RIOJA CONTROL BOARD
Rioja is a land with a millennial history that began over two thousand years ago, as evidenced by the numerous archaeological remains of wine press and wineries from the Roman dominance times.
Rioja has managed to remain at the forefront of wine making innovation with a great diversity of wines with a distinct personality, which have been the basis of its success in the markets and have placed it among elite historical European denominations of origin. Today ‘Rioja’ is one of the five most well-known areas among the most prestigious wine making areas in the world.
The economic importance that wine making has had during centuries for the region had its origins when, like other great European wines, it started to be a market product during the transition from Middle Ages to Modern Age to meet the growing demand of a population increasingly concentrated in cities, which required a modernization of the until then difficult and controlled wine market. It increased considerably in those wine making areas, such as Rioja, which have increased production far beyond their needs of self-sufficiency.
A significant milestone was the creation of Real Junta de Cosecheros (Real Junta of Harvesters), whose purpose was to promote the cultivation of vines, contribute to improve the quality of wines and make the commercialization in northern markets easier, so their priority was to build and improve roads and bridges to link the wine Riojan villages with Vitoria and the Santander port.
Riojan wine making tradition began to gain a clearly differentiated profile when some experienced wine men introduced new production methods and aging of wines, and found the now millennial wineries in the second half of the 19th century. The Rioja commercialization improvement received its final stimulus with the arrival of railroad and from the French buyers due to the phylloxera crisis. Wine producers such as Luciano Murrieta, Camilo Hurtado de Amézaga or Rafael López Heredia represent the ultimate exponents of the definitive introduction of modern concept of quality in Riojan wines, with the specialization in quality wine production aged Medoc style and commercialized in bottle.
Rioja Qualified Designation of Origin can be considered the oldest denomination of origin in Spain. Its legal backgrounds date back to 1926, when the creation of an organism regulating the use of the collective brand ‘Rioja’ was ruled. Usage on wine labels had been approved a year before.
Since then, Rioja has been a Denomination model in constant process of modernization and adaptation to the demands of the new times, consumption habits, and market evolution. With its particular understanding of innovation and tradition, the great development of the Riojan productive and commercial structure in the last few years of the 20th century and the prestige achieved by its wine quality has made it one of the largest denominations in the world. The last decades of the 19th century became the starting point for the modern history of the Riojan wines, thanks to the emergence of an incipient wine industry and the perfection of production techniques. The decade that began with the mythical harvest of 1970 would mean an authentic revolution of productive and commercializing structures that would lead Riojan wines to its undeniable leadership among Spanish quality wines.
Coinciding with the official recognition of Rioja as a Qualified Designation of Origin in April 1991, a period of expansion and modernization of the Riojan wine making sector began. The granting of the Designation was the obligatory recognition to the serious and continuous effort made by the Riojan wine making sector to achieve the most ambitious quality goals, an effort that since then has been multiplied, if possible in the search for excellence.
It is the denomination of origin which has the highest number of registered wineries, six hundred with bottling industry registration, and the first to achieve in 1991 the ‘Qualified’ status, an honor established by the Spanish Law to acknowledge those denominations of origin that comply with certain control and quality requirements.
Source: Rioja Qualified Designation of Origin Control Board.