I just got back from a fantastic trip to Rioja, Spain and can’t wait for everyone to try the incredible wines we discovered! I focused most of my attention on the Rioja Alta/Rioja Alavesa sub regions as they proved to be the most concentrated wines. Rioja is located in the north west of Spain and is it’s most important wine producing region. The region is divided into three zones running along the Ebro river, “Rioja Baja”, “Rioja Alavesa” and “Rioja Alta”. Alta and Alavesa are extremely similar viticulturally with the best vineyards lying on the slopes abutting the Sierra de Cantabria (mountains) at altitudes ranging from 300-800m. However, politically there is a division (Alavesa is Basque Country). The epicenter of the Rioja region is the city of Logroño and Haro, and winemaking has flourished in the area since the Christian conquest of the Moors in the 15h century. Although 7 varieties of grapes are grown in Rioja, it is the black grape Tempranillo that has thrived on these clay and limestone soils. Although there has been renewed interest in the Graciano (endemic black grape), Viura (White-Macabeo) and Verdejo (White-Verdehlo) also grown here.
The style of Red Rioja has broad international appeal. The wines are usually aged in oak barriques (American and French oak) and have wonderful structure with appealing vanillin, slightly savory complexity. We were able to source a range of exciting Crianzas and Reservas in both “traditional” and “modern” styles. No wonder people call this region the “most progressive winemaking region in Europe”.