Spanish reds have been the talk of Europe over the last few months. Personally, I have been enjoying many great Tempranillo and Garnacha based wines over the course of our long winter. I have also had numerous member requests about a potential Spanish offering, so I can’t escape it…we are off to Rioja!
Rioja is located in the north 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 Alvasea” and arguable the finest zone for Tempranillo-“Rioja Alta”. Rioja Alta is located in the Basque dominant North West of the country around the town winemaking town of Haro. The epicenter of the Rioja region is the city of Logroño, and winemaking has flourished in the area since the Christian conquest of the Moors in the 15h century. The best vineyards lie on the slopes abutting the Sierra de Cantabria (mountains) at altitudes ranging from 300-800m. 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 (mainly American oak) and have wonderful structure with appealing vanillin, slightly savoury complexity. No wonder people call this region the “most progressive winemaking region in Europe”!