One of the great things about living in Madrid is it’s central location in Spain, it’s great motorway networks and public travel that makes it so easy to get to just about anywhere else in Spain. So we decided to take advantage of this during the May Day holidays and took a 5 day trip to La Rioja.
Throughout the next week I will be posting the wines tried in Rioja and also other tip’s that we picked up on the trip.
Rioja is the oldest Denominación De Origen De Calidad (DOCa) in Spain and certainly the best known internationally. Known primarily for its aged red wine made from the Tempranillo varietal with smatterings of Garnacha, Mazuela and Graciano. It also does a great range of young and aged white wines made primarily from the Viura (Macabeu) grape and sometimes blended with others. More recently the Rioja DOCa has made changes to its regulations allowing the bodegas to branch out into Cavas and Rose wines as well.
On this trip we focused on the red wines, but did try one white wine. We have posted a number of Riojan reds and whites in the past so feel free to search the website www.thehonestwinedrinker.com under the tab Rioja for some other examples from this region.
Wine has been produced in the Rioja region since 11BC and was further developed by the Roman Empire. However Rioja’s modern wine making credentials started in the 19th century when the phylloxera plague wiped out many of the vines in France. Searching for other areas to grow grapes not effected by the plague the French came across Rioja. Perfectly positioned along the Ebro River and protected by a mountain range in the North, conditions were ideal for grape growing.
Traditionally Rioja has been divided into 3 regions: Alta, Alavesa and Oriental/Baja. We stayed on the border between Rioja Alta and Alavesa, which is actually in the Basque region, and had wines with grapes grown in both areas. We did not try any Rioja Oriental wines. However, wines from these two areas tend to be the most popular. Both areas are higher in altitude than Rioja Oriental and more influenced by the cool Atlantic weather. There is a lot of farming in the area and the best land is dedicated to cereal planting, the vines are grown on areas of poorer stony soil, where the grapes have to work harder to survive. For some reason this fight for survival produces better grapes for wine making, as witnessed by Rioja’s success on the international market.
Click on the images above to learn more about the individual wine producing areas in Rioja.