|In 1102 we find the
first document making reference to the safeguarding of the quality of Rioja
wines when King Sancho of Navarra legally recognized the wines from this
area. Then in 1787 the Real Sociedad Económica de Cosecheros de
Rioja (Royal Economic Society of Rioja Winegrowers) was established with
the sole purpose of encouraging the cultivation of vines, wine production
and its commercial development.
In 1902 came a Royal Decree which
defined the "origin" applicable to Rioja Wines and then in 1926 came the
Consejo Regulador (Control Board) with responsibility to define the designated
boundaries of the Rioja region, supervise and issue the "seal of approval",
and to recommend the legal action to be taken against mis-use of the name
Rioja. In 1945 the board received it's legal structure and then in 1953
finally became officially established from which time it has set out the
foundations for a modern and efficient production of these world famous
Spanish wines.In 1970 this responsibility was clearly defined thus, "The
Control Board shall uphold the Designation of Origin and implement, monitor
and foster the quality of its wines."
The long history of the production
and development of Rioja wines has resulted in a wine of outstanding quality
which can confidently stand shoulder to shoulder with many of the worlds
finest wines. This was further acknowledged when on April 3rd. 1991 a Ministerial
Order granted the category of "Calificada" to the D.O., the first and only
wine designation of origin in Spain to attain this ranking.
Wines, Grape Varieties.
For many centuries wine has been
produced in the Riojan area and obviously this lengthy passage of time
has resulted in the natural selection of grapes best suited to the area
and best able to produce wines of the highest quality. Factors such as
soil type and climate play a large part in this selection process but of
course the resultant wine is an all important consideration as well.
Today seven varieties of grape are
permitted by the Regulations of the Denominación de Origen Calificada
Rioja, these are:-
Red grape; Tempranillo, Garnacha,
Mazuelo and Graciano and
White Grape; Viura, Malvasía
and White Garnacha.
Types of Rioja Wines.
Most Rioja wines are normally the
result of the harmonious combination, in varying proportions, of the different
varieties grown in the region and the different sub-areas within them.
Rioja wines exhibit much aromatic
complexity. They are fresh, with a medium body, a balanced structure, and
an excellent bouquet.
* Red wines: Classic wines
of bright colour with a fresh, penetrating aroma; light in the mouth with
medium alcohol content. Tempranillo is the predominant variety used to
make these wines.
* Rosé wines: Bright
pink wines with a strong fragrance. They are light and fresh in the mouth,
with medium alcohol content. Garnacha is the predominant variety used to
make these wines.
* White wines: Greenish-yellow,
which can be more or less pale. They exhibit fine aromas and prove light
in the mouth with fairly low alcohol content. Viura is the predominant
variety used to make these wines.
Ageing Rioja Wines.
Rioja wines are aged in 225-litre
oak casks, with periodic rackings, followed by a further period of bottle
ageing. There are over 270 ageing bodegas in Rioja which have a total of
over 900,000 casks. The different Rioja wine categories are based on minimum
ageing periods, which can vary between 1 and 3 years in casks and between
6 months and 6 years in the bottle, depending on whether the wine is to
be a Crianza, a Reserva or a Gran Reserva.
Rioja wines are aged in oak casks
of 225 litre capacity with periodic rackings. Then follows a period of
bottle ageing. The length of the ageing process differs between different
categories of Riojan wine and can vary from 1-3 years in the cask and 6
months to 6 years in the bottle depending on whether the wine is to be
a Crianza, Reserva or Gran Reserva. Today there are over 270 ageing bodegas
in Rioja with over 900,000 casks.
The lengthy tradition of winemaking
in the Rioja region of Northern Spain with the inherent wealth of experience
that such a period of trial, error, disaster, success and experimentation
produces has resulted in blessing the world with a marvellous wine which
will satisfy the most discerning palete.
A further excellent fact about Rioja,
and most dark red wines, is that scientific evidence now tells us that
they are positively good for us. Drunk in moderation they provide us with
those all important anti- oxidants. One of which in particular, called
reservatrol, has been shown to have anti-cancer properties as well as to
have an anti-blood clotting effect. Further proof perhaps of the health
benefits of the Mediterranean Diet. So now when you take a drink of red
wine and say, " your health", you can really mean it. CHEERS!