. It is known as one of the great grape varieties in the world and occupies more than 75% of the region’s vineyards. Tempranillo has the capacity to produce wines that are easy going and delicious wines when they are young and also have the ability to age incredibly gracefully.
Premium Red Wines
A wine labeled ‘Rioja’ is the youngest of the red wines. This wine is aged in a barrel for less than a year. Offering fresh, fruit and floral aromas that many enthusiasts love.
The Crianza category is for red wines that are slightly aged. These wines must be in barrel for one year with time in the cellar before released to the market. This level of Rioja is widely available in the Canadian market and is incredibly affordable.
The Rioja Reserva must age for a minimum of three years, with at least one of those in oak, and the rest in the bottle. Reserva wines generally show significant signs of aging, with subtle fresh fruit characteristics and more dominant notes of cigar box and dried fruit.Gran Reserva Rioja wines are ranked among the world’s finest wines and are only made in years with truly exceptional growing seasons with the highest quality of grapes. Gran Reservas must be aged in oak for at least two years, and then spend at least three more years in bottle prior to release. Only two percent of Rioja wines are classified as Gran Reserva. There are older vintages that are available in this category that will blow your mind and are worth stocking up on.
In Rioja, Spain everything revolves around wine. The main economic influence in the region is wine production and eno tourism that each year attracts many tourists. A leading destination for wine enthusiasts Spain offers unforgettable winery, wine, hospitality and dining experiences. So it makes a great region to explore on vacation!