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Wines from Rioja

Together with the wines of Priorat and Ribera del Duero, those of Rioja are the Spanish stars that the whole world is looking for. The Rioja DOCa (Denominacion de Origen Calificada) appellation - only granted to Priorat as well - is Spain's oldest and strictest.

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The cultivated grape varieties are examined, the lowest yields, the vinification and bottling processes are monitored. Rioja wine has been produced here for centuries, but this small region has experienced a real boom following the settlement of Bordeaux people in Rioja and the development of ageing in barrels (French and American oak), as well as the construction of "French-style" wineries.

Rioja wines, defined by the catchy maxim "Know who you are", embody the values of central, deep and conservative Spain. The "Bodegas", former wine merchants that blended the different grape varieties, are the symbol of Rioja and its traditions while looking to the future with avant-garde technology. La Rioja straddles three regions: Navarre, Castilla y León and the Basque Country, covering 63,000 hectares. Crossed by the river Ebro which separates it between the Rioja Alavesa, the Alta and the Baja. The name of the appellation comes from a tributary of the Ebro, the Rio Oja. The climates and soils of these three sub-regions are very different, making it possible to produce styles as varied as their terroir. Moving from an oceanic (Alavesa) to a Mediterranean climate (Alta and especially Baja), some vineyards are planted on steep slopes on very small plots at altitude, others in alluvial plains and glaciers. The former will dig into the earth, bringing much more complexity to the wine, length and ageing potential. The second will be drunk young, easier to access. The older the terraces are, of reddish clayey-limestone soil, the drier, shallow and stony the terroir will be, forcing the vines to seek out nutrients and moisture and accentuating the complexity of their wines.

65% to 70% of the vineyard is planted with Tempranillo, a grape variety whose elegance and balance gives strength to the best Rioja and which new winemakers appreciate for its loyalty to the terroir. Next come varieties such as Garnacha, Carignena, Graciano and Mazuelo. The wines dissociated by the denomination Reservas are aged for one year in oak barrels and then another two years in casks. The Gran Reservas only come out in exceptional years.

While the Rioja whites are light, sparkling and fresh, thanks to the Vuira, Malvaisa and Garnacha Blanca grape varieties, the reds - which of course vary greatly according to their terroir - have a very low acidity content, have velvety tannins and little fruitiness compared to the roundness and vanilla aroma that emerges from them. This is why Rioja is often described as flamboyant. The finesse and brilliance of the wines have made them a true Spanish jewel.