Wine was likely grown here by the Romans with the first modern boom in production happening in the 1860’s as merchants from Bordeaux arrived after outbreaks of vine diseases in France. Along with trade to France, the merchants also brought the idea of aging wine in small oak barrels giving rise to traditionally styled, oxidized wines. Rioja was the first region in Spain to gain status as a D.O. in 1925. Recently, in the 1960s and 70’s, style shifted to wines with a combination of ripe fruit and unctuous oak followed more recently by a trend to produce intense, concentrated “modern” wines with less time in the bottle but plenty of new oak. In 1991 the region was elevated to a D.O.Calificada, one of only two regions to gain that status, which recognizes the quality and consistency of products from the region.
Climate: Rioja is a sheltered to the north by the Cantabrian mountains and to the south by Sierra de la Demanda, leading to a moderate climate. Temperatures tend to be mild and combine with an average of 17 inches of rain a year to provide an ideal growing environment.
Soil: Rioja is subdivided into three zones, Rioja Baja, Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Alta. In the Baja alluvial soils (sand) and clay predominate, in the Alavesa limestone and clay predominate, and in the Alta limestone, clay and alluvial soils are present. This variety of soils at different elevations leads to some of the stylistic differences between bodegas.
Grape Varities: Four red grapes are allowed in the D.O. with Tempranillo comprising 65% of all plantings, the other allowed red grapes include Graciano, Mazuelo (Cariñena), and Garnacha. Three white grapes are allowed, Viura, Malvasia, and Garnacha Blanca.