Main content title: 
Welcome to the Rioja E-Booth in the Marketplace!
What is Rioja?

rioja maprioja mapRioja (www.vibrantrioja.com) refers to both the region and the wine made in that region. The wine region of Rioja is located along the Ebro River in north central Spain, an area about the size of Delaware. D.O.Ca. Rioja, as the winemaking region is officially known, has its own government that obliges winemakers to abide by a certain set of guidelines. The Rioja region is about a 1–hour drive southeast from Bilbao, home of the Frank Gehry designed Guggenheim Museum, and 1–hour southwest from San Sebastian, known to many as the best food city in Europe.

Contrary to what some people think, Rioja is not the name of a grape. Tempranillo is the main grape used to make wine in Rioja. It is important all over Spain, but most experts would agree that tempranillo reaches its ultimate expression in Rioja. Other grapes – graciano, mazuelo, garnacha – are often blended with tempranillo to make red or rosé wine.

So why not just label it “Tempranillo”? As in France and Italy, over time local Spanish products simply took on the name of the town, province, or region where they originated. Following the example set by the regionally governed French A.O.C. laws, Spain ultimately adopted its own set of laws as a means of protecting the integrity of these regional treasures. In Spain these laws are called D.O. laws.

Taste

The character of tempranillo is largely shaped by the conditions in which it’s grown — what the French call terroir. As a result, Rioja wines can be elegant, subtle, and ethereally light, like a great Burgundy; or have the power, velvet lushness, and minerality of a Columbia Valley Merlot. Still, across the board you can generally expect aromas of vibrant summer fruit (strawberries, raspberries, black cherries, mostly), along with a toasty spiciness. As the wines age, they start getting even more interesting, like a person you want to know better.

Not all Rioja is red wine, but it is mostly red. Some very quaffable rosés are made here as well as a broad range of whites, from squeaky clean sippers to barrel-fermented bruisers.

What makes Rioja so special? A unique confluence of climate; a rich palette of soils unmatched anywhere else in Spain; topography ideally suited to the cultivation of the tempranillo grape. Rioja is like its own little kingdom, where modernity and tradition – whether in architecture or winemaking – coexist peaceably. It is a cutting-edge region with deep respect for a patrimony that dates back more than 2,000 years.

What really makes wines from Rioja unique are their compatibility with food. For all of the reasons mentioned above, these wines have the right levels of acidity and subtle flavor that won’t overwhelm your food. We love Rioja with Peking duck, chicken satay, BBQ pork, sautéed wild mushrooms, roasted codfish, and any kind of hard sheep’s milk cheese we can get our hands on.

Visiting Rioja

Imagine a region of extraordinary food and wine, with charming inns set in medieval, walled cities surrounded by some of the most cutting edge architecture in the world and you’ve got a picture of Rioja. If you’ve never been to a place like that, it’s because it’s not easy to find this combination elsewhere. Rioja’s proximity to Bilbao and San Sebastian has attracted an unusual combination of creative chefs and leading architects that makes a trip there one of the most pleasurable you’ll ever have.

The Vibrant Rioja marketing campaign, representing 600 wineries in Rioja, Spain, wants to take you to Rioja. Well, perhaps not all of you but they will select several people who take their online survey to go to Rioja with a group of sommeliers in 2009.

All you have to do is click here or on the button above to take the survey. The survey asks questions about wine and Rioja, but also about your favorite educational tools and websites, and it asks what information you'd like to see here on www.WorldsofFlavorSpain.com. We would be most grateful for any and all feedback and suggestions.

Whether you're selected to go to Spain with Vibrant Rioja or not, everyone who takes the survey will receive an executive summary so you can see how your peers answered the same questions. The survey is being independently administered by Communitas Online (www.communitasonline.com). Your individual information will not be shared with Rioja or CIA unless you specifically authorize it. All responses will only be used in the aggregate.

Read more »

Secondary content title: 
More about Rioja
Secondary content: 

Related Discovery Series

Related Wine Spectator Articles

Related Educational Seminar

© 2017 The Culinary Institute of America