Description 1 of 2

The Rioja region of Spain produces one of the world’s finest, and most long lived wines: Rioja. Rioja's renaissance, in the latter half of the 19th century, was a direct result of the phyloxera bug that decimated vineyards around the globe. While English merchants came to Rioja to replace their French imports, the wines here actually have much more in common with Chianti. Both wines are blend relying heavily on one grape, in this case Tempranillo. Like Chianti’s Sangiovese, Tempranillo usually produces a relatively high acid wine of medium to medium-full body. Tempranillo tends to produce wines with a dusty, leathery edge to their raspberry and blackberry fruit tones. With additions of Graciano, Mazuela and Grancha the wines of Rioja can take on additional layers of flavor and aroma but the tradition of extended oak aging for Rioja's great wines contributes an even more obvious imprint. While the Spaniards have traditionally been a fan of the strong vanilla and coconut component that American oak barrels have contributed to Rioja, more and more producers have turned to French oak favoring it's more subtle spice tones. Rioja continues to undergo extended aging in Barrel with Reserva and Gran Reserva bottlings, representing a producer highest achievement, spending a minimum of 3, or 5 years respectively in the producer's cellar. A brief breakdown of the styles of rioja. Joven - These are young fruity wines full of red berry fruits and best in their youth. Served with a slight chill they make excellent reds for warm weather. Crianza - These are wines that see at least 6 months aging in oak barrels allowing them to soften a touch and pick up subtle vanilla and spice notes while preserving most of their youthful fruit. these are wines that can benefit from a year or two in the cellar but are accessible on release. Roble - Wines labeled Roble, Oak in Spanish, are wines that have seen some period of oak aging, frequently less than what is required to achieve Crianza status, yet offer the obvious effects of barrel aging, frequently more pronounced than with a Crianza. Reserva - These are wines that have seen at least 12 months in oak barrels, plus an additional two in the cellar before release. this additional time, and the fact that producer use better wines for these, means that Reservas are both richer and silkier than Crianza's with emerging notes of tobacco, soil and spice that comes with aging. Gran Reserva - the highest classification in Rioja, Gran Reserva wines are kept in barrel for at least 24 months and an additional 3 years in the cellar. these wines can be opulent and flamboyant with amazing depth of flavor that combines the remains fo the raspberry and strawberry fruit of Tempranillo plus spice tones and vanilla from the oak plus the added layer and dimension of oxidative tones that add subtle notes of leather, preserved meats and nuts to the wine. These are silky, long, elegant wines that stand head to head with the worlds finest. – Description from Gregory Dal Piaz

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Description 2 of 2


Rioja is named for the river, Rio Oja, which runs through the Oja Valley in the province of La Rioja in northern Spain. The region runs for 120 kilometers down either side of the river, which supplies the large quantity of water needed for the vast number of vineyards to grow their harvests. 
Tempranillo is the main grape found in reds, known as Spain’s “noble grape.” A typical blend is 60 percent with the other components traditionally some fraction of Garnacha, Graciano and/or Mazuelo. It is also sometimes blended with Spanish-grown French grapes such as Cabernet and Syrah. 
The main white grape is Viura, a.k.a. Macabeo. It is sometimes blended with Malvasia and Garnacha Blanco. 
Rosados are generally produced from Garnacha. 
The age designations for Rioja labels are as follows:
*The youngest wines are simply “Riojas” (or “Sin Crianza”) and are typically less than a year old before bottling and release, with little or no oak aging. 
*Crianzas spend at least two years aging before release, one of which is in oak. 
*Rioja Reservas spend at least three years aging and at least one of those in oak. 
*Grand Reservas are aged at least two years in oak and three in bottle before release. 
Rioja is split into three separate regions:
*Rioja Alta in the north, known for more fruity expressions. 
*Rioja Alavesa in the middle, known for more structured wines with brighter acidity. Due to poorer soil conditions, the grapes tend to be grown with the vines spread farther apart to allow nutrients to penetrate the vines. 
*Rioja Baja, the driest and warmest climate of the three. Summer droughts are common here, so provisions and allowances have been made for irrigation systems. These grapes are typically less structured and are used as blending grapes for the other regions. 
Recent noteworthy vintages include 1982, 1994, 1995, 2001 and 2004. 
– Description from Amanda Schuster

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