Learn About Rioja Wine: Grapes, Characteristics and Styles

Rioja wines are almost all created by using a blend of different grapes but, generally speaking, the tempranillo grape is the MVP. Typically the tempranillo grape is the staple and makes up the majority of most Spanish wine Riojas. Tempranillo grape is then mixed with other grapes to achieve a certain desired flavor profile.


Let’s take a closer look at the grapes that are most widely used in Rioja.


First, we have the tempranillo as we just read. This grape variety has its origin in La Rioja and is the most characteristic grape of the region. It represents the majority of the vineyards in the Rioja as it covers around three-quarters of the area. It is a very versatile variety that produces well-balanced wines with good color and acidity. In addition, its qualities promote long aging. Tempranillo got its name from the Spanish word “temprano” which means early since this grape becomes ripe very early in the harvest. So, as its name suggests, it is a grape with a short ripening cycle. It is one of the most popular grape varieties in Spain and is present in 28 denominations of origin.


The second most important grape in the Rioja in order of importance is the Graciano grape. It requires clay-limestone soil which is common to the region. It has quite a low fertility and becomes ripe late in the year. In terms of its characteristics, it allows us to produce wines with good acidity, intense color, and high polyphenolic content.


Next, we have the Garnacha grape. Garnacha is actually one of the most widely planted red wine grape varieties in the world and for many years, it was the most cultivated variety in Spain and in the Rioja region. It is used as a perfect complement to Tempranillo for its structure and aromatic characteristics. Wines containing Garnacha are fresh and have a strong presence of sweet red fruits and have notes of strawberry, hibiscus, and black tea.


The Mazuelo grape is also known as Carignan Noir because of its French origin. It is one of the oldest grape varieties in the Rioja. Although today its cultivation is not very widespread, occupying around 3% of the Denomination area, it is one of the most productive varieties. It is used as a perfect complement to Tempranillo, adding tannins, high acidity, and stable color.


Viura is the main white grape variety cultivated in the Rioja. It is also very productive and provides a good level of acidity. This grape produces fruity wines, in everything from young wines to Gran Reservas


Learn more about the differences in Crianzas and Gran Reservas in our article: Spanish Wine Aging Requirements & Current Trends in Rioja


Although the grapes mentioned previously are the most commonly used grapes in Rioja, they are not the only ones. Let’s take a quick look at some of the secondary grapes that play a role in crafting delicious Rioja red wines by enriching and complementing the other grapes.


Maturana Tinta is a variety with a compact and small cluster of berries. It has an intense red-violet color, a high content of anthocyanins, and a high acidity, making its wines have a structured palate with medium persistence.


The Maturana Blanca grape, according to the records, is the oldest variety in the Rioja. It has been tracked all the way back to the seventeenth century (1622). It is a fairly fertile variety with a small bunch, just like the red version of the grape. The main characteristic of this variety is a low pH, high acidity, and sensitivity to botrytis.


The Malvasía de Rioja grape is a variety of Malvasía. It can help craft high-quality white wines. Once it reaches maturation the cluster presents a pink-yellow color with reddish glints, providing unctuousness and great aromatic intensity.


The Garnacha Blanca grape is the variety that occupies the least surface of all authorized areas in Rioja. Very similar in its oenological behavior to its sister of red color, it offers alcoholic wines rich in extract with less aroma and acidity. It is cultivated in fresh areas producing a pleasant wine with good acidity.


Finally, the Tempranillo Blanco grape comes from a natural genetic mutation from a Tempranillo Tinto branch. This grape has a medium-sized and loose bunch with the berry slightly crushed. The acidity remains high, presenting a high concentration in volatile compounds with fruity aromas. It has a greenish-yellow color, and the aroma is described as a characteristic of the variety with intense fruity notes of banana, citrus fruits, and tropical fruits. Its palate is balanced, with a medium-long structure and persistence. The Tempranillo Blanco grape does not exist anywhere else in the world.


Viña Valoria knows how to make the most of these Rioja grapes. It follows a classic style of winemaking, upholding the tradition of wine in the Rioja region since 1860. It produces wine that’s easy to enjoy with family or friends on any occasion. Crafting quality wine under the Rioja Certificate of Origin label, it is one of the best-known wineries in the Rioja wine region. With over 150 years of experience, this winery upholds the traditional style of winemaking from the region to offer a variety of delicious Rioja wines with their secret blend of a variety of Rioja grapes.


If you are looking for a red Rioja, try one of Viña Valeria’s Crianzas, Reservas, Gran Reservas, or even an old vintage, known as a Cosecha Vieja. However, if you prefer to have something different, Viña Valoria’s whites and rosés are perfect for you. No matter the style of wine you prefer, whether it’s sweet, dry or something in between, Viña Valoria has the best spanish red wine for you!


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