As you may expect, La Rioja is serious about its wine classifications. The region's wines are classified according to how they are aged. You can choose from the following classifications:
- Guarantee of Origin (DO) -- These wines have spent the least amount of time aging. In fact, they may not have aged at all. This means they are pretty affordable.
- Crianza -- These wines are aged at least 12 months in oak barrels before they are aged -- this time in the bottle -- for a minimum of another 12 months.
- Reserva -- The total aging time for barrel and bottle combined must be 36 months, with the first 12 months being spent in the barrel.
- Gran Reserva -- These wines spend a lot of time aging to perfection. Requirements include 24 months in the barrel and a bottle time of 36 months [source: Vibrant Rioja].
The reds of La Rioja include:
- Tempranillo -- This grape constitutes 80 percent of the wine market in La Rioja because of its delicious flavors, including raspberry, coconut, currants and cherries.
- Garnacha -- This varietal accounts for almost 20 percent of the region's market. It's known for being soft and low in tannins with a light raspberry flavor.
- Mazuelo -- This is a lesser-known varietal that is used in few La Rioja reds. It has high tannins and acidity, giving it a strong punch.
- Graciano -- This varietal is 100 percent Spanish. It produces a very bright red color and is extremely aromatic [source: Vibrant Rioja].
The whites of La Rioja include:
- Viura -- This varietal produces a delicate, floral flavor and is the main grape for the production of white wine in La Rioja. It is not as popular as the Tempranillo; it is only responsible for a little more than 10 percent of all whites.
- Malvasia -- If you like grapefruit, you will love wines made with Malvasia. The flavor is floral and crispy.
- Garnacha Blanca -- This varietal helps add sweetness to white La Rioja wines. It produces aromas of apricot and honeysuckle [source: Vibrant Rioja].
If you can't make it to Spain but want to experience the delights and flavors of La Rioja region wines, try looking for it at your local wine shop or consider an online purchase.
For more wine-related information, visit the links on the next page.