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Rioja Wine – The Most Famous Of All Spanish Red Wine
Rioja wine is the most famous of all the Spanish red wines. It is made in La Rioja, a Spanish wine region located in the northern part of the country.
Rioja is a medium to full-bodied wine with light tannins and really nice flavors of vanilla, spices, oak and berries and aromas of fruit.
Remember – the younger the wine, the fruitier it is. The longer it ages, the oakier it is.
Rioja is made primarily with Tempranillo. Some wines are 100% Tempranillo, while others are mixes with different grapes to create certain nuances and flavors in the wine.
Tempranillo offers a fruity flavor to Rioja.
Other grapes such as Garnacha give wines a beautiful color, Graciano add acidity and Mazuelo adds tannins.
History of this Spanish Wine
Rioja wine became very famous in the 19th Century, when French winemakers fled the Phylloxera bug that was eating their crops. Demand for the Spanish wine skyrocketed, as all of France was enjoying it then.
Growing Grapes in Spain
Vineyards are bush-trained, rather than trellis-trained.
At harvest time, grapes are harvested by hand, because modern machines cannot help in this process.
This hands-on technique lets growers hand sort leaves and unripe grapes from the harvest, resulting in higher quality wines we have come to expect from Rioja.
Rioja has mountain ranges to the north and south, which protect crops from most damaging weather.
The east, in Rioja Baja, is flat, dry and warm. The west, in Rioja Alta and Alavesa, the climate is wetter and more mountainous.
This dramatic difference in climate results in different types of grapes being grown in Rioja Baja versus Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa.
Many wine connoisseurs believe that wine from Alta and Alaves are superior to those from Baja. But I think you should be the judge.
Delicious Rioja Wine
There are four different levels of Rioja, each is based on how long the wine was aged in barrels and bottles before it was released from the winery:
Joven ($) – Released after a few months of aging, possibly in oak before bottling. You will see Garantia de origen on the back label if it is Joven.
Crianza ($$) – Aged for two years, with at least one year in oak barrels.
Reserva ($$$) – Aged for three years, with at least one year in oak.
Gran Reserva ($$$$) – Aged for five to seven years, with at least two years in oak barrels.
Here are a few Rioja wines that you must try:
Castillo Labastida – The Labastida Reserva is made from 100% Tempranillo. It has beautiful bright red color, has aromas of spices and fruit. The flavors you will enjoy are of berries, oak and spices. You can age this wine for up to three years.
Conde de Valdemar – The Reserva is 90% Tempranillo and 10% Mazuelo. It has a deep red color, aromas of spices and wile berries and flavors of fruit and nice tannins.
Edulis – The Edulis Crianza is a Rioja wine made with 100% Tempranillo. It is a medium-bodied wine with aromas of spices and berries. This wine can age for three years.
Muga – The Bodega Muga has released the Aro Rioja, a blend of old wine Tempranillo (70%) and Graciano (30%). It has a lovely deep purple color, aromas of wile berries and spices. It is best to age this wine for six to eight years before enjoying.
Marques de Caceres – The Crianza wine from Marques de Caceres is delicious. It has a bright red color, aromas of berries and spices, a fruity flavor and nice tannins. Enjoy this Rioja wine now or age it for two years.
Campo Viejo – The Campo Viejo Gran Reserva is a blend of Tempranillo, Graciano and Mazuelo. It has a deep red color, aromas of ripe fruit and spices. It will pair well with roasted meats or strong cheeses.
Cune – This Cune Crianza wine is made with 90% Tempranillo and 10% Graciano, Garnacha and Mazuela. It has a bring red color, aromas of oak and berries, flavors of spices. It is a nice light and fruity wine.
If you fall in love with these wines, perhaps you would like to visit Rioja. There are many La Rioja hotels, Rioja wine tours and more for you to experience in this beautiful country.