The Rioja wine region is basically located along the Ebro River between the towns of Alfaro ( south ) and Haro up north. Within Rioja, there are 3 different wine growing areas: there is the more "Mediterranean" Rioja Baja area ( warmer, drier ), and further up north the cooler Rioja Alta and the Basque Rioja Alavesa areas. Harvesting wine in Rioja has a very long history and it possibly dates back even to pre-roman times. Already in 1790 wine-growers in the region established their own organization ( the Real Sociedad Económica de Cosecheros de La Rioja ) to define rules and common standards. It was in this time, when oak barrels where introduced, which gave Rioja wines this special and distinct flavour. Today, bodegas in the area will often use every year up to 40.000 oak barrels ( American or French ), and they are much needed because the wine production in Rioja totals approx. 250 million liters p.a. Red wine represents about 85% of the total yield, followed by the white and rosé wines. Since 1991, Rioja wine bottles carry the prestigious DOC a label ( Denominación de Origen Calificada ) honoring the excellent and consistent quality of Rioja wines. Grapes typically used for red wines are Tempranillo, followed by Graciano, Garnacha and Mazuelo.White wines are mostly made of Viura grapes, Malvasía and Garnacha Blanca. So, what's in the bottle then? Of course, there is no disputing about tastes, but when it comes to aging, there are clear rules:
Rioja - less than 1 year of oak aging
Rioja Crianza - 2 years of aging, minimum 1 year in oak
Rioja Reserva - 3 years of aging, minimum 1 year in oak
Rioja Gran Reserva - 5 years of aging, minimum 2 years in oak
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