envelope

La Rioja

The Rioja river valley in northeast Spain is the country's most prosperous and best-known table wine region. The area parallels the River Ebro, which runs south to the Mediterranean and is intersected by the smaller Rio Oja. The region is sub-divided into three areas: Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa, and Rioja Baja. The Alta and Alavesa areas produce more aromatic, balanced wines. They have similar climates and soils and face each other across the northern stretch of the River Ebro, while the Rioja Baja lies downstream and is somewhat warmer, producing slightly lower acidity, less balanced wines. Of all Spanish regions, Rioja has been most directly influenced by the wine traditions of neighboring France. Eighty percent of Rioja's production is red, and the most respected wines are aged reds, but it also makes both young (joven) and barrel-aged whites and roses. For the Rioja reds, Tempranillo and Garnacha are the most important grapes, along with small amounts of Graciano, Mazuelo (Carinae) and others. In a tradition going back over a hundred years, Marquis de Riscal and a few other experimental vineyards are allowed to cultivate Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot vines here by special permission. The less common Rioja whites favor oak-aged Viura (Macabeo). Rioja has around 14,000 growers who tend fairly small vineyards that may be interspersed with other crops. Traditionally they have sold their grapes to the around one hundred merchants (bodegas) or the thirty cooperatives which vinify about 45% of the wines. Most of these are now equipped with stainless steel tanks and temperature control fermentation facilities. Rioja has around 14,000 growers who tend fairly small vineyards that may be interspersed with other crops. Traditionally they have sold their grapes to the around one hundred merchants (bodegas) or the thirty cooperatives which vinify about 45% of the wines. Most of these are now equipped with stainless steel tanks and temperature control fermentation facilities.