If you compare the DOCa Rioja map (red) with the map of the province above, you’ll see that the wine producing area corresponds to the half-north part of the province.
Only the northern part of the La Rioja region is suitable for growing grapes though, as the southern part is very mountanous and too cold, and thus the grapes wouldn’t ripe evenly -the further you drive to the south, the higher in altitude you climb.
The DOCa Rioja
Now that we know the difference, let’s go deeper into detail about the wine appellation itself, the DOCa Rioja (Denominación de Origen Calificada Rioja in Spanish).
At the top of Spanish wine classification system
As we said, DOCa is at the top of the Spanish wine classification system. It’s the cream of the crop. It’s equivalent to Italy’s DOCG classification if that helps.
It’s very strictly regulated. Most of the wine lovers that take a Rioja wine tour with us are surprised when they learn about the regulations here in Rioja.
The specifications establish absolutely everything: the production area boundaries, the maximum allowable yields (one of the world’s lowest), the authorised grape varieties, the approved vinification practices, the ageing techniques and barrel size, the bottling requirements -you need to bottle on source- and many other aspects.
It covers +65,000 ha.
The grape production area covered by the DOCa Rioja is a natural region on both sides of the Ebro river bounded by geographical features.
To give you an idea of the size of the valley, it is 100km (62mi) lengthwise from northwest to southeast and 40km (25mi) in width from north to south.
3 sub-areas division
The Designation is divided into three sub-areas from west to east according to location, climate and soil composition: