From Rioja-Viña Real
Rioja Alavesa is home to the top wines of Rioja and Viña Real is leading the pack.
The wine-making region of Rioja is recognized by wine lovers for quality and reliability,
due in part to the laws of the region that govern minimum ageing requirements. These
laws set a high standard, but it is the individual wineries that raise the bar even higher
and Viña Real is the perfect example.
Rioja is situated in the north of Spain in the Upper Ebro region along the River Ebro
and is named after a tributary called the Río Oja. This, the country’s leading wine region,
is broken down into three areas: Rioja Alavesa, producing light wines with great finesse;
Rioja Alta, whose wines are the backbone for many blends and Rioja Baja known for early
maturing styles. The wines are principally made from red grapes, with Tempranillo being
the main one, along with smaller plantings of Graciano, Mazuelo and Garnacha.
Age Worthy Wines
It was in 1920 that the vineyards of Viña Real were planted. At this time, the wines were
produced from grapes grown around Elciego, at the center of the Alavesa province. Today
these vineyards still exist and have expanded to border the Camino Real (Royal Road),
a highway used historically to link León and Madrid; hence the name Viña Real.
The Tempranillo grape is revered in Rioja as it produces wines unique to the terroir and
yields wines which benefit from barrel and bottle ageing. At Viña Real, the grapes are
carefully selected and only the very best will be used in the wine and great care and
precision is taken in the winery to let the expression of the region reflect in the final wine.
In the market for Spanish red wine? Here are a few facts and suggestions to get you tippling
the best of the Rioja reds. Like many Spanish vineyards, Rioja has a complex history veiled
in obscurity. Modern wines only date to the beginning of the nineteenth century.
The decade of 1870-80 was a dynamic era where the red wines of Rioja really took off.
Inaccessibility of distributing the wine had always been a problem, but the new railway
systems helped to revolutionize the wine industry.
Currently there's a renaissance going on in Rioja; a new wine is coming to fruition which is bolder, bigger, and more concentrated than before. Wineries partaking of the new tradition include, but are not limited too:
•Remirex de Ganuza
The Wines of Viña Real
While Viña Real do produce a superb barrel fermented white made from 100% Viura grapes,
it is their range of red wines that continue to impress. The series consists of a Crianza,
Reserva and Gran Reserva, all of which have to be aged for a certain length of time, both
in barrel and bottle, as determined by Spanish law, but at Viña Real, the wines are usually
aged for much longer than is required, achieving wines of spectacular complexity.
The flagship of the collection is the Pagos de Viña Real, a wine of 100% Tempranillo that
are sourced solely from their own vineyards near the city of Logroño. Strict selection of the
grapes occurs both in the vineyard and again at the winery to ensure only the very best quality.
Fermentation takes place in small oak vats which allows optimum results. A secondary fermentation
happens in new 225 litre casks made of French oak which provide the Pagos de Viña Real with
its individual characteristics.
Rioja is a trusted region producing many exciting wines and for an example of one of the best,
look for a bottle of Viña Real.
A Closer Look at Rioja
Rioja (pronounced Ree-aw-hah) is neither a grape, nor a style of wine but a region of Spain
where some of the world’s best wines are made.
As in France, the Rioja district has strict laws that govern the variety of grapes grown,
how they are aged and for how long. (It may surprise some people to know that Spain
has been making wine far longer than France. Centuries ago, when the vineyards of France
were destroyed by Phylloxera, Spain benefited from the influx of French winemakers whose
techniques and procedures are the basis for today’s bodegas.)
For many wine-drinkers, seeing the word Rioja on a wine list is a guarantee of quality and a safe bet.
Spanish Rioja's are indeed fine wines and have become synonymous with quality for
fascinating and unique reasons.Wines labeled Crianza must have spent at least twelve months in oak barrels, while
Reservas have been aged for at least three years, a minimum of which must be in oak for twelve months.
The highest level is Gran Reserva which typically hail from exceptional vintages and are aged
for a minimum of two years in oak and up to three years in the bottle. The type of oak barrels
used are also controlled by the government laws, and are classified as ‘barricas’ or
Bordeaux-style barriques, a 225 litre (59 gallon) barrel which allows for greater contact
with the wine to impart the classic vanilla characteristics so admired in wines from Rioja.
Red Wines From Spain, Old and New Wine-making Methods
Rioja is probably Spain’s best known wine but historically it's intertwined with the French wine
makers and wine-making methods, since the 18th century when the Iberian trade routes were
improving and the French were looking for new growing areas.
Today some of the new blends of Rioja may be drunk young, but traditionally Rioja wine is
aged in oak casks. Around 1780, Manuel Quintano adopted the method of aging wines in oak
casks, as they did in the area of Bordelais, although he adapted their method slightly by using
a larger cask.
By 1850 a commercial vineyard was established by Marquis de Murrieta in the Duca de Vitoria,
these wines were exported to the Spanish colonies. When, in the 1850s, a blight destroyed many
of the French vineyards many Bordelais producers left for Spain and the region of Rioja, searching
for new and suitable land for their vineyards.
In 1925, Rioja was the first production area to be granted the Denominación de Origen status
and later in 1991, this quality control marking was promoted to a Denominación de Origen Calificada,
because of its better and consistant quality.
What sets the Rioja production apart from other producers is the long aging of the wine,
which the Spanish wine-makers took further than the French with a Rioja wine being aged
in a cask for four to ten years and for some of their wines, even longer.
There is evidence that wine has been made in area north of the River Ebro in the Rioja region
since Roman times. It began to flourish again, after the expulsion of the Moors when the
monasteries in Rioja starting making wine for the pilgrims walking the Camino Frances to
Santiago de Compostela, in Galicia.
This was a young wine that was more “traditional” to the region of Rioja, a fresh fruity drink,
that was not aged in barrels and didn't keep well, a drink for the field workers rather than fine diners.
It wasn't until the popularity of French Beaujolais that renewed an interest in the "rough" wines
of Rioja, along with an growing awareness that these “young Spanish reds” could compete with
their French counterparts and by the 1980s they were doing just that.
The young Spanish reds gave us a choice of Rioja, an oak-aged distinctive gentleman and young
and fresh lighter style wine. Both of which have their place on anyones wine list.