Rioja has managed to stay at the forefront of wine innovation thanks to constant improvements in production and ageing processes. Today it is one of the five best known brands among the most prestigious wine regions and a wine consumed in more than 130 countries around the world.
White, rosé and red wines are produced in the Denominación de Origen Calificada Rioja.
The whole grape is pressed. Once the skins and stems have been eliminated, the resulting must is put in controlled temperature fermenters.
The grape is destemmed, lightly crushed and sent to draining tanks. Here, it is left to macerate for a short period. It is then pressed and left for a day for the suspended particles to settle. The clean must is then put in controlled temperature fermenters.
There are two ways of making red wine in Rioja. The most widely used today involves the removal of the stalks in a destemmer before fermentation, producing wines that are more suitable for long ageing. In the traditional system, the whole grape bunches are fermented in large pools. This is known as carbonic maceration. The resulting wines are smoother, with good body, ideally suited for drinking during their first year.
In both cases the must is pumped over during fermentation, to ensure good colour extraction and maintain a constant temperature throughout the tank.
Both systems aim to achieve uniform fermentation and to ensure the aromas from the must are not lost.After fermentation, the wine is decanted to separate it from solid matter and transferred to storage tanks for quality controls.At this point the Control Board carries out sensory and laboratory tests to determine whether the wine deserves to be considered a Rioja. Sensory tests are carried out at the Control Board premises, while laboratory tests are carried our at one of the three Oenological Stations, in Laguardia (Álava), Olite (Navarra) and Haro (La Rioja).
Rioja wines are aged in 225-litre oak barrels, with periodic rackings, followed by a further period of bottle ageing. Rioja has the largest number of barrels of any wine region in the world, 1.3 million in fact. The different Rioja wine categories are based on minimum ageing periods, which can vary between 1 and 3 years in barrels and between 6 months and 6 years in the bottle, depending on whether the wine is to be a Crianza, a Reserva or a Gran Reserva.
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