The Middle Ages had pilgrims who traveled on the Route of St. James or El Camino de Santiago experienced Rioja wines. The eighteenth century laid the foundation and expanded the Rioja wine industry. However, it was not until the nineteenth century the Rioja wine developed into the most recognized Spanish wine.
In 1782, Manuel Esteban Quintano from Labastida was ordained as a priest. As Quintano’s career grew, later Dean of the Cathedral of Burgos, so did his contribution to Rioja winemaking. Around 1785, Quintano traveled to France to study techniques of winemaking in Bordeaux. Returning home to Spain, Quintano brought back with him technical learning on the use of grape destemming techniques and French oak barrels1.
1795, Quintano had good success and was authorized to ship to the Spanish America. ‘Quintano made his first 10 barrels and over 1000 bottles.’ Challenges happened and resistance of change by local growers (Villa y Vecinos de La Bastida) forced Quintano to approach the Royal Council of Castile, in 1804.2
The 1860’s French wine industry was nearly devastated by the phylloxera bug threatening over 2.5 million hectors of grapes. The French botanist Jules-Émile Planchon and American entomologist Charles Riley made great discoveries on how to remedy losses caused by these little bugs.3
Since April 1991 Rioja wines are protected under Spain’s DOCa (Denominación de Origen Calificada); Spanish wine highest level of classification.4 The DOCa governs marketing and quality control of Rioja; further providing consumers with confidence within the consumer product. If you find Rioja appealing, you can always purchase a vineyard in the La Rioja region. http://www.christiesrealestate.com/eng/localguide/rioja-spain-wine-lovers-paradise
2 Rivera Blanco, Antonio (Historia de Alava)
3 Gale, George (Dying on the Vine: How Phylloxera Transformed Wine)