Rioja is mainly known for its red wines. Rioja is also well-known for having wines that age for a long time. Tempranillo is Rioja´s main grape and most wines are blended with smaller amounts of Garnache, Graciano and Mazuelo grape. More information on the classification system of wine in Rioja can be found here.
Wines in Rioja are controlled by the local DOC Rioja. (Denominación de Origen controlada Rioja) Most wine regions in Spain are Dos. Rioja is a DOC. The extra “C” implies that if a winery wants to label its wines as Rioja it can only do that. No wine from that winery could be old without the label.
The DOC permits 4 different types or categories of wine: young or Joven (we will comment in a second about this category), Crianza, Reserva and gran reserva. Each of these categories needs to comply with specific times they need to stay at the winery before they can be released to the market.
Crianza Rioja wine. These wines need to stay at least 2 years before they are released to the market. They must stay at least one year aging in an oak barrel (the remaining year would be in the bottle)
Reserva Rioja wines. They must stay at least 3 years in the winery and one of these must be aging in oak barrel.
Gran Reserva: at least 24 months in oak barrel and at least 48 months in the winery before they are released to the market.
The category of young rioja wine is not only for young wines. Many winemakers decide to produce wines that may not comply with any of the other categories of Crianza, Reserva or gran reserva. The winery may even not want to put some of the wines under any of the categories. This normally applies to “Author wines” They are wines in which the winemaker does not want to be constrained by the regulation and to do so the winery has to use the label traditionally used in the past for young wines.