Rioja wine is the most renowned and internationally recognised Spanish wine, a central point of Spanish wine culture. The Region of Rioja is situated in the northern part of the country, tracing the River Ebro from the town of Haro to Alfaro. Rioja is the very first Spanish region to be granted DO status (Denominación de Origen) in 1933 and again the first in 1991 to be upgraded to the highest level DOCa status (Deonominación de Origen Calificada).
The region's winemaking traditions stretch back to Roman times and have remained almost intact ever since. The wine production prospered between 200 BC and the 6th Century AD and even back then Rioja was one of the most famous places related to wine. Since the 19th century, the Riojan wine experienced a major boost in quality and quantity, mainly because of the arrival of the Bordeaux wine merchants looking for supplies due to the devastating Phylloxera disease in France. They have given the know-how to the Spanish winemakers to blend different grape varieties which complement each other and the usage of the oak barrels, a very strong and long-lasting relationship between Rioja and Bordeaux.
Rioja has a traditional classification system for ageing its precious wines, which has been adopted from many of the other Spanish regions. There are four categories in increasing order - Rioja Joven wines that are intended for consumption in two years of vintage. They spend short or no time in oak – jóven is the Spanish word for "young". This level may also cover wines which have undergone ageing, but for some reasons do not obtain certifications for the higher categories, or simply they do not want to label their wines as one of the other levels. The next is level is called Crianza, red wines are matured for at least one year in oak, and one year in bottle and are released in the third year. Reserva is labelled red wines which have to spend a minimum of one year in oak and one year in bottle, altogether minimum three years before the release. And the last category, which is the top of the pyramid is the Gran Reserva, red wines which undergo a total of five years of ageing with at least two years spent in an oak barrel. Most of the old and traditional producers are leaving their Crianza, Reserva and Grand Reserva much longer than the lawful requirements. It is never enough to be said about one of the greatest wine regions of the world Rioja, it is better to start tasting.
Rioja is also a white wine, although with a very limited production, made entirely with white grapes, with the main is being Viura.