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.