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Rioja Alta

Sub-area of the Spanish DOCa area Rioja; see there.

The autonomous region of La Rioja, with its capital Logroño, is located in the north of Spain and covers 5,045 km². It borders the regions of Castilla y León and Aragon to the west, south and east and the Basque Country and Navarra to the north. The northern border of La Rioja is roughly identical to the course of the River Ebro.

Rioja (the wine)

The Rioja wine-growing region is one of the most important in Europe and is classified as a DOCa. Although the majority of the 60,000 hectares of vineyards are in La Rioja, some of them are also located in the Basque Country (Alavesa subzone) and Navarra (parts of the Rioja Oriental subzone). The area has a very old wine-growing history. Numerous stone-carved fermentation basins have been preserved, which bear witness to viticulture as far back as ancient times. The guardaviñas found in Rioja Alta in Ábalos, Briones and San Asensio are particularly typical. These dome-like stone constructions were used as a shelter for winegrowers and their livestock in bad weather and for monitoring harvests.

 Rioja (Rioja Alta) - Guardaviña (Schutzhütte) und Weinberg

The area of origin

There is a long tradition of endeavouring to achieve designation of origin and exquisite quality. As early as 1560, winegrowers decided on a standardised brand for their barrels in order to guarantee the identity of the wines from this area. In 1635, the mayor of Logroño even banned the movement of carts through streets where wine cellars were located. This was due to concerns that vibrations caused by vehicles could spoil the grape must and affect the maturing process of the wines. The first written reference to quality control dates back to 1650. In 1787, the "Real Sociedad Económica de Cosecheros de Rioja" (Royal Economic Association of Rioja Winegrowers) was founded to promote winegrowing, winemaking and the wine trade. At the beginning of the 19th century, the custom of the Batalla del Vino (Battle of the Wine) festival emerged in the town of Haro, which is still celebrated annually today.

One of the Rioja pioneers was Marqués Camilo Hurtado de Amézaga (1827-1888), who built a Bordeaux-style bodega on his estate in 1860 and had vines planted from there. After the grapevine invasion in the mid-19th century, many French winegrowers emigrated to this region and gave impetus to viticulture. In 1902, a royal decree was issued defining the origin of Rioja wines and establishing labelling rules. A control council founded in 1926 was given the tasks of delimiting the Rioja region, monitoring the issue of a "guarantee seal" and protecting the name Rioja. In 1953, the Rioja Designation of Origin Control Board was founded, which checks whether the wine fulfils the strict regulations on the basis of organoleptic samples and analytical tests.

In 1991, a ministerial decree awarded the Rioja region of origin the attribute "calificada" (qualified), elevating it to the first highest Spanish quality level DOCa. The name is derived from the river Oja (Rio Oja). The area, which is over 100 kilometres long, lies on both banks of the Ebro and on the slopes of the neighbouring hills. It has a mild climate with short summers and beautiful autumns. The traditional vine training is the En Vaso (Gobelet) bush vine, but wire-frame cultivation is becoming increasingly popular. The vast Rioja area is divided into three subzones, which also differ in terms of soil conditions and wine quality; Rioja Alta is considered the best quality zone:

Rioja Alta

This zone, with Haro as its wine centre, lies south of the Ebro River and west of the provincial capital of Logroño, entirely in the province of La Rioja. The climate is characterised by hot summers, mild autumns and cool winters under the influence of the Atlantic Ocean. The vineyards lie on sedimentary soils mixed with calcareous and ferruginous clay. The dominant variety is Tempranillo, followed by Mazuelo and Graciano, all of which have somewhat thicker and more...

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