History of wine in Rioja
Rioja is the Spanish Flagship for red still wines in the world . Rioja has got to this level today thanks to a past full of events related to wine. All these events explain the history of Riojan wine.
Roman objects used for wine production have been found in Rioja. These containers were used for fermenting wine. Their presence confirms the production of wine in Rioja since ancient times.
Subsequently it was the monasteries which would have an important role in the production of wine. There is an act by which the King of Navarre donated vineyards to the Monastery of San Millán de la Cogolla.
Rioja is part of the Camino de Santiago (Saint James Way). The pilgrims were offered wine while they stayed in the monasteries located along the Way. We can imagine that these pilgrims would be the first to promote the name Rioja wines when they were back to their countries.
In 1560 the Rioja wine producers agreed to put a common label to their wines. The idea was to guarantee the origin of their wines. This was needed due to unfair practices in commerce…T rade wars date back to many centuries ago as we can see.
One of the main problems for selling Rioja wines was the distance to a port. This was a problem if we compare this situation with that of other wine producing regions in France such as the Loire or Bordeaux, who dominated part of the wine trade at certain times of the Middle Ages. The history of these wine regions is clearly closely connected to commerce.
An additional problem to the transport of wine was its conservation. The use of oak barrels for this purpose in Rioja was attempted by Manuel Esteban Quijano in 1786. The goal was to bring the wine in this way to America. The wine was well preserved, so this objective was achieved from the point of view of conservation, but not from the point of view of the profitability of this venture.
Colonel Luciano de Murrieta discovered in London the wines of Bordeaux. In his small winery in Rioja he started to use oak barrels to transport wine to Cuba, which was a success venture.
Camilo Hurtado de Amezaga learned the production methods in Medoc. He built a winery in Elciego in Rioja Alavesa and requested to plant 50 hectares of vineyard. Phylloxera arrived in Bordeaux and the French for wine from Rioja increased. A French winemaker, Jean Pineau, got into the history of Rioja wines then… He recommended the use of large wooden casks for maceration purposes and wine aging in smaller barrels of 225 liters. It was the Bordeaux method and its introduction in the Rioja wine reality.
The method was however not followed by many growers, because they considered it as expensive and laborious. The wines of Marques de Riscal obtained, however, a great success in international competitions. This success encouraged other producers and the lack of wine made in Bordeaux brought French investment to Rioja. The region and its wines became consolidated and built a reputation that has grown till today. The history of wine in Rioja is one of the interesting topics in which we concentrate during our wine tours in Rioja. The visits to some of the local wineries will provide you with a deep understanding of how and why things evolved in Rioja….