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La Rioja Wine Region

La Rioja Wine Region

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Published by Karyn N. Lewis
Research paper in association with Wines of the World - Rochester Institute of Technology Fall 2006
Research paper in association with Wines of the World - Rochester Institute of Technology Fall 2006

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Karyn N. Lewis on Jan 03, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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08/31/2010

 
 La Rioja Wine Region
 
Karyn LewisWOW I
 – 
Fall 2006
 
 
 2
Characteristics unique to the region
The Rioja wine region is located in northern Spain, in the valley of the Ebro river. Situated in thethree provinces of La Rioja, Alava
and Navarra, it’s divided into three regions. These include the
Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa in the west, and the Rioja Baja in the east. The vineyards coverapproximately148,200 acres and vary in altitude from 300-600 meters. The Rioja region issheltered from the worst Atlantic weather-related influences by nearby mountain ranges, and theEbro River runs right through it to provide much needed water for the vines. The winters are coldand the summers warm but never real hot.Although Rioja covers a relatively small area, it holds several different types of soil and climaticconditions. The land slopes downwards moving from west to east, and the climate becomesincreasingly dry and hot due to the Mediterranean influence. Additionally, there are three types of soil found within the Rioja wine region. Half the area is Alluvial, which is found in areasthroughout the region near the Ebro river. These plots are large, flat, and have ideal depth andriver stones. One quarter of the region is ferrous clay, which
is sloping land that’s hard with deep,
hard rock and is also found in large plots across the area. Another quarter of the region is chalkyclay, found in specific areas in small, tarraced plots. These soil and weather conditions affect thedevelopment of the vines and result in the distinctive characteristics for which the wines from theRioja region are known.
Grape varieties
 Rioja wines are assigned to three categories: crianza
 — 
the youngest, most common, and leastexpensive; reserva; and the finest wines, gran reserva. Rioja reds are based on Tempranillo,
 
 3
Spain's greatest red grape, blended with varying amounts of Garnacha, Mazuelo and Graciano.Rioja whites are based on Viura with some Malvasia grapes and are clean and crisp with a freshcitrus taste. The types of grapes grown in the region are those permitted by the regulations of theDenominación de Origen Calificada Rioja. These grape varieties have been studied closely andspecifically selected for the area.Of the reds, the Tempranillo variety is the most steadily grown grape type of the Rioja region,representing about 61% of the total taken in. The Garnacha variety have slowly decreased infavor of the Temranillo type but is known for its range of wine-making possibilities according tothe environmental conditions and production process. Mazuelos are prone to mildew but bearsmore fruit than most varieties. This type originated in France and requires warmer temperaturesto ripen properly. Gracianos are internationally known for their Spanish origin. It is the mostaromatic of all the varieties grown in the Rioja region, and is predicted to grow in quantity inupcoming years.Of the whites, Viura grapes are the dominant variety grown in the Rioja region. This type is moreproductive than most reds grown in the area and is mainly found in Spain. Malvasia grapes aredistinctly known for their ripened reddish-yellow color. There are many varieties of the samename throughout the world, but are not regarded the same as those gorwn in the Rioja region.White Garnacha grapes occupy the smallest area of all the Riojan vines. This grape variety issimilar to its red counterpart but is not known well in the Rioja area.
Wine Culture & History
Rioja claims a longer wine history than Bordeaux but the modern Spanish wine owes much of itscharacter to Bordeaux's influence. French vinification techniques and the practice of aging winesin small oak barrels was introduced early, although American oak is preferred over French oak.In the Middle Ages, winemaking in the Mediterranean area was linked with Monks. At that time
the Rioja region took extreme precautions every step of the way. In the early 1600’s, for example,the mayor of the time banned carriages from passing along the roads next to cellars ―for fear that
 
the vibration from these vehicles might affect the juice and the aging of our precious wines‖.
 The quality of Rioja wines have been guaranteed since the year 1650. In 1787 the RoyalEconomic Society of Rioja Winegrowers was established, aiming to increase the development

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