Discover Rioja in six wines

Discover Rioja in six wines

by Westgarth Wines September 14, 2023

Rioja is perhaps the most famous wine region in Spain, with some of the longest aging requirements. It may be best known for its beautiful red blends, but its Blancos and Rosados are worth exploring too. As the first region to be awarded a DOCa (Denominación de Origen Calificada), it has long been one of Spain's premier wines.

Fast facts

Name: “Rioja” may come from Río Oja, a river adjoining the Ebro upon which Rioja lies. Another hypothesis is that it stems from the Basque word erriotxa, “land of bread” or arrioxa, “land of rocks”.

Location: Rioja lies in northern Spain. It is divided into three subregions: Rioja Alavesa, Rioja Alta, and Rioja Oriental (formerly known as Rioja Baja).

Grapes: Tempranillo makes up the majority of most red blends, with Garnacha, Graciano, and Mazuelo (also known as Carignan) used in varying proportions. Viura (also known as Macabeo) is the key grape in white wines.

Aging: Rioja has some of the longest aging requirements in the wine world, particularly for Reserva and Gran Reserva red wines. Reservas must spend 3 years aging, of which a minimum of 12 months is spent in oak and 6 in bottle. Gran Reservas are aged for 5 years, with a minimum of 2 years in oak followed by no less than 2 years in bottle.

Indulge in the wines:

Family-owned since 1877, López de Heredia is widely considered one of the world's greatest wine estates. Their reds are spectacular, but their complex, nutty, and supremely aromatic whites are truly astounding. They are one of the most traditional houses in the region, aging their wines in American oak, often for far longer than is required.

La Rioja Alta was founded in 1890 and remains a very traditional winery. They have an on-site cooperage for their American oak barrels, in which wines receive extended aging for far longer than the minimum requirements. Created in honor of La Rioja Alta’s 1904 acquisition of the Ardanza Winery, the Gran Reserva 904 is made mostly of Tempranillo, with a small proportion of Graciano, and aged in barrel around four years – twice as long as is required.

Artadi’s focus is on monovarietal wines. They made an unorthodox move in 2015 – leaving the Rioja DOCa in order to amplify that their wines are specifically made in the Rioja Alavesa. The La Poza de Ballesteros bottling hails from the La Poza vineyard, with its clay-limestone soils. 100% Tempranillo, it makes a very ripe fruited wine with hearty tannins.

Finca Allende is located in the Rioja Alta, where it seeks to showcase the subregion’s variety of terroir. Aurus is one of its flagship wines and comes from the Aurus vineyard with its northern exposure, 60-year-old vines, and gravelly clay-loam soils. The blend is 85% Tempranillo and 15% Graciano, aged two years in French barriques, bringing a more modern edge to the bottlings.

Murrieta is a stalwart of the region, established in 1852. The Ygay Reserva Blanco is another example of how well Rioja white wines can show – further exemplified by being the first Spanish white wine to receive 100 Parker points. It is made of mostly Viura with a bit of Malvasia and can age for decades.

Finca Allende is located in the Rioja Alta, where it seeks to showcase the subregion’s variety of terroir. Aurus is one of its flagship wines and comes from the Aurus vineyard with its northern exposure, 60-year-old vines, and gravelly clay-loam soils. The blend is 85% Tempranillo and 15% Graciano, aged two years in French barriques, bringing a more modern edge to the bottlings.


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