La Rioja is a region, consisting of a single province, located in the north of Spain. It has an area of 5,045.25 sq kilometres/ 1,948 sq miles. The regional capital is Logroño.
In 1925, La Rioja became the first Spanish wine-producing área to achieve the appellation ‘Denominación de Origen’. In 1991, this was enhanced to Denominación de Origen Calificada, the highest possible classification, which is awarded only to wine regions that have consistently achieved the highest levels of quality over many years
While the Rioja D.O.Ca. is famous for its red wines, it also produces notable whites and rosés. Its most important and well-known grape is Tempranillo, the world-renowned, indigenous variety that produces superb red wines. This grape gives the wines their elegance, their powerful aromas and their complex flavours. During careful months of ageing in barrel, it confers the personality and characteristics that distinguish the exceptional wines from Rioja
Most Rioja wines are aged according to strict specifications, and only released when they have reached a peak of refinement which fully satisfies the discerning consumer. This is just one of the factors that makes La Rioja unique in the world of wine.
Using Tempranillo as their principal grape variety, the wine-makers of La Rioja D.O.Ca blend it with carefully chosen proportions of varieties such as Garnacha, Mazuelo and Graciano, among others. In this way, they produce young wines, crianzas (aged for at least 12 months in barrel, then another year in bottle), reservas (at least a year in barrel and two more in bottle) and gran reservas, which spend at least two years in barrel and another three in glass before their release.
Not all wines from Rioja, however, are produced under these strict and traditional aging specifications. Indeed, some ‘modern’ wines come from pagos, (individual vineyards or estates which use only their own grapes) as producers and oenologists strive to offer wines with a distinctive, local character
La Rioja’s first bodegas date back to 1870-1890, when French wine merchants from Bordeaux arrived to sample the wines of the region. The production of Rioja wines increased during the 20th century and their reputation became firmly established in both domestic and international markets.
More recently, there have been exciting developments with distinctly modern architectural designs making their mark on the landscape, and even underneath it, as new bodegas are carved many metres beneath the earth. New works by world-renowned figures like Santiago Calatrava and Frank Gehry rub shoulders with historic, traditional bodegas and make La Rioja a great place to visit, with its excellent wines, cuisine and spectacular scenery, set against the rugged mountains of the Sierra Cantabria.
Guided tours along Rioja’s wine-tasting routes lead visitors through enchanting villages and towns in the heartland of the region like Haro, Labastida, Cenicero and Elciego. Here, they can explore marvellous bodegas and taste incredible local wines.