The first document to make reference to protecting and ensuring the quality of Rioja wines dating from 1650, even before in 1102, King Sancho of Navarra legally recognized these prestigious wines.
Although in 1926 the creation of the Consejo Regulador (Control Board) was decreed, it was not until 1945 that this body attained its legal structure. On 3 April 1991 a Ministerial Order granted the category of ‘Calificada’ to the D.O., the first wine designation of origin in Spain to attain this ranking
Location, climate and terroir
The Denominación de Origen Calificada Rioja is located in the north of Spain, on both sides of the River Ebro. It is divided into three large zones:
- Rioja Alta: Rioja Alta is the westernmost area of the DOCa Rioja. Its grapes grow under the influence of an Atlantic climate and on a great variety of soils (clay-limestone, ferrous-clay and alluvial).
- Rioja Oriental: it is the easternmost zone in the DOCa Rioja. The geography, climate and soils of Rioja Oriental, formerly known as the Rioja Baja sub-area, make it a privileged land for growing grapes.
- Rioja Alavesa: Rioja Alavesa is a zone of the DOCa that extends in the south of the province of Álava on the north bank of the River Ebro. Its land with mainly clay-limestone soils is divided into terraces and small plots. The climate has an Atlantic influence and it is dry and sunny.
The grape varieties that are currently authorized by the Regulations of the D. O. Ca. Rioja are:
- Red: Tempranillo, Garnacha, Graciano, Mazuelo Y Maturana Tinta.
- White: Viura, Verdejo, Malvasía, Garnacha Blanca, Tempranillo Blanco, Maturana Blanca, Turruntés, Chardonnay y Sauvignon Blanc.
Types of wines according to their origin
- Viñedo Singular: Grapes coming exclusively from a plot or plots that constitute the Viñedo Singular. Vinification, ageing, storage and bottling within the same winery.
- Vinos de municipio: . Grapes coming exclusively from the municipality. Vinification, ageing and bottling within the municipality.
- Vinos de zona: Designation Regulations recognise the existence of three sub-areas or sub-zones since 1970: Rioja Alavesa, Rioja Alta and Rioja Baja (now called Rioja Oriental). Under the new zona (zone) term, the Control Board has updated the regulations on the visibility of this indication on wine labels
Types of wines according ti their ageing
- Generico: Wines in their first or second year, which keep their primary freshness and fruitiness. This category may also include other wines that do not fit into the categories of Crianza, Reserva or Gran Reserva, if they have been subjected to an ageing process that is not certified by the Control Board.
- Crianza: Wines which are at least in their third year, having spent a minimum of one year in oak barrels and a few months in the bottle. For white wines, the minimum barrel ageing period is 6 months.
- Reserva wines: These are meticulously selected wines with a minimum ageing between oak barrels and the bottle of three years, of which at least one has to be in barrels, followed and complemented by a minimum 6 months’ ageing in the bottle. For white wines, the minimum ageing period is 2 years, with at least 6 months in barrels.
- Gran reserva: These are wines of great vintages that have been painstakingly aged for a total of sixty months with at least two years in oak barrels and two years in the bottle. For white wines, the minimum ageing period is 4 years, with at least 6 months in barrels.