The wine region of Rioja, Rioja wine, Navarra wine, Basque Wine, rioja, navarra, basque, wines, Spain
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Wine in Spain - Rioja  wine

 

The one thing that makes Rioja wines stand different from those in other regions is the ageing process. After maturing in oak casks of 225 litre capacity, the wine is then aged in the bottle before being passed on to the consumer. The ageing process produces three types of wine; Crianza is a wine at least 3 years old and must have been aged at least one year in the oak cask. Reserva is used to describe very select wines that have been aged for a total of 3 years in the cask and in the bottle, of which at least one year was in the cask. Gran Reserva describes wines of the very best vintage which have been aged at least 2 years in the cask and 3 years in the bottle.

   
The vintage in Rioja begins around the start of October and the first area to begin harvest is the Lower Rioja but this depends on the climate. To take clusters of grapes from the vine, vintagers use ´corquetes` which are small sickles. The grapes are then put into wicker baskets.  The Rioja wine region basically stretches from Haro in the north down to Arnedo in the south and Alfaro in the east. As you travel through the different areas, the wines are also very disfferent. Most importantly it incorporates the area around Logroño along the River Ebro. Throughout the area you will find some of the most important wineries in Spain.
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There are many varieties of grape to be found in this region, each one adapted to the land and the climate.

Tempranillo
Considered native of this region. This grape is bold on the palate and makes for an interesting young wine. the wine becomes velvety as it ages.

Garnacha Tinta
In warmer climates this grape gives a wine with low acid and alcohol content which remains full-bodied. In cooler areas the result is interestingly well balanced.

Mazuelo
Produces wines rich in tannins, untamed on the palate.

Graciano
Producing a bright red must tending towards acidic, with a pleasant and unique bouquet. This grape is the most fragrant of all the Riojan varieties.

Viura
Results in pale, fruity wine which may be aged following the traditional process for Rioja white wine.

Malvasia
Gives the wine a characteristic fresh and fruity fragrance, especially in young wines. Begins to take on a golden colour as it ages.

Garnacha Blanca
White Garnacha whose must has a high alcohol content. It gives a pleasant result when grown in cool areas with just enough acidity.

 

Navarra and Basque Wine

A neighbouring region once in the shadows of the mighty Rioja, Navarra is a beautiful land with a fascinating past. Nowadays what puts Navarra on the map in many foreigners’ eyes is its incombustible summer fiesta in Pamplona, San Fermin. In addition to the thrilling and dangerous running of the bulls, the partying, dancing and eating, there is also plenty of drink and spirits to be consumed, wine no doubt finding itself well up at the top of that list.

We know that winemaking has existed in those parts since Roman times thanks to the archaeological find of old presses and stone fermentation vats. The practice became a big part of Navarra's culture during the height of the Pilgrimage to Santiago (Galicia) in the Middle Ages, where through-passing French monks would leave their viniculture know-how wherever the route took them.

Though red wine has always been a big part of wines from Navarra, what set this region apart from the rest of the crowd for many years was its excellent rosés made from the Garnacha grape. Rosés, despite ignorant snobbery, are perfect for many occasions, especially it’s hot, and a good Navarran rosé (called rosado) is hard to beat. Don’t forget, for best results it should be drunk young, so just make sure the vintage is no more than a couple of years old.

To broaden the market, Navarra has worked hard to make competitive reds and whites through the use of both national and foreign grape varieties. Now just about everything is available. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Tempranillo, Garnacha. Both varietals (one-variety wines) and blends. The offer is wide, and ever widening. Reds are generally a wise buy, and the whites, especially the Chardonnays, have been very impressive. You can even find some outstanding sweet dessert wines made from Muscatel. So there's something attractive for everyone and the prices are generally still humane! I have a real fondness for Navarran wines.

Finally, reaching the northern coast of Spain brings us to the Basque Country where the friendly Txacolí wine reigns as the local specialty. its a tasty light, mainly white wine which often possesses a touch of natural carbonation to it. There are three tiny regions there whose names are nearly unpronounceable, so I will spare you the time and effort. Just remember Txacolí (sometimes spelt chacolí) pronounced Cha-ko-LEE. its not terribly easy to find outside the Basque Country, so don't let go of the bottle if you come across one.

 

cover
Let's Open a Bottle:
My Journey Through the Spanish Wine Revolution.
By Brian Murdock

Read the compelling,
true account
"its a long way to Santiago"
by Father Clement Mary, C.SS.R. and Katrina Harrington

 

   
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