Rioja has been considered Spain’s preeminent wine region for more than a century. There are more than 123,000 acres of vineyards on both sides of the Ebro River, in the remote interior of northern Spain.
Rioja is often referred to as Spain’s Bordeaux. Wines have been aged in oak barrels since the 1700s. In the 1850s French wine makers were dealing with parasites attacking their vines. First odium and then phylloxera wreaked havoc on French vintners. Merchants traveled from France to Rioja to find wine for their customers, and sales boomed. By 1901 phylloxera reached Rioja and destroyed 70 percent of the vineyards. The boom turned into a bust and it wasn’t until the 1960s that Rioja began to re-establish itself as a wine region. In the 1970s Spain began to return to financial stability, and investors started to modernize and expand wineries.
Rioja produces white wines from Garnacha Blanca, Malvasia and Viura. Rioja is really famous for red wines produced using Garnacha, Graciano, Mazuelo and most famous of all Tempranillo.
Wines are classified according to the quality of the grapes and how long they are aged for. These wines range from very affordable to quite expensive. The rules governing Rioja wines are as follows:
the reds must be aged for at least two years, one of which in oak. White Crianzas must be aged for six months in oak.
the reds must be aged for at least three years, one of which in oak. White Reservas must be aged for one year, six months in oak.
the reds must be aged for at least five years, two of them in oak. White Gran Reservas must be aged for four years, six months in oak.
There is currently a movement by some winemakers to make a fresher less oaky style of Rioja, but for many, long oak barrel aging is still in favor.
If you are not familiar with Rioja, come into the market and pick up a bottle of Lan Criaza, it’s delicious!
The secret of enjoying a good bottle of wine – Open the bottle to allow it to breathe, if it doesn’t look like it’s breathing, give it mouth-to-mouth.
This month’s Wines of the Month are both from Spain.
The white is Principe de Viana, 2013, Chardonnay from Navarra. It has great tropical fruit flavors, vanilla, and is full bodied and balanced.
The red is Can Rafols, 2011, Terraprima, a blend of Cabernet Franc, Grenache and Syrah with dense blackberry and cherry fruit, tangy acidity and a hint of licorice. They’re both delicious!
Wine Club members please come in and pick up your wines before they’re gone.
I hope to see you all at our New World vs Old World wine tasting on Friday March 10th.
Sommelier, Maynards Market and Kitchen