La Rioja Wine Country, Spain
La Rioja is an autonomous community and a province in Spain, located in the north of the Iberian Peninsula. Its capital is Logroño. The region is well known for its wines under the brand Origen Calificada Rioja.
The history of Rioja wine reflects a long and varied winemaking tradition in the Spanish region of La Rioja, starting with the first Phoenician settlers in 11th century BC. As with many of Europe’s most well known wine regions, the Ancient Romans founded many of the Rioja vineyards. Throughout the Middle Ages, pilgrims to the shrine of St. James at Santiago de Compostela passed through the region and carried back with them the reputation of wines from the area. The phylloxera epidemic of the late 19th century was a major catalyst in the expansion and modernization of the Rioja wine industry, with the devastation the French wine industry both opening up the French wine market and bringing an influx of French investment into the region. Today, together with Sherry, Rioja is the most internationally recognized of all Spanish wines.
The area was formerly occupied by pre-Roman Berones, Pelendones and Basques. After partial recapture to the Muslims in the early tenth century, the region became part of the Kingdom of Pamplona, later being incorporated into Castile after a century and a half of disputes. From the eighteenth century the Rioja region remained divided between the provinces of Burgos and Soria, until in 1833 the province of Logroño was created, changing the name of the province to La Rioja in 1980 as a prelude to its constitution under a single provincial autonomous community following the adoption of the Estatuto de San Millán in 1982. The first written reference in which the name Rioja appears is in the Miranda de Ebro forum in 1099.
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