Rioja is a privileged region for growing grapes and making top-quality wines, with a unique personality and an exceptional aptitude for ageing. The Rioja wine region is located in northern Spain, on both sides of the River Ebro. The local terrain perfectly delimits the region and sets it apart from surrounding territories. From an administrative point of view, however, its 63,593 hectares of vineyards are divided between three provinces on the Upper Ebro - La Rioja (43,885 ha), Alava (12,934 ha) and Navarre (6,774 ha).
One hundred kilometres separate Haro, the westernmost town, from Alfaro, the easternmost. The valley has a maximum width of about 40 kilometres, covered in vineyards which occupy successive terraces to an altitude of about 700 metres above sea level. With few amendments in the last thirty years, the DO's Regulations list 144 municipalities (118 in La Rioja, 18 in Alava and 8 in Navarre) which hold "the lands that the Control Board considers suitable for producing grapes of the necessary quality."
The whole area benefits from the confluence of two distinctly opposed climates -Atlantic and Mediterranean- which provide mild temperatures and an annual rainfall of slightly above 400 l/m2 -ideal conditions for growing grapes. The Regulations recognise the existence of three sub-areas with distinct vitivinicultural characteristics. In Rioja Alavesa there is a significant influence of the Atlantic climate and the soils are chalky-clay situated in terraces and small plots. In Rioja Alta the climate is also mainly Atlantic, while the soils are chalky-clay, ferrous-clay or alluvial. Rioja Baja has a drier, warmer climate, thanks to the Mediterranean influence and the soils are alluvial and ferrous-clay.
The characteristic soils of Rioja are also the most suitable for quality viticulture, as they have a balanced structure (sand, silt, clay), are slightly alkaline, have a poor organic content and moderate water availability in the summer. The wine region has many different soils -chalky-clay, ferrous-clay and alluvial being the main ones- and microclimates -depending on vineyard orientation, protection against wind, etc.- that provide the wines with unique traits. This, together with the use of different grape varieties and growing practices, allows local winemakers to make a wide range of wines with a different personality, although always within the framework of a perfectly-recognisable common identity.
In order to optimise wine quality, the Regulations of the D.O.Ca. Rioja set maximum allowable yields which are 6,500 kilograms per hectare for red grape varieties and 9,000 kg/ha for white grape varieties. The wine region's annual production currently stands at 280 to 300 million litres, of which 90% is red, the rest being white and rosé.
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