La Rioja Alta is one of the most thought-after Bodega (winery) in the famous Rioja wine region of Spain.
Known for its ‘traditional’ approach to making Rioja wine, and its use of exclusively American oak as opposed to French for making its wines, R.A. has actually known an evolution in style like the rest of the region over the past two decades. Their wines are now often referred to as ‘modern classic’.
The Rioja Alta group also owns 3 other wineries in Spain: Torre de Oña also in Rioja (that does use French oak), Bodega Aster in the Ribera del Duero, and Lagar de Cervera in Rias Baixas on the Atlantic coast of Galicia.
Follow us as we discover more about the La Rioja Alta winery and all its famous affordable but also exclusive wines.
Tasting Notes, Wine Reviews & Related Posts
The following information was provided by the La Rioja Alta group communication department, exclusively for Social Vignerons.
We were born in the 19th century, grew up in the 20th century, and feel a great passion for the 21st century!!
On 10 July 1890, five families who shared the same passion for wine founded La Rioja Alta, S.A. That was the beginning of our winemaking group, which today consists of four wineries —La Rioja Alta, S.A., Torre de Oña, Áster and Lagar de Cervera— located in the most important wine regions in Spain: Rioja, Rioja Alavesa, Ribera del Duero and Rías Baixas
About La Rioja Alta, SA’s history:
- 1890: Five Riojan and Basque families founded the ‘Sociedad Vinícola de La Rioja Alta’ in Haro’s Station Quarter. Our first president was a woman: Doña Saturnina García Cid y Gárate. Monsieur Vigier, a Frenchman, was the firm’s first winemaker. The Reserva 1890 (predecessor of today’s Gran Reserva 890) is the first wine he made.
- 1904: Don Alfredo Ardanza, founder of La Rioja Alta and owner the Ardanza winery, proposed a merger of the two companies. To commemorate the event, we produced the Reserva 1904, predecessor of the Gran Reserva 904.
- 1941: We took on the definitive name that persists today: La Rioja Alta, S.A. A year later, under the presidency of Don Leandro Ardanza Angulo, we registered the brand that has given our House the most fame and renown: Viña Ardanza.
- 1952: We acquired the bottling line, which was also the first Girondine to be installed in La Rioja. It had a capacity of 1000 bottles/hour.
- 1974: We presented the Viña Arana brand to replace the classic 6º Año. Ç
- 1978: We registered the Viña Alberdi brand to replace the old Tercer Año.
- 1996: We built a new winery in the municipality of Labastida. It was equipped with state-of-the-art technology, allowing us to significantly increase the quality of our wines.
- 2015: We celebrate our one hundred and twenty-fifth anniversary.
La Rioja Alta, S.A. is located in Haro’s Station Quarter (La Rioja). We only produce D.O.Ca. Rioja wines.
We have three subsidiaries: Lagar de Cervera (Rías Baixas), Torre de Oña (Rioja Alavesa) and Áster (Ribera del Duero).
We describe the climate of La Rioja as:
“a shaft of Mediterranean light piercing the mists of the Cantabrian Sea”.
It is an area of a very northern light within our peninsula. The Atlantic ocean blows into the vineyard a breath of quality. Our vineyards of Rioja are a conjunction between Atlantic & Mediterranean climates. In our vineyards (Rioja Alta & Baja), the climate is very varied. For example (averaged between 1997 -2007):
Haro (Rioja Alta): Annual Rainfall 490 mm / Mean Temp 13.4ºC / Hours Sunshine 1,977
Alfaro (Rioja Baja): Annual Rainfall 348 mm / Mean Temp 14.6 / Hours Sunshine 2,385
Chalky Clay & Ferrous Clay
Vineyards and grape varieties
We own 425 hectares of vineyards located in the most exclusive estates of La Rioja (Rioja Alta, Rioja Baja & Rioja Alavesa).
The average age is 25 years and the yield is less than 5,000 Kg/ha (< 35 Hl/ha).
The Tempranillo grape is predominant in our vineyards, but we also grow Graciano and Mazuelo (20 ha) for the Grandes Reservas, and Garnacha (60 ha) for the Viña Ardanza. Grapes are sourced 100% from the winery vineyards.
The winery was built in 1890. In 1996 we built a new winery in the municipality of Labastida (Álava).
It was equipped with state-of-the-art technology, allowing us to significantly increase the quality of our wines. A combination of modernity – fermentations at controlled temperature in stainless steel vats, and tradition – hand racking every six months, results in wines with great complexity and style.
We import the oak from the USA and after leaving it a minimum of two years in the open air we use it to make our barrels. The permanent stock of wine in the winery is equivalent in volume to approximately eight years worth of sales.
“Perhaps the greatest ratio stock/sales of any wine producer in the world”
according to “International Wine Cellar”, USA.
Our plots are thoroughly controlled to check grape quality and obtain limited yield.
Controlling the quality of our grapes is only possible with a very limited production and an exhaustive control technology, applied from the start of the growing cycle until manual harvest. Our vineyards are analyzed by satellites, GPS harvesting and refrigerated trailers.
We also work on R&D (research & development) projects to minimize chemical treatments on the vines.
In 2005, Mr. Guillermo de Aranzabal Agudo was appointed Chairman of La Rioja Alta, SA Group. Since 1890, the year in which the bodega was founded, Mr. Aranzabal’s family has been involved in the company, as small growers, co-owners, and directors. He is now the fifth generation managing the company.
In the 1940’s, his great-grandfather, Nicolas Alberdi, was elected Chairman of the Board. Somewhat later, his grandmother, Maria Teresa Alberdi, became the main shareholder. At the beginning of the 1950’s, his father, Guillermo de Aranzabal Alberdi, was appointed Member of the Board and in 1979 became Chairman. After his death in 2005, his son Guillermo de Aranzabal Agudo was appointed Chairman of the Group. His uncles, sisters and cousins are also Directors of La Rioja Alta, S.A. and its affiliated companies.
On his mother’s side there is also a long involvement in the wine business. His great-grandfather, Domingo Agudo, received a medal in the Universal Exposition in Chicago, in 1893.
Mr. Julio Sáenz holds a Pharmacy Degree from the Universidad de Salamanca, a Masters in Vine-growing and Oenology and a Degree in Oenology from the Universidad de La Rioja, and is a member of the Comité de Cata de los Consejos Reguladores de Rioja y Ribera del Duero since 1998.
He also contributes regularly to different technical publications and congresses in the sector. Julio Sáenz joined La Rioja Alta, S.A. in 1996 as the head of the Quality Control Department, and also led the group’s experimentation programs in recent years.
Technical Director of La Rioja Alta, S.A. since 2005, he is also the wine manager for two of the most important initiatives introduced by the Grupo La Rioja Alta S.A.: Viñedos y Bodegas Áster, in the Ribera de Duero and Torre de Oña, in the Rioja Alavesa.
La Rioja Alta SA average production (bottles/year): 1.400.000
Gran Reserva 890
Our most exclusive wine. Unique, made only in exceptional vintages, it is the essence of the great classic wines of Rioja. The result of a meticulous selection of our best grapes and a very slow ageing process. The wine for the most special moments. It was the first wine of La Rioja Alta, S.A. and was initially called Reserva 1890 in commemoration of the year of our foundation. Subsequently, just like the Reserva 1904, it lost the first number for legal reasons, lest the brand be confused with the vintage.
Gran Reserva 904
A great exemple of Rioja Gran Reservas to which we also allocate the best harvests from our oldest and wisest vineyards. It shares with the Gran Reserva 890 the elegance, complexity and sophistication of the world’s great wines. One of our founders, Don Alfredo Ardanza, proposed in 1904 the merger between La Rioja Alta and his winery Bodega Ardanza. To commemorate this key decision and coinciding with one of the best harvests in Haro, the Reserva 1904 was made. Just like the Reserva 1890, it eventually lost the initial 1.
Ask for the name of a Rioja brand and many will answer: Viña Ardanza. A label that, in itself, stands as synonymous of a superb wine. With a great personality, it remains mythical from one great vintage to the next. Although the wine had been on the market for some years, it was not until 28 September 1942 that the firm, then chaired by Leandro Ardanza Angulo, registered the Viña Ardanza brand. It takes the name of one of the founding families that today is still closely attached to our winery.
A wine with a singular and unique character which, renews with every vintage the renowned —and almost extinct— style that is typical of the wines made in the Haro (Rioja Alta) area. Today, Viña Arana continues to dazzle the world with its elegance, silkiness and mild acidity. The Viña Arana brand was presented to replace a classic wine, the 6º Año. It takes the name of the then Vice-president Don José María de Arana y Aizpurua y and it is the archetype of the wine that the Bordelais who worked in the local wineries called ‘Rioja Claret’.
It is capable of the elegance of the great Riojas with freshness and youth. Our only single varietal wine is a guaranteed success, thanks to its extensive food-pairing versatility. It is joy turned into wine. In 1978, the Viña Alberdi brand was born to replace the old Tercer Año. It owes its name to Don Nicolás Alberdi, our President from 1947 to 1952. The first vintage to be put on the market was the 1974.
Cellar door information
Find out more about visiting and enjoying wine and food at La RIoja Alta following the link below.
Private dining rooms – http://www.riojalta.com/wine-tourism#comedor
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