Logroño is the city at the heart of the Rioja wine industry in northern Spain. The region as a whole has 57,000 hectares of vines and produces 250 million litres of wine a year, 85 per cent of which is red. Most of the terroir here is on alluvial rock and clays that are rich in chalk and iron, and generally at an elevation above 460 metres. Logroño and the Rioja region have a largely continental climate, moderated by the Sierra de Cantabria mountain range, the Atlantic coast and the Ebro River.
There are three sub-divisions to Rioja where vines can be grown. Rioja Alavesa is a terraced area of limestone and clay soils. Rioja Alta features alluvial soils with calcareous and ferruginous clays. Both Alavesa and Alta are near the mountains, and their elevation leads to colder weather. Rioja Baja is mainly alluvial clay. The harvest takes place in September and October.
A typical Rioja red blend features 60 per cent Tempranillo, a grape which truly thrives in these limestone soils and provides acidity and rich, concentrated flavours, and up to 20 per cent Garnacha. Smaller quantities of Mazuelo and Garnacha. The Rioja Blanco uses primarily Viura/Macabeo, which provides a light fruitiness to the blend, Garnacha Blanca, to provide body, and Malvasia for added aroma.
Winemakers have been resident around Logroño since the time of the Phoenicians. The first written evidence of winemaking in Rioja goes back to 873, in a document recording a donation to a winemaking monastery. The city has been a commercial port since the 10th century, and by 1635 a by-law was passed banning traffic with metal wheels in the Old Town, lest they disturbed the estimated 5.6 million litres held in cellars below.