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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. There are numerous stone carved fermentation tanks, which already have a winemaking in the antiquity testify. The most typical of these are the Guardaviñas in Rioja Alta in Ábalos, Briones and San Asensio. These domed stone structures were used as a refuge for winegrowers and their livestock in bad weather and used for monitoring crops.

Rioja (Rioja Alta) - Guardaviña (refuge) and vineyard

The area of origin

Efforts to origin Designation and choice quality have a 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 trade association of Rioja winegrowers) was founded to cultivate wine, winemaking and wine trade to promote. 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 (1827-1888), who built in 1860 on his winery a Bodega after Bordeaux model 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.

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 hectares of vineyards with the city of Haro as a wine center located south of the Ebro River and west of the provincial capital Logroño entirely in the province of La Rioja. The climate Under the influence of the Atlantic Ocean, it 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.

Rioja - Rioja's Alta Briones

Rioja Alavesa
The 12,000 hectare zone is located 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 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 Rioja areas.

The grape varieties and wine types

The most important and typical Rioja grape variety is Tempranillo, which accounts for almost two-thirds of the vineyard area with just under 28,000 hectares. The most common white variety is Viura ( Macabeo ) with 8,000 hectares. Around 75% of the Rioja is called red wine generated. Not a few do not know that there are other versions, because Rioja is associated mostly with red wine. The rest is 15% R oséweine and with 10% White wines, The "non-native" Rioja varieties may not, in contrast to the classical locals on the label be cited.

The red wine turns out to be 80% 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 this is rarely practiced. That's a maximum of 5% Whole bunch maceration and a maximum of 15% Macération carbonique, With special permission may also Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot be used. The red wines are almost exclusively dry, the rosé wine also developed semisweet.

The white wine is made from 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 today only by a few producers.

The quality levels

The traditional, dominant winemaking will be through a long Barrique embossed in 225-liter American oak barrels. This results in wines with almost brownish color, typical vanilla, Spice and lemon notes and soft tannins. The maturing times are minimum requirements, many traditional Bodegas stretch this but extremely. Depending on the maturation period in barrel and bottle, there are four categories:

Joven (youth = young wine): The young Rioja (in white, red and rosé) carries 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 (Education = maturation): The red wines must mature at least 24 months, of which at least 12 months in the barrel and the rest in the bottle before they can be marketed. For rosé and white wines it is 18 months (previously also 24), of which 6 months in barrel. The production share is 40%.

Reserva : The red wines must ripen for at least 36 months, of which at least 12 months in cask. For white wines are 24 months with at least six months in barrel. Rosados (rosé wines) are not available as Reserva or Gran Riserva. The production share is around 15%.

Gran Reserva : The red wines must mature for five years, two of them in barrel. Some bodegas produce long-lived white wines with six months in barrel and 42 months bottle. The production share is only 3%.

The new quality concepts

In 2019, Consejo Regulador Rioja (Board of Directors) set new quality criteria. This is intended to strengthen consumer confidence in the Rioja brand. For this purpose, new terms have been created that can appear on the label. These concern the origin, the age of the vines, the expansion of the wines in terms of packaging and maturation time and production quantities. In the future, every six months the new terms are to be checked for further development. All new terms are at the bottom of the label.

Viñas viejas : The wine must be 90% vinified from vines that are at least 35 to 100 years old

Viñas centenarias or Viñas prefiloxéricas : 90% of the wine must be made from vines that are over 100 years old (centenarias) or that have been planted before 1900 (prefiloxéricas = before the phylloxera ).

Viñedos de altura : The wine must be 90% vinified from vines that come from over 550 meters altitude.

Madurados en Bodegas (matured in the winery): May only be used without references or images related to oak, oak or wood. The terms "envejecido" or "aged" may not be used.

Ediciones or colecciones seleccionadas y limitadas (limited   Quantities): Here, the producer must cite the number of bottles produced and what the edition or collection refers to.

Viñedos en propiedad (Producer Vineyard): A wine with at least 90% vines from its own cultivated vineyards. The layers must have been managed by the producer for at least ten years without interruption.

Embotellados en la propiedad ( Erzeugerabfüllung ): Producer is also the owner of the brand.

Nuevas elaboraciones con lías / hormigón / tinajas de barro : The terms "Lias" ( yeast ), hormigón ( concrete tank ) or "tinajas de barro" ( ceramics ) may be used without the addition of "madurado" (matured).

Cosecha : When using this term must also the vintage to be named.

Viñedos singulares : This will allow producers in the future, for the first time small areas of origin as Gemarkungen, Communities and vineyards on the bottle labels.

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,

Guardaviña: By Patricia Maine Degrave on Pixabay
Vineyard: From Pradillacarlos on Pixabay
Briones: By Emilio García from Parla, Spain - Viñedos , CC BY-SA 2.0 , Link

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