The Rioja wine district is located in northern Spain, in the valley of the Ebro River.
The vineyard area covers almost 64,000 hectares, with an average annual production of 2,700,000 hectolitres. Rioja was granted Denomination of Origin status in 1926 by the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture and in 1991 became the only Qualified Denomination of Origin (Denominación de Origen Calificada) in recognition of the high quality attained by its wines and the strict quality control imposed on grapes and wine in the region.
In addition to its popularity in Spain, Rioja wine is sold in more than 100 countries.
Types of Wine and Grapes
Red varieties are tempranillo (dominant), garnacha tinta, graciano, mazuelo, and maturana tinta.
White varieties are viura (dominant), malvasia, garnacha blanca, maturana blanca, tempranillo blanco, turruntés, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and verdejo. The last three varietals can only be part of a blend with the other white varieties.
Rioja is located in the three provinces of La Rioja, Alava and Navarra. It is divided into three regions: the Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa are in the west, and the Rioja Baja is in the east and influenced by the warm Mediterranean.
The vineyards vary in altitude from over 600 meters in the west, with its calcareous clay soil, down to 300 meters in the more heavily clayed soils of the Baja.
The winters are cold, with snowfall in January, while the summers are gloriously warm but seldom intensely hot. Rainfall is modest.
Nature has been very generous to Rioja. Not only do the Cantabria and Demanda mountain ranges shelter it from the worst Atlantic influences, but it also boasts the great Ebro River that almost bisects Spain.
The Ebro runs right through the Rioja region, creating a series of microclimates as it provides much needed water for the vines.
For additional information about Rioja wines, consult the Rioja Regulatory Council’s official website www.riojawine.com.