Tradition and Innovation Make For Quality Rioja Wines
The trait the has set Rioja Wines apart from other Spanish wines is their aptitude for ageing, a quality of all great wines. With oak wood aging the wine evolves, ithe good traits become more prominent and acquire new aromas and flavours. Rioja Wines are aged in 225 litre oak casks, for a slow evolutionary process of micro-oxygenation and stabilisation. At the same time the wine acquires aromas and flavours released by the tannins in the wood. This is the traditional ageing method of great wines. The ageing process is completed in the bottle, where the wine continues to evolve in a reducing atmosphere until it reaches its peak. Great wines from historic vintages are kept in bottles for decades in the "sacristies" of the bodegas completing a quality transformation. . .
Depending on the ageing process, Rioja wine can be put into one of four categories, identified by different numbered back labels or seals, which the Control Board issues to those wines that meet quality and tipicity requirements. The characteristics of each vintage determine the amount of wine that winemakers will assign to each ageing category as follows:
Young wines: Wines in their first or second year, which keep their primary freshness and fruitiness.
Crianza wines: Wines which are at least in their third year, having spent a minimum of one year in casks and a few months in the bottle. For white wines, the minimum cask ageing period is 6 months.
Reserva wines: Selected wines of the best vintages with an excellent potential that have been aged for a minimum of 3 years, with at least one year in casks. For white wines, the minimum ageing period is 2 years, with at least 6 months in casks.
Gran Reserva wines: Selected wines from exceptional vintages which have spent at least 2 years in oak casks and 3 years in the bottle. For white wines, the minimum ageing period is 4 years, with at least one year in casks.
Qualtiy Rioja wines are elegant, original and have the unmistakable character of great wines, this is only possible when grape varieties, vine-growing methods and winemaking procedures have been developed over time. Given the diversity in winegrowing offered by the Designation, it has been a traditional practice by the bodegas to blend different grape varieties and wines, from different vineyards and towns, seeking complementary elements which intensify their respective properties in the end product. This is undoubtedly the best-known kind of Rioja, although bodegas are increasingly offering a rich variety of styles with wines of high fruit concentration which aim to express the traits of specific vineyards.
Tempranillo is the main grape of Rioja reds, these are characterised by being very balanced in their alcohol content, colour and acidity, by having a body and structure offset by a gentle and elegant flavour and by being mainly fruity in nature when young and more velvety when aged. These characteristics make Rioja Wines highly versatile when combining with the most varied foods. This, together with the fact that it is a user-friendly, easy-to-drink wine, constitutes one of the keys to its success. .
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