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November 3, 2011

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Rioja area produces some nice vintages

RIOJA is the biggest and most well-known wine region in Spain with DOC status.

The region is in the Ebro valley north of Madrid and covers the grapes grown in Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Baja.

Rioja Alta is known for its old world wines with a light palate while Rioja Alavesa wines have a moderate body and acidity and Rioja Baja produces tannic wines with deep colors and high acidity due to its special climate.

"Diverse geographical conditions together with their corresponding climates make Rioja a region with rich grape varieties, which helps producing wine with various characteristics," said Victor Pascual, the president of the regulatory board for DOC Rioja during his recent visit in Shanghai.

DOC status means an area is known for producing consistently good wines.

The wine region is in the south of Sierra de Cantabria that helps protect vineyards from cold northerly winds.

The Ebro River flows through the area.

Rioja Alta is in the highlands of the wine region. The soil is an iron rich clay and limestone and the climate features plentiful rain. These conditions are good for Graciano, Mazuela and Tempronillo grapes.

Rioja Baja has sandy soil and a Mediterranean climate featuring a warm, dry summer. This gives Garnacha grapes, usually used to make strong red wines with a peppery flavor, a suitable environment.

Rioja is also called the "Bordeaux of Spain" as the wines share some similarities to those of the famous French region.

The two areas share some history. In the mid 19th century, a time when many French vineyards were attacked by a phylloxera epidemic, some winemakers in Bordeaux fled to Rioja with some clean vines.

They started using French techniques to grow grapes and make wines. Some winemakers in Rioja still use the traditional French oak barrel to age the wine that gives a vanilla flavor.

Wines recommend:

? Finca Villacreces Reserva 2006
The wine, having been aged in French oak for 16 months, is made of 90 percent Tempranillo, one of the most important red wine grapes in Spain featuring full body and complex flavors and 10 percent Cabernet. It has a deep purple color and complex nose with aromas of mocha, cranberries and cassis. It displays plenty of spicy blackberries. Famous wine critic Robert Parker gave it 94 points.

? Siglo 2004
The Control Board of Rioja rated the 2004 harvest as "excellent," due to plenty of rainfall and snow during the winter months. The wine is made of Tempranillo, Graciano and Mazuelo grapes. It has nice ruby red color with a golden rim. It displays complex aromas of red berries and some hints of spices and roasted coffee. Rich flavors of red berries with a smooth body and long finish.


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