Rioja is the leading Spanish winemaking region. Located in northern Spain it spans over 65,000 hectares of varying terroir consisting of 3 different zones: Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Baja.
The climate of Rioja is perfectly adapted to winemaking. Sheltered by the Cantabrian Mountains to the north, and the Sierra de la Demanda to the south, it enjoys a beautiful microclimate, irrigated by the Ebro River and its tributaries.
Over the last few decades Rioja has manifested into two distinct styles, the more traditional style - medium-bodied and aged in American oak and the more modern style, deeper in colour and fruitier, aged in smaller French oak barrels
The main red grape varieties grown in the Rioja region are Tempranillo and Garnacha Tinto.
Tempranillo Grapes - These have a good balance of alcohol, fruit and acidity, they age will and are clearly identified in this manner -
Grenacha - This is a hardy grape, grows very well in dry conditions and is not bothered by too many pests. In a warm climate, such as Rioja, it takes on more fruity flavours and is naturally high in alcohol. In the glass it takes on a translucent violet-ruby colour.
White Rioja - Although not as common as the reds, these have progressed leaps and bounds recently. They are made from one or a blend from at least 51% Viura and possibly a blend of other white grapes including Malvasia and Grenacha Blanca. Historically, these have been heavily oaked, but new styles have brought them up to date as ranging from light bodied whites, with soft fruit flavours of citrus and melon right through to the more full-bodied style still aged in oak. It is catagorised the by the same system as red Rioja and these days is definitely worth a try as these wines can be paired with many styles of food.