La Rioja is a small area, but is the richest in production of table wines in Spain and has gained a world-wide reputation in the past few years. It is divided into sub-areas: Rioja Baja, Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa.
- Rioja Baja produces fruity, full-bodied wines of higher alcoholic content than the other two areas.
- Rioja Alta is the area known for one-year old red wines, called añadas and for reservas, which are wines aged for at least two years in a barrel, plus one year in bottles. These are highly aromatic wines, balanced and with a flavor that cannot be mistaken. White wines, best drank young are also produced in this area.
- Rioja Alavesa is an area that produces young red wines.
As we mentioned, this area produces some truly high quality wines, called special reserves. They come in three categories, depending on the length of time that they have been left to mature:
Wines are aged for a period of at least one year in a barrel, then stored in bottles for one more year. As a rule, Crianzas are made from grapes of the third, fourth or fifth crop.
These wines are aged for at least two years in the barrel, then one additional year in the bottle.
Aged for at least three years in oak barrels, then one year in bottles in the underground cellars famous in La Rioja, called calaos.
The following is a short list of Rioja wines that are readily available in the USA:
- Marques de Riscal - This is the oldest bodega in La Rioja and was founded in 1860 by the Marques of Riscal. This winery only produces Reserva and Gran Reserva wines and the grapes come from vineyards that are at least 20 years old.
- Marques de Caceres - Enrique Forner founded this winery in the 1960's with the help of his friend, professor Emile Peynaud, who had already collaborated with the Forner family in Bourdeaux, France. The winery is named after the Marques, Juan Ambrosio Garcia de Cáceres y Montemayor.
- C.V.N.E. (Compania Vinicola del Norte de Espana) - This winery was founded in 1879 and keeps up to date on the latest equipment and technology available. This winery was honored when the Royal Family chose one of its wines to be served at one of Prince Felipe's wedding celebrations.
- Campo Viejo - This is one of the largest bodegas, with over 45,000 barrels, stored in its underground cellars. This winery has a wide variety of wines, from simple white table wines to exclusive special reserves.