Rioja, the most famous wine region in Spain, lies mostly within the autonomous community ofLa Rioja in the north of the country.
Rioja is separated into three sub-regions: Rioja Alavesa in the north, Rioja Alta to the west and Rioja Baja to the east. Producers often source grapes from each of these sub-regions, adding to their wines' complexity.
A distinct characteristic of Rioja wine is the effect of oak aging. First introduced in the early 18th century by Bordeaux influenced winemakers, the use of oak and the pronounced vanilla flavors in the wines has been a virtual trademark of the region though some modern winemakers are experimenting with making wines less influenced by oak.
Rioja's claim to fame is Tempranillo, Spain's classic grape variety, which thrives on the clay- and limestone-based soils of the best vineyard sites. Nevertheless, most of the wines are typically blends, in which Garnacha is employed to add its distinctive power and perfume. Garnacha is also used in Rioja's rosé wines, as well as in various others. Mazuelo (Carignan) and Gracianoalso find their way into Rioja wines, although in smaller quantities.
Heavy use of oak for long ageing, which is a signature Rioja style
Around 85% of all Rioja wines are red. The rest are rosado and blanco (white). Rioja also produces quality white wines based on Viura, Malvasia, Verdejo, Sauvignon Blanc and other varieties.