Rioja: The Spanish Beauty
Rioja is Spainís version of the Italian Chianti. It is the best-known and best-loved type of Spanish red wine, the one red wine type from Spain that has found a home for itself on wine lists and retail shelves everywhere in the world.
Rioja wine comes from the Rioja wine region of Northeastern Spain. Three subzones exist there and the climate and soil profile of each zone influences the quality and character of its grapes. Most Rioja wines are blends of grapes or wines from more than one subzone, although some bodegas (Spanish wineries) make their wine from only one area. The name of that area is rarely identified on the label of the wine.
Rioja is a blended wine not only in geography but also in its grape content. The grape most often associated with Rioja is Tempranillo which forms the base of most of the finest Rioja reds. The Tempranillo is also usually blended eith Grenache and up to two other locally grown grapes like Mazeulo or Graciano. Some Riojas are even made of almost entirely Grenache grapes.
Depending on which grapes the winery decides on and where the grapes came from, the style of red Rioja varies. Those wines with a high percentage of Grenache are usually higher in alcohol, less tannic and less fruity than those with less Grenache.
Rioja wines also vary considerably in the style according to how long they age at the winery in oak bottles and in bottles before they are released. Although you usually canít know the exact grape and subzone(s) by studying the label of red Rioja, you can usually figure out the age-style of the wine.
The producers of red Rioja arenít in agreement about how to make Riojas and this disagreement offers an array of tastes from just one region. At one extreme the wines are deeply colored and show concentrated fruit flavor and on the other side are wines that have lost their adolescent fruitiness in favor of complex, silky dimensions.
Red Rioja wine in its most classic manifestation is a medium-bodied, soft and mellow type of wine with only moderate levels of tannin. This wine has wonderful vanilla aroma and flavor that comes from the barrels in which the wine ages and, depending on how mature the wine is, it can have aged aromas and flavors of dried red fruits.
About the Author: John Gibb is the owner of Wine guides
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