Rioja, McLaren Vale

Rioja is located in the south of the Cantabrian Mountains along the Ebro river in the north of Spain. The region also has a river called Rio Oja, which is where the region likely gained its name. There are three main regions in Rioja, with each of them producing quite unique expressions of Rioja wines.

To the west is Rioja Alta, in the higher elevated area. This sub-region is renowned for its old-world wines that are often lighter on the palate due to the higher altitude. The wines coming out of Rioja Alavesa on the other hand are fuller bodies, with higher acid levels than those from Rioja Alta. The third area, Rioja Baja is the warmest and driest of all, and can in summer months can be exposed to very high temperatures drought so irrigation is now permitted in the region.

The reds (tinto) wines of Rioja are generally blends of Tempranillo and Garnacha with lesser amounts of Graciano and Mazuelo. Amongst the white (bianco) varieties, Viura is the most common though normally blended with Malvasia or Garnacha Blanc. Plenty of interesting Rosé wines are produced, most commonly from the Garnacha variety. Note that wineries in Spain are commonly referred to as bodegas.
The McLaren Vale wine region is located less than an hours drive south of Adelaide, straight down the picturesque coastline.

Shiraz is by far the most widely planted variety, and the most important variety for the region, accounting for about 50% of the total crush. Every winery in the region will likely be producing at least one or more Shiraz wines, and with the wide range of unique terroirs available, each influenced by the maritime climate in unique ways, each Shiraz will have its own regional nuances.

Shiraz produced in McLaren Vale will often exhibit chocolate and coffee notes, with a little less pepper than those from Barossa Valley, and are often blended with Grenache. Other red varieties grown include Cabernet Sauvignon (and Merlot blends) Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Petit Verdot, Tannat and Zinfandel. The main white variety would be Chardonnay, however Sémillon and it's common blending partner Sauvignon Blanc are made, alongside lesser amounts of Riesling, Pronto Bianco, Vermentino and Fiano.

If you plan to visit McLaren Vale there are over 65 cellar doors so you'll be spoiled for choice, ranging from the small-boutique wineries to very large wineries. The drive from McLaren Vale up to the Barossa Valley is very scenic, passing over the rolling Adelaide Hills, and though the quaint German-settled town of Hahndorf.
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