The three areas of production of the D.O.Ca. Rioja
Just as a person’s character is affected by their place of birth, the same happens with wine.
This is why we want you understand the different areas of production into which the D.O.Ca is divided in greater depth so that you can understand the way that they affect the personality and peculiarities in the wines that are produced in them.
But first, a quick recap: as we have already spoken about the history of wines from Rioja wines and you now know what a DO and a D.O.Ca. are. You are even aware of the requirements that Bodegas Montecillo must meet to the letter to belong to the Rioja D.O.Ca.
Therefore, by now it should be more than clear that wines from a D.O.Ca. must be made in a certain geographical area with grapes coming exclusively from this same area.
But now we will take a step further so that you understand what the production area is like and what other subzones it can be divided into.
As we have already mentioned, the areas in which the D.O.Ca. Rioja wines are produced are situated on both borders of the high course of the Ebro River. In administrative terms, this area covers land that is situated in the provinces of Rioja, Álava, Navarra as well as some towns in the province of Burgos.
On the map, it is shown as an area that is a hundred km wide (with the town of Haro to the West and the Alfaro to the East) and 40 km high. Have you more or less got it located?
Good, then we’ll start zooming in: if you look more closely you can distinguish three production areas:
- La Rioja Alta. Our home, the location of our village, Fuenmayor, our winery and the vines that provide us with the grapes to make our wines.
- The Rioja Alavesa.
- And the Rioja Baja.
I’m sure you are wondering what differences there are between these areas are and how they affect the wines that are made in them. The main differences are the weather and soil, which have direct consequences on the grape, therefore on the wine.
We continue to zoom in and get a bit closer:
This area occupies the land on the right bank of the Ebro River. The climate is continental with Atlantic influence, although the Cantabrian Mountains act as a natural frontier to stop the passage of rain-bearing winds from the North.
In this area there are various types of soils, fundamentally calcareous-clay, ferrous clay and alluvial therefore we’ll tell you a little bit more about each of them:
- Calcareous-clay soils are rich in chalk, permeable and difficult to water and mechanize. It is a poor soil, precisely the type that is best for vines; therefore they are the best quality for the production of wine and ideal for cultivating Tempranillo grapes. As a result, they make very stable wines, elegant and aromatic, perfect for ageing.
- Ferrous clay soils, on the other hand, contain less chalk, although they are neither easy to water or mechanize. These soils produce fresher wines, with less body and more acidity.
- Alluvial soils are permeable and rich in nutrients. They are permeable and easy to mechanize. It is said that they produce wines with a good colour.
The smallest region in terms of size and the most northerly. Therefore, the Atlantic has a greater influence on its climate, it is wetter and with lower temperatures than in two other areas, both in summer and winter. The soils in which vines are cultivated here are calcareous and are located on terraces or in small parcels.
The most easterly area and therefore the climate here is drier and warmer with the greatest Mediterranean influence. The soils are predominantly alluvial and calcareous clay and the plantations are greater in size and located at a lower altitude. This all ends up giving the wines greater structure and higher levels of alcohol than those in the Rioja Alavesa or Rioja Alta.
Now you have some idea of what the wines of each of the sub-zones of production in the D.O.Ca. Rioja are like, but our advice is that you carry out a tasting of the different varieties from each region and experience the differences for yourself. If you want to know exactly which towns are located in each area, you will find them in the Designation of Origin’s regulations.