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The region of Rioja has a long and storied history, one that is thoroughly intertwined with wine production in the area. Whether you are planning a trip to Rioja or simply looking to experience the region through the wine produced there, our guide to Rioja wine covers everything you need to know about the region and the wine produced there. 

What is Rioja Wine?

Rioja is both the name of a wine region and the name given to the wine itself.  These wines are primarily red, though they can also be white or pink. They are most commonly made using Tempranillo grapes, though this is only one of many varieties grown in the region, and almost all wines produced here are blends. 

The name Rioja is derived from the name of a river in the region, the Oja River (Rio Oja). The name was established as a designation of origin for the prestigious wines produced in the area and is the oldest designation of origin in Spain

Rioja Wine Classifications 

In addition to the designation given by the name, Rioja wines are also designated by their style, and the time they’ve aged. Each classification tends towards a different flavor profile and price point. These classifications are:  

  1. Gran Reserva 
    1. Reds– Aged five years with at least two years in oak barrels and two years in bottles. 
    2. White/Rosé- Aged five years with at least six months in barrels. 
  2. Reserva
    1. Reds– Aged three years with at least one year in oak barrels and six months in bottles. 
    2. White/Rosé- Aged two years with at least six months in barrels. 
  3. Crianza
    1. Reds– Aged two years with at least one year in oak barrels. 
    2. White/Rosé- Aged two years with at least six months in barrels.
  4. Generic
    1. Reds– No aging requirements.
    2. White/Rosé– No aging requirements.

In addition to these categories, Rioja wines can also be labeled by their zone or municipality to provide buyers with a better understanding of exactly where the wine came from. 

Where is La Rioja?

La Rioja is a small wine region in North Central Spain, encompassing portions of both the Ebro Valley and the Iberian Range. Wine production occurs primarily in the North, along the valley, as the Iberian Range is at a higher elevation and is too cold to produce the quality of grape and wine that the region is known for. While Rioja might be small when measured in size, its impact on the winemaking industry has been immense. They’re internationally recognized for the wine produced there and are the most famous wine region in Spain. 

Rioja’s History With Wine

Rioja has been home to winemakers for thousands of years, as archeological evidence shows that wine was produced here during Roman times. Wine production slowed during the Moorish Occupation but picked back up when this ended in 1492. Viniculture has been a substantial component of the local economy ever since. As technological advances improved the ability to transport goods like wine out of the once-remote region, La Rioja developed an international reputation for high-quality wines. 

What Does Rioja Wine Taste Like? 

Rioja wines can vary greatly but are generally berry-forward with high acidity and high tannins. This deep richness of flavors comes from the aging process; Rioja wines are generally aged in oak barrels to achieve the desired flavor profile. 

Food Pairings for Rioja

The ideal food pairing for your rioja wine will be dependent on whether you’re drinking red or white wine. Reds generally pair better with red meat and red sauce dishes, while whites are better suited for chicken and other lighter fare. 

Rioja Red Wine Food Pairings

  • Lamb
  • Pork 
  • Chorizo
  • Lasagna
  • Pizza
  • Spaghetti 

Rioja White Wine Food Pairings 

  • Chicken 
  • Mushroom 
  • Fish 
  • Tapas 
  • Cheeses

Rioja wines are rich, smooth, and steeped in history. As one of the most prestigious wine regions in the world, a visit to Rioja is any wine lover’s dream. But, If you’re not quite ready to plan your trip today, you can always start your adventure with a bottle of Rioja wine from our excellent selection.