In an effort to shed some light on how I study for WSET Diploma Course’s D3 exam, Le Club des Vins is running a series of posts covering wine regions. Today’s topic: Rioja

📍 Location

Rioja is a wine region in the north of Spain. Although, it’s named after the Oja River (rio de oja), it’s not the most important river of the region. That’s the Ebro River. The vineyards follow the path of the river and its tributaries.

In a nutshell

  • Spain
  • Vineyards along the Ebro river
  • Continental climate with Mediterranean influence
  • Mainly tempranillo and for white viura

☁️ Climate

The overall climate of Rioja is continental, but there’s some Mediterranean influence in the southern part of the region, the part called Rioja Oriental. However, it’s hard to make generalisations because the south of Rioja Oriental, which you think would be the warmest, has actually vineyards at 500 – 1000 mm, so temperatures can be as cool as those in the north – Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa. In Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa, the vineyards are sheltered from the Atlantic weather by the Sierra de Cantabria.⠀⠀

🌋 Soils

Soils vary greatly, the best vineyards have calcareous clay soils. In Rioja Oriental, it’s a mixture of calcareous clay and iron-rich clay. ⠀


🍇 Grapes & styles

Almost 90% of the plantings of black grapes are planted with tempranillo. Garnacha is planted in the warmer areas. There’s a small amount of local grapes like graciano, mazuelo and maturana tinta (trousseau) planted. They mostly contribute to a higher acidity. Graciano also brings tannins. Cab sauv is also permitted but rarely used. For whites, the most important grape is viura, accounting for 70%. Then there’s tempranillo blanco, malvasia and garnacha blanca. Verdejo and sauv blanc are also used, mostly in cheap blends.

😋 Taste

The taste depends on the style (duh): grape variety, vineyard location, wine-making techniques (extraction and maturation). New legislation was published in 2018 regarding the geographical delimitations.⠀

💡 Something you didn’t know (did you?)

A producer has to comply to specific minimum ageing requirements for crianza, etc. Did you know the regulations also specify the use of 225L barriques?

Your turn now 

I always put a new region on instagram first. If you have any additions or comments on a region, please do share. You can drop a comment on instagram or on the website – see below. Your help is much appreciated!


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