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What Is Rioja Wine?

Evidence suggests that wine has been produced in Rioja since Roman times. This region holds great significance for Spanish wine by combining time-honored viticultural traditions with recent investments in state-of-the-art technology. If you’ve been asking yourself, “what is Rioja wine?,” our experts will answer that question and more. Read on to learn more.

The Four Types of Red Rioja

Rioja is located in North central Spain, where the Tempranillo grape reigns supreme and plays an indispensable role in the region's most celebrated red wine blends. There are four main aging categories for Rioja red wines. There is the genérico, which has no minimum aging requirement. This is the most common form of Rioja and has fruity flavors with fresh acidity that make it ready for immediate enjoyment.

Rioja reds designated as Crianza must age in oak barrels for at least one year. These wines require a total aging time of two years before release. Crianza has medium- to full-body compared to genérico and has a black fruit and leather-like flavor. 

Reserva is a higher-quality wine than the previous variations of Rioja. Reserva Rioja uses some of the best grapes available. A Rioja Reserva red wine must have at least three years of total aging, with at least one year spent in oak barrels. The flavor profile tastes like fresh fruit as well as dried fruit—some will even have a smoky finish. 

Finally, Rioja Gran Reserva is the highest quality Rioja available. This variation uses the finest grapes and is only made during the perfect growing seasons. You can expect Rioja Gran Reserva reds to have complex dried fruit, spice, and savory flavors gained from extensive barrel and bottle aging. These wines often benefit from additional cellaring.

What To Pair Rioja With

Classic pairings for these wines include Iberico ham, roast lamb, and Manchego cheese. The high tannins will not make red Rioja taste slightly sweet, but rather the combination of ripe grapes and new oak flavors of vanilla and coconut as well as higher levels of alcohol or small amounts of residual sugar in some cases.

Now that you have an introduction to Rioja wines, it’s time to order your own. Wines ‘Til Sold Out offers a wide variety of Rioja wines and many more types. If you need recommendations, simply contact us; from there, one of our wine experts will respond to you. You may also enjoy our virtual wine tastings or our weekly tasting.