The eastern section of Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Alta
By Tom Perry
This Guide was last updated on 12 February 2010
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The DO Calificada Rioja covers almost 61,000ha, with 90% planted to red varieties. The region is divided into three sub-regions: Rioja Alta (24,000ha) on the south bank of the Ebro from Logroņo west to Haro, as well as a small area, La Sonsierra, on the north bank between the villages of San Vicente and Abalos; Rioja Alavesa (12,000ha), in the Basque Country on the north bank of the Ebro opposite Logroņo and Haro; and Rioja Baja (20,000ha), on both sides of the Ebro east of Logroņo. This micro-region covers the eastern parts of both Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa. In theory, it also covers Rioja Baja, however there is very little wine tourism there.
Rioja wines are classified into four categories depending on the length of time the wine is aged in 225-litre oak barrels. The length of ageing for whites and rosés is half that of reds, both in barrel and in bottle. Wines in each category are given a colour-coded back label as an aid for consumers.
Garantía de Origen: for wines that have been certified as Rioja, with no mention of the ageing process. Young wines with little or no oak make up most of this category, although in recent years some winemakers have used this back label as a symbol of a wine vinified in a modern style, often with long ageing.
Crianza: reds must have been aged for at least one year before release from the winery.
Reserva: reds come from very good vintages and must be aged for a minimum of three years, of which at least one year is in oak barrels and the rest in bottle before release.
Gran Reserva : reds come from outstanding vintages and are aged for at least two years in oak barrels and three years in bottle before release.
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