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Rioja wine perfectly marries coconut-scented American oak with the plush red fruit of Spain’s native tempranillo grape. The region’s top wines hit shelves with years of age, and offer the best values in the world of wine when compared with comparably aged wine from France or Italy.

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What Is Rioja?

Rioja is a Denominación de Origen Calificada (D.O.Ca) wine named after the La Rioja province in northeast Spain, where the wine is made. The majority of Rioja wine is red (tinto), but it can also be white (blanco) or pink (rosado), and sometimes even sparkling, although this is uncommon. The main grape of Rioja tinto is tempranillo, which is usually blended with a number of other grapes. The name Rioja comes from the Oja River (Rio Oja), a tributary of the Ebro River that defines the region.

History Of Rioja Wine

Wine has been made in Spain’s Ebro River valley since Roman times. Winemaking slowed during the Moorish occupation of the area but was reestablished by Christian monks by the turn of the sixteenth century. Most wine produced in Rioja was consumed locally, as the region was isolated and trade was difficult.

Commercial winemaking began in the mid-1800s, when the Marqués de Murrieta built the first bodega (wine cellar) in Logroño, the capital of La Rioja. Phylloxera, the vineyard-destroying aphid, began sweeping through France at the same time, but had not yet reached Spain. Spanish winemakers took advantage of that fact and began exporting Spanish wine to Europe and New York in large quantities. The tide shifted in 1901, when phylloxera, driven out of France, began devastating Spanish vineyards.

After phylloxera and the disruption of the First World War, the Spainsh wine business began rebuilding. A Consejo Regulador, a regulating body for the Spanish wine industry, was started in Rioja in 1926 and set rules for what would become Spain’s Denominación de Origen (DO) system.

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