In this Google Map we have marked with a red circle each of the towns of La Rioja, Alava and Navarre which are part of the Rioja Wine Appellation. You can click on the top left icon to see the complete list.
Designation of Origin Rioja can be considered the oldest appellation in Spain. Your legal history goes back to 1926, date in which the creation of a body to regulate the use of the collective mark "Rioja", whose use on the labels of wine had been authorized a year earlier decreed.
It is also the appellation of origin which has the largest number of registered wineries, with 600 bottling industry record, and the first obtained in 1991, the range of "Qualified" a distinction made by Spanish law to recognize those names home to meet requirements for quality control. Rioja boasted solo until 2000, when it was also given to the Priorat.
The wine tradition of the region is accredited, at least since Roman times. During the Middle Ages winemaking he was closely linked to the activity of monasteries, and Gonzalo de Berceo, first poet known in Spanish, mentions the wine in some verses written in San Millan (La Rioja), one focus most important cultural era.
Already in the eighteenth century the Royal Economic Society of Rioja Growers was established. But the true flowering of Rioja wine came in the second half of the nineteenth century, following the arrival in the region of buyers and French winemakers who started a thriving trade with the neighboring country, and introduced in the processing techniques Bordeaux.
Quality measures in the Rioja Appellation
The international prestige of Rioja wines is partly due to the good conditions of the territory to produce quality grapes. But its long tradition wine and strict control standards imposed by the Regulatory Council of the Designation of Origin, which exceed rigor to many other regions of the world and were recognized with the award to the appellation of range of "Qualified".
To ensure the quality of Rioja wines, the regulation of the denomination states, inter alia, the minimum and maximum number of strains that can be planted per hectare; the use or irrigation; how to prune plants, including the number of buds per vine; the alcoholic strength of the grapes must be harvested; the maximum production of grapes per hectare; processing techniques, which exclude the use of certain types of press and other machines; the forms and conditions of aging wine, prohibiting the use of wood chips to provide aromas low cost, and the requirements of the aging cellars, which must have a minimum number of Bordeaux oak barrels to be considered as such .
Council technicians monitor each year, during the harvest, the grapes entering the wineries of preparation, and once obtained the wines perform chemical analysis and tasting each and every one of them to determine whether they deserve the official classification Rioja wine or not.
Grape varieties authorized in the Rioja Appellation
Regulation of the Designation of Origin determines the grape varieties that can be used in the production of wines of Rioja, as well as minimum and maximum percentages of each.
For decades there were seven unique varieties authorized by the Regulating Council: four inks (tempranillo, grenache, Carignan and Graciano) and three white (Viura, Malvasia and Garnacha Blanca). In early 2007, the Council adopted for the first time since its inception, the introduction of new varieties.
At present there are nine white five-ink: Tempranillo, Grenache, Carignan, Graciano and maturana ink, on the one hand, and Viura, Malvasia, white grenache, tempranillo white, white Maturana, turruntés, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and Verdejo, on the other.
The three sub-areas of the Rioja Appellation
The cultivation area of the appellation of origin is in the valley of the Ebro and divided into three zones with different climatic characteristics and soil composition: Rioja Alavesa, Rioja Alta and Rioja Baja. The Ebro enters the region from the northwest (Rioja Alta), about 445 meters above sea level, and leaves the east (Rioja Baja), 260 meters. Between one point and another runs about 120 kilometers. The vineyards are located on both sides of the river, and in some places ascend the slopes of the mountains that surround the valley to a height of 700 meters.
La Rioja Alta occupies the western half of the name and the Rioja Baja's eastern half. The Rioja Alavesa is north of Rioja Alta, between the Ebro River, which forms its southern border, and the Sierra de Cantabria, which protects it from the north winds. In Rioja Alavesa there are 18 municipalities belonging to the province of Alava; in the Rioja Alta, 76 municipalities belonging to La Rioja, Rioja Baja and Rioja there are 42 municipalities and 8 Navarre. As the Alava part of the appellation of origin coincides with one of the seven official regions or "gangs" that is divided Alava, Navarra part does not constitute any specific administrative region, nor has a name that identifies it.
Overall, Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa have a climate with Atlantic and Mediterranean influences, while in the Rioja Baja Mediterranean climate, warmer and drier predominates. These differences are easily seen in the landscape and vegetation, even within each zone are given different microclimates depending on factors such as solar orientation or the degree of exposure to the winds.
The floors are also relatively varied, with predominance of three types: clay-limestone, clay-ferrous and alluvial. In Rioja Alavesa, rugged relief, they are characteristic of small vineyards, located on terraces and gentle slopes, with clay-calcareous soils. The Rioja Baja is more flat, has more extensive and alluvial soils as many vineyards. Rioja Alta combines characteristics of the other two zones, with three types of soil and varied microclimates. Some municipalities are located north of the Ebro River, next to the Alava.
Rioja wine types
On the DOC Rioja red wines, white and pink, which have traditionally been classified according to their age at the time of being labeled and maturing and aging process that have followed they are made. The Regulatory Council establishes four categories: young wine, wine aging, wine and wine reserve great reserve, both reds to whites, as there are wineries that produce white wines with great aging potential.
Young wines are marketed in their first or second year of life wines, which traditionally moved from the tanks to the bottle, without an intervening period of barrel aging, and in which the freshness and the primary aromas from the grapes predominate.
Aged wines are marketed as early in their third year of life, after spending at least one year in oak (in the case of red) or six months (in the case of white). The rest of the time aging in bottle before being tagged.
The reserve wines have undergone at least three full years of aging, although the minimum stay period coincides with the barrel of breeds: one year. For whites, the total required aging period is reduced to two years, with half a year at least be in the barrel.
Finally, the large reserves are produced only in vintages with high quality grapes, and labeled after staying at least two years in oak and three in bottle. For whites, a total aging period of at least four years are required, while the minimum residence time in the barrel is equal to the reserves and livestock: six months.
At present some winemakers reject these categories, considering that are too rigid and that lead consumers to confuse the aging times of their quality wines. Among many Spanish consumers are given, in fact, the misconception that a great book is "better" than a book and a reserve must also be better than an aging, when the wine quality depends more on viticulture and the suitability of the production and aging processes that the time spent in the cellar. Consequently, the winemakers to which we refer provide their wines periods of barrel aging and aging in the bottle they consider most appropriate for certain characteristics, and waive label them as young, raisings or reserves do not conform to the reference time established by the Regulatory Council. Some young wines which have spent some time in barrel, and therefore have different functions of a traditional wine grower characteristics, and also wines aged in barrels that do not reach the minimum period required for a backup, but far exceed the usual a crianza. Some of the best wines of Rioja today not carry these identifying categories and simply indicate the vintage on the label.
Rioja or La Rioja?
It is a common mistake to confuse the area of Rioja wine production with the autonomous community of the same name. In fact, the cultivation area of vine and winemaking covered by the Designation of Origin Rioja is a natural region bounded by geographical features, which includes municipalities in three northeastern provinces of Spain: La Rioja, Alava and Navarra.
Most of these municipalities (116), vineyards (about 41,500 hectares) and wineries (320) is located in La Rioja autonomous community. But the Alava part of the appellation also meets a large number of wineries (264), despite their acreage is much lower (about 13,150 hectares in 18 municipalities). Meanwhile, Navarra provides the D.O.C. Rioja some 6,600 hectares of vineyards and 15 wineries, located in 8 municipalities.
For the purposes of viticulture and enology, however, the Regulatory Council of the PDO ignores these administrative borders, but identifies three production subzones based on their location, climate and soil composition: Rioja Alta, Rioja Baja and Rioja Alavesa. Rioja Alta is located in the northwestern autonomous region of La Rioja. The Rioja Baja is in the east, and includes 42 municipalities and 8 Rioja attached to the name Navarre municipalities. And the Rioja Alavesa is a historic region of Alava, located on the southern border of the Basque Country and separated from the Rioja Alta the Ebro River.
The territory of the DOCa Rioja has been inhabited by humans since prehistoric times. Several Neolithic burial and funeral monuments are preserved, including some very easy dolmens to visit the Rioja Alavesa, which testify to the existence of small agricultural and pastoral communities around the year 3000 BC.
During the Celtiberian period, the Ebro Valley was occupied mainly by the tribe Berones with Pelendones settlements, Vascones and Arévacos at some points. There are several archaeological sites from this period, among them the ancient city of Contrebia Leukade (Rioja Baja) and the town of La Hoya (Rioja Alavesa).
The Romans arrived in the Rioja Baja in the second century BC and they colonized the Ebro valley and mountainous areas of the south, leaving abundant traces of their passage across the region. The Arabs invaded in the eighth century, but reached no completely dominate all its regions. La Rioja Alavesa was a border territory, and in some areas of Rioja Alta conquerors remained a short time. However, in the Rioja Baja Arabs they settled until the twelfth century and exerted considerable social and cultural influence.
Najera, in the Rioja Alta, was one of the main centers of the Reconquest. Between the tenth and eleventh centuries it housed the court of the Kingdom of Nájera-Pamplona, whose breakup resulted in the kingdoms of Navarre, Castile and Aragon. Throughout the whole medieval period, the Rioja lands were subject to continuous disputes between Navarre and Castile. The latter ended up staying most of what is now La Rioja. In the Alava area, the town of Laguardia changed ownership several times, until in the fifteenth century it was annexed to Castile. Viana, main town of the Navarre designation of origin, was also besieged by the Spaniards several times and surrendered to them in 1512, but a decade later rejoined the Kingdom of Navarra.
It is not known for sure where the name comes from Rioja, which was first written in the late eleventh century as Rioiia. The territories of the current autonomous region belonged to Burgos and Soria until 1833, when it was created the province of Logroño. In 1980 it was renamed the province of La Rioja, and in 1982 was constituted in autonomous community.
Geography and nature
From the geographical point of view, La Rioja can be divided into two main areas. In the north lies the Ebro valley, a strip about 115 kilometers long and between 40 and 60 kilometers wide, traditionally devoted to growing vines, cereals, fruit and vegetables. South a wide mountainous area formed by spurs of the Iberian mountain range stretches. From these mountains they descend to the Ebro seven rivers that form many other valleys.
Moreover, the map of the region is usually divided into three vertical sections from west to east along the Ebro: Rioja Alta, Rioja Baja and Rioja Media, whose names and territories overlap with the wine areas defined by the Council of the Designation of Origin. The lands of the Rioja Alta have higher altitude above the sea level low Rioja, as well as a type of climate with Atlantic influences, while the Rioja Baja is typically Mediterranean, warmer and dry, with low mountain region , almond and olive groves.
This peculiar geographical arrangement in valleys and mountains makes La Rioja, despite its small size, possesses eight different types of natural habitat and a remarkable diversity of landscapes: from high mountain ecosystems, rainforests and pastures in the mountains of La Rioja Alta to places in the semi-arid eastern valleys of the Rioja Baja.
A very large part of these lands Southeast was declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 2003. The reserve covers the valleys of Leza, Jubera, Cidacos and Alhama, and its surface represents 24% of the autonomous region. It also has six integrated ecological areas in the Natura 2000 network, Europe-wide, accounting for 33% of the Rioja Region. These include the Natural Park of Sierra Onion.
La Rioja Alavesa, meanwhile, is a region with capital in Alava Laguardia, located between the Ebro River and the Sierra de Cantabria, with a characteristic relief of hills, slopes and terraces covered with vineyards. Navarre municipalities assigned to the D.O.C. Rioja is also located on the banks of the Ebro, in northern La Rioja Media and Rioja Baja, and share with them the climate and Mediterranean cultures.
The autonomous region of La Rioja is the second smallest of Spain, just over the Balearic Islands, and the least populated. Is less than 310,000 inhabitants, of which almost half live in the capital, Logroño.
It is a largely rural region. However, agriculture is only fourth among the branches of economic activity, below the service sector, industry and construction. Within the agricultural sector, growing grapes accounts for half of revenue, followed by the production of vegetables, fruits and cereals. In the industrial sector, the most prominent branch is the food and drinks, but the region also has an important industry of metal products, rubber and footwear.
In the Rioja Alavesa, with 12,000 inhabitants, the economy is based on growing grapes and making wine. Municipalities seconded to the Designation of Origin Rioja Navarre banks also have a large agricultural wealth, which has led to related industries such as canning. Wine production shares the spotlight on them with other products with designation of origin, Navarre asparagus and piquillo peppers.
In economic terms, La Rioja has always been located in the upper stretch of the Spanish regions with levels of per capita income above the national average. The Basque Country and Navarra, which is part of the territory of the appellation of origin, have even higher levels, at the head of Spain income.
The La Rioja lands retain vestiges of various peoples that inhabited in antiquity and the early Middle Ages: Celts, Romans, Visigoths, Arabs ... The period of greatest cultural relevance of the region corresponds to the Middle Ages. Najera became the tenth century court of the Kingdom of Nájera-Pamplona and one of the main centers of the Reconquest; various monasteries played an important role as diffusers centers of Christian culture of the time, and the Way of Santiago crossed from Navarra La Rioja.
Among the monasteries, include the Santa María la Real de Nájera and Yuso and Suso in San Millan, declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Suso were found in the first sentences known in Basque and Romance language (the primitive Castilian), recorded by an anonymous monk at the margins of a Latin manuscript. There also lived Gonzalo de Berceo, considered the first poet in Spanish.
The Camino de Santiago has two itineraries in the region: the Camino del Ebro, which comes from Tarragona and passes through Alfaro, Calahorra and Logroño, and the French Way, the busiest since the Middle Ages, which passes through the Navarran town of Viana, attached to the DOC Rioja, and crosses Logroño, Nájera and Santo Domingo de la Calzada (one of the historical landmarks of the pilgrimage route) before entering Burgos.
In La Rioja, and Navarre and the Basque Country, gastronomy is an important part of everyday life. Dominated by a traditional, less innovative than their northern neighbors, based on product quality cuisine. Its prestige lies largely in the wealth of regional orchard, which provides excellent vegetables and meats from the mountain areas.
It is very significant the Rioja sausage, made with sweet or spicy paprika and thinner than in Castile and southern Spain. Much less known to the general public, but widely consumed in the Rioja Baja and Logroño is the sweet black pudding, which can be enjoyed raw, grilled or roasted. In the Sierra de Cameros goat cheeses of great quality and low distribution in other areas of Spain are made.
Navarre municipalities assigned to the D.O.C. Rioja have excellent own products, such as red peppers and asparagus from Navarra, which are consumed across the Ebro.
Typical dishes Rioja cuisine include:
- Potatoes Rioja. Stewed with chorizo. A very simple recipe but certainly characteristic of the region, including the Rioja Alavesa.
- Stew. This assortment of vegetables to appreciate the quality of Rioja orchard. Sometimes single vegetables, cooked and seasoned with olive oil are presented, and other are added small pieces of chorizo and other ingredients. Is typical stew with artichokes natural battered.
- Caparrones. The caparrón is a variety of red, small, round bean. The stew is prepared in a clay pot and may include various "setbacks": sausage, mutton, bacon ... They have fame caparrones Anguiano and Castanares.
- Cod Rioja. Stew in a clay pot with tomato and red peppers, one of the basic ingredients of the regional cuisine.
- Grilled chops to shoot. The rack of lamb chops are. In La Rioja they are grilling on the embers of a bonfire made with branches, branches of the vine.
- Beans with quail. The white beans are a variety of white bean thin skin and soft texture typical of La Rioja and Navarre. White beans with quail are considered a traditional dish Rioja.
- Products boiled. A more typical dish of bars and restaurants. The sausage casings are lamb or goat, which thread forming a skein and roasted in the oven or cut into slices and fry in a pan.
- Fardelejos. A typical sweet of Arab origin of Arnedo, in the Rioja Baja. They are made with almond pastry filled.