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Geographically, this probably best known wine growing area Spain The majority of the vineyards with 62,000 hectares is located in the north-eastern province of La Rioja, but part of it is also in the provinces Basque country (Subzone Alavesa) and Navarra (Parts of subzone Rioja Baja). The area has a very old wine history. Numerous stone-carved fermentation tanks have survived, testifying to viticulture already in antiquity. The quest for designation of origin and choice quality have a very long tradition. Already around the year 1560 the winemakers decided on a uniform brand for their barrels in order to guarantee the identity of the wines from this area.

In 1635, the mayor of Logroño even forbid the traffic of wagons through streets lined with wine cellars. This was due to the concern that caused by vehicles vibrations the grape spoil and affect the maturity of the wines. The first written reference to one quality control dates back to 1650. In 1787, the "Real Sociedad Económica de Cosecheros de Rioja" (Royal Association of Rioja Winegrowers) was founded with the aim of promoting winegrowing, winemaking and wine trade. At the beginning of the 19th century, the custom of Batalla del Vino (Battle of the Wine), this great city festival is still celebrated annually.

One of the Rioja pioneers was Marqués Camilo Hurtado de Amézaga, who built in 1860 on his 200-acre estate, a Bodega Bordeaux-style and vines from the Bordeaux planted. After phylloxera invasion In the middle of the 19th century, many French winegrowers emigrated to this area and gave French viticulture a boost. In 1902, a royal decree was made with the definition of origin for the Rioja wines and a labeling rule. A Control Council founded in 1926 was given the task of limiting the Rioja area, supervising the issue of a "guarantee seal" and protecting the name of Rioja.

The area of origin

In 1953, the Control Council of the Denomination of Origin Rioja was founded, based on organoleptic samples and analytical Investigations check whether the wine meets the strict regulations. In 1991, a ministerial decree gave the region of origin Rioja the attribute "calificada" (qualified) and thus made it the first highest Spanish quality level DOCa,

The name derives from the river Oja (Rio Oja). The over 100-kilometer long area lies on both banks of the Ebro and on the slopes of the adjacent hills. There is a mild climate with short summer and beautiful autumn. The traditional form of education is the bush-shaped En Vaso ( gobelet ), but is getting more and more the wire frame education. The huge area of Rioja is subdivided into three sub-zones, which also differ in soil conditions and wine quality; the best is Rioja Alta:

Rioja Alta: The 24,000 hectare zone with the city of Haro as the wine center is located south of the Ebro River and west of the provincial capital Logroño entirely in the province of La Rioja. Under the influence of the Atlantic Ocean, the climate is characterized by hot summers, mild autumns and cool winters. The vineyards lie on deposit floors, mixed with lime and iron-containing clay. The dominant variety is Tempranillo, followed by Mazuelo and Graciano, which all have somewhat thicker and more extractive peel as in the other Rioja areas. Here are the best quality Rioja produced. The full-bodied red wines with a high proportion of acids and tannins are excellently suited for barrel aging and can be stored for a long time.

Briones - Rioja Alta
By Emilio García from Parla, Spain - Viñedos , CC BY-SA 2.0 , Link

Rioja Alavesa: The 12,000-hectare zone lies to the north of the Ebro River entirely in the Basque country, The climate is similar to that in Rioja Alta, prevail in the vineyards lime clay soils. The dominant grape variety is Tempranillo with a slightly thinner shell. Here predominate light, fruity and spicy red wines with medium alcohol and total acid content. They can be consumed as young wines, but are also suitable for barrel aging. As a rule, they are not as storable as those from Rioja Alta.

Rioja Baja: The 20,500-hectare zone east of Logroño extends over two autonomous provinces, namely Navarra (is confusingly also a dedicated DO area) and La Rioja. In this warmest and driest zone prevails Mediterranean climate with less precipitation. The vineyards are predominantly on iron-containing clays with deposits. The dominant grape variety in this area is the Garnacha Tinta. Here there are extract-rich, alcohol-rich red wines with up to 15% vol alcohol content, as well as rosé wines. The aromatic and often precocious and generally young to be enjoyed wines are considered not as noble as those of the other two Rioja areas.

The grape varieties and wine types

The most important Rioja grape variety is Tempranillo, which accounts for almost 60,000 hectares of nearly 28,000 hectares. The most common white variety is Viura ( Macabeo ) with 8,000 hectares. Around 75% of Rioja is produced as red wine. Not a few do not know that there are other versions, because Rioja is associated mostly with red wine. The rest is with 15% rosé wines and 10% white wines. The "alien" Rioja varieties may not be listed on the bottle label, in contrast to the classic locals. Around 180 million liters of Rioja are produced each year, and one third is exported to 70 countries.

The red Rioja is 80% off Tempranillo with shares of Garnacha Tinta. Graciano and mazuelo, as well as the varieties allowed since 2007 Maturana Parda and Maturana Tinta ( Trousseau Noir ) pressed. There are also white varieties allowed, but it is rarely used. This is a maximum of 5% for whole grapes and a maximum of 15% Macération carbonique, With a special permit, the two varieties may Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot be used. The red wines are almost exclusively dry. The rosé version is also marketed semisweet.

The white Rioja is made of Viura ( Macabeo ), Malvasia Riojana ( alarije ) and Garnacha Blanca, and since 2007 approved varieties Chardonnay. Sauvignon Blanc (maximum 50%), Maturana Blanca. Tempranillo Blanco, Turrunts ( Torrontés ) and Verdejo vinified. He is also mostly dry expanded.

The old custom, the bottles with the traditional gold-colored wire mesh Alambrado to wrap around, is practiced only partially today.

The quality levels

The traditional, dominant winemaking is characterized by long barrel aging in 225 liter American oak barrels. This results in wines with almost brownish color, typical vanilla, Spice and lemon notes and soft tannins. In general, the maturation process lasts between one and three years and is completed for a period of between six months and six years in the bottle. Depending on the aging and maturation process, the wines are divided into four categories. The maturing times are minimum requirements, many traditional bodegas stretch this extremely:

Joven (Young): (Young = Young Wine): The young Rioja (in white, red and rosé) bears only the name "Garantia de Origen" and comes a few months after the harvest on the market. But it can also be matured or matured in oak barrels for a short time. These ready to drink wines are young to enjoy. The production share is 40%.

Crianza (Ripened): Red wines have to mature for at least two years, of which at least one year in the barrel and the rest in the bottle. For rosé and white wines, six months are sufficient. The production rate is 40%.

Reserva : Red wines have to be aged for three years, of which at least one year in the barrel and the rest of the time in the bottle. For white wines are two years with at least six months in barrel. Rosados (rosé wines) is not available as a Reserva or Gran Riserva. The production share is around 15%.

Gran Reserva: Red wines must be aged five years, of which at least two years in the barrel and up to three years in the bottle. Some bodegas produce long-lived white wines that mature for at least six months in the barrel and 42 months in the bottle. The production share is only 3%.

Village and Region : In addition to the maturity-defined quality levels Joven, Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva, these two origin-oriented categories have been in existence since the 2017 vintage.

Vino de Author: Unofficial name (dt. Author's Wines) for wines of special quality, which are produced in particularly good vintages from selected grapes in limited quantities. Above all, this is practiced by smaller companies, especially in the area of Rioja Alavesa, which is thus the trend of the so-called Garage wines consequences. These mostly very expensive wines are marketed with bottle prices up to € 200.

The producers

There are around 20,000 winegrowers, of which, however, 98% only produce grapes and deliver them to large wineries or bodegas. The more than 500 bodegas produce around three million hectoliters of wine every year, 40% of which goes into global exports. Well-known producers are Alicia Rojas. Barón de Ley. Berberana. Bilbaínas. Bodegas Altanza. Bodegas Franco Españolas. Bretón Criadores. Campillo. Carlos Serres, Castillo de Fuenmayor, Corral. CVNE. Domecq Bodegas. El Coto de Rioja. Faustino. Finca Allende. La Rioja Alta. López de Heredia. Luis Cañas (Bodega Amaren), Marqués de Cáceres. Marqués de Griñón. Marqués de Murrieta. Marqués de Riscal. Marqués de Vargas. Martínez Bujanda. Monteabellón. Montecillo. Muga. Ontañón. Paternina. Primicia. Puelles. Ramon Bilbao. Remírez de Ganuza. Riojanas. Roda. Telmo Rodríguez. Torre de Oña. Viña Salceda. Viñedos de Aldeanueva. Viñedos del Contino. Viñedos y Bodegas de La Marquesa and Winner Wines,

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