Rioja soil and climate
The underlying ground of La Rioja consists largely of a mixture of calciferous and ferruginous clay. There are also alluvial deposits along the banks of the Ebro, while in Rioja Baja there is also sand. The best vineyards are situated at a height of 984- 1,968 feet (300- 600 metres), particularly in the northwestern part of Rioja Alavesa (País Vasco) and Rioja Alta (La Rioja and a small enclave of the province of Burgos). With its heavier soil and lower altitude (a maximum of 2000 feet), which does not provide as much cooling for the grapes, the wine from Rioja Baja is less refined than from the other two Rioja areas. Consequently this Spanish wines from this latter area are ready to drink earlier, therefore more quickly consumed, helped by a relatively cheaper price.
Rioja DOC Wine
Rioja is made in three different areas as previously indicated: the southern Basque country, Navarra, and La Rioja. The area of La Rioja and Rioja wine derive their name from the small river Oja, hence Rio Oja. The river flows into the Ebro near Haro. This Spanish wine region is subdivided into three areas: the highlands of Rioja Alta in the north west, the most northerly vineyards of Rioja Alavesa in Alava Province, and the lowlands of Rioja Baja in Navarra and La Rioja. The entire area is protected from the cold north winds by the mountains of the Sierra Cantabrica. The river Ebro rises in the Cantabrian mountains and flows towards the Mediterranean.
The Basque country has three faces: the picturesque coastline with endless countless beaches and fishing harbours, the large industrial towns, and the interior. The Basques have their own culture and own language that is possibly the original European language, and above all their own character. The Spanish part of the Basque country still has close ties with the French part (Pays Basque and Gascony or Gascogne). In this section we restrict ourselves to the north of the País Vasco, and in particular the areas of Bizkaya (Vizcaya) and Getaria (Guetaria). We use the Basque spellings with the Castilian spelling in brackets.
This Spanish wine area lies mainly inland on the border with Castilla y Leon. Most of this Spanish vineyards are in the valley of the Sil. Until recently a heavy dark wine was made here that disappeared anonymously on draught through the local bars. The grape varieties of Godello (white) and Mencía (red) are gradually being restored to their true position of honour and increasing amounts of quality Spanish wine are now being made. The Spanish wine-making installations are greatly improved and the wine-making itself is now far more hygienic.
This is certainly the best known but not the only quality DO of Galicia. The white Spanish wine of the Albariño grape is deservedly famous. Galicia has an attractive coastline with large inlets or estuaries here and there known as rías baixas or 'low rivers'. These are slightly reminiscent of the Scandinavian fjords. The rest of the country consists of green valleys in which the coolest and moistest vineyards of Spain are to be found.
There are three different soil types in Rías Baixas: bedrock of granite covered with alluvium, alluvial deposits, or a bedrock of granite with a covering of sand. The average height at which the vineyards are situated is about 1,476 feet (450 metres) . This Spanish wine is mainly white and made from 90% Albariño grapes. These Albariño grapes are said to be a twin of the Riesling. These are said to have been brought to Santiago de Compostella as gifts by German monks. Some wine is also made with Treixadura and/or Loureira Blanca, and also an extremely rare red produced from Brancellao and Cañio.