We’ve all heard of Rioja. We know it’s a wine from Spain but what else do we actually know about it? As participants in the Shop Rioja month in October we are loving having an opportunity to discuss this wonderful region and its wines.
Well, firstly, Rioja is the region in northern Spain close to Basque Country. The river Ebro runs through the middle of it and there are three main areas that produce wine; Rioja Alta, at the western end of the region, Rioja Alavesa further to the east in Basque Country where many of the best grapes are grown and then the final area Rioja Oriental which has a Mediterranean climate and produces grapes that are fruitier and that produce higher alcohol wine.
Everyone is probably aware that Rioja produces those wonderful full-bodied red wines we all know and love but did you know you can also find Riojas that are white, rose and sparkling? These are known as Tinto, Blanco, Rosado and Espumosos De Calid De Rioja.
Red Rioja is vinified from a blend of Tempranillo (the main constituent), Garnacha, Graciano, Mazuela (Carignan) and Maturana Tinta. Rioja reds have historically been based around the use of oak, generally American oak (for longer ageing) or French oak (for shorter ageing). Generally speaking the more premium the wine the longer it will have been aged in oak.
White Rioja is usually vinified from a blend of grapes the majority being Viura but with smaller amounts of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Garnacha Blanca, Verdejo and others allowed in the blend although there are more single variety white Rioja’s being produced. Historically white Rioja was heavily oaked but now there is a move towards cleaner, fresher unoaked whites displaying more of the fruit.
Rosado Rioja can be made from a blend of the allowed grapes and can now be made in a lighter colour! Probably allowing for changes in fashion.
Sparkling Espumosos Rioja can be made from any blend of the grapes but has to be made in the Champagne method so can be similar in style.
There are four different classes of Rioja which are based around length of ageing:
Joven which does not have to be aged.
Crianza which has to have been aged for 2 years – 1 year in oak barrels for red and 6 months for white.
Reserva which has to have been aged for 3 years with at least one year in oak barrels and 6 months in bottles for red wines. For white wines and rosados 2 years ageing with 6 months in barrels and sparkling wine needs to have spent 2 years ageing on the lees.
Gran Riserva red wines need have been aged for 5 years with a minimum of 2 years in barrels and a minimum of 2 years in bottles. Whites and rosado need to have been aged for 5 years with at least 6 months in barrels.
There is an extra, newly created, class for sparkling wines which is “Gran Anada” which requires the wine to have spent 3 years on the lees and for the grapes to be hand harvested.
Rioja covers all bases including many upcoming winemakers and vineyards creating natural wines with minimum intervention, young, fresh, fruity and funky wines right through to big, bold, oaked wines that can be laid down for years.
It’s Rioja month from the 1st October so why not let loose, try the many different styles available and find the one suitable for you!