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All podcast music: “Café connection” by morgantj / CC BY 3.0, ©2009 – Licensed under Creative Commons 
Attribution (3.0) 

Apr 13, 2019

Another in our series of the greatest wines in the world, this dorky, in-depth show goes over the intricate details of Rioja, Spain. The history is just fascinating(especially the ties to France), and the wines are a marvel. Rioja truly is a GREAT.

If the podcast is too weedy for you, skip to the end. MC Ice asks me a question about traditional practices in Europe and how I feel about it restricting creativity, and I give a staunch defense of the regulations in an answer he didn't expect! 

Thanks to our sponsors this week: 

YOU! The podcast supporters on Patreon, who are helping us to make the podcast possible and who we give goodies
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Here are the show notes:


  • Rio Oja – river oja
  • I discuss location: in the Ebro River Valley between Obarees Mountains, Sierra de Cantabria in the North, Sierra de la Demanda in the south
  • I mention the great wine houses of Haro: Roda, Muga, CVNE, Ramon Bilbao, López de Heredia to name a few.
  • I also mention Logroño, the capital city of the region with producers: Marques de Murrieta and Ontanon


  • Yes, it's weedy, but I find it fascinating so I take you through Rioja's history from Phoenician settlers in 11thc BC to Ancient Romans, monks, the importance of El Camino (not the 1970s car, but the religious pilgrimage!), the Reconquista, colonial times to more modern ones.
  • We discuss the strong ties between Bordeaux, over the Pyrenees, and Rioja and how phylloxera actually served to cement that tie and help Rioja soar to new heights 


  • We really get dorky here, discussing the River Ebro & its 7 tributaries that create valleys of Rioja
  • We talk about the climate, the microclimates and importantly, the sub regions:
    • Rioja Alta: Just under 50% of vineyards, premium wine
      • Sub valleys: Oja, Najerilla, Iregua 
    • Rioja Alavesa: 20% of wine, similar to Alta
    • Rioja Baja: further south in Ebro Valley, much drier, warmer climate, thanks to the Mediterranean influence 37% of production and growing (young producers)
      • Sub valleys: Cidacos (Bodegas Ontañon, one of my favorites is here), Leza, Jubera, Alhama


  • Reds: Tempranillo, Garnacha, Graciano, Mazuelo (Carignan), Maturana Tinta
  • Whites: Viura/Macabeo (the Cava grape), Malvasía de Rioja, Garnacha Blanca, Tempranillo Blanco, Maturana Blanca, Turruntés de Rioja 

Type of Wine:

  • Blends of grape varieties, vineyards and towns.
  • Control Board issues to those wines that meet quality and tipicity requirements:
  • Joven:Guarantees the origin and vintage of the wine. Fresh, fruity.
  • Crianza wines: Minimum of 1 year in casks/oak, 1 year in bottle. For white wines, the minimum cask ageing period is 6 mo
  • Reserva wines: Selected wines of the best vintages with an excellent potential. Aged a minimum of 3 years -- 1 in cask, at least 6 months in bottle. For whites, the minimum ageing period is 2 years, with at least 6 months in casks.
  • Gran Reserva wines: Selected wines from exceptional vintages. Aged a minimum of 60 months -- 2 years in cask, 2 in bottle. Whites: 4 years, with 1 year in cask


  • We end with a discussion of the restrictions around viticulture and winemaking and how restrictive it is. 
  • M.C. Ice gets me to wax poetic on whether I think we should restrict producers in this way, and I give an impassioned plea as to why I think it is essential. 


I heavily relied on the awesome site: for information in this pod! 

Also, I mentioned a Spanish language podcast I like. Here's the link to Coffee Break Spanish