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Rioja

Rioja has a long and interesting history — involving war, geographic isolation, restrictions on irrigation of vineyards and, of all things, inside-out pigs. Now, thanks to modernization, Rioja is reaching new heights. Welcome to another in a series of articles about countries and growing regions for wine. Previously WineMaker has featured the styles of Burgundy, Bordeaux, Australia, California, and Italy. In this feature we look at a region in a country that’s closely identified with wine production, but gets little press among home winemakers. Pop quiz: which country has more acreage under vines than any other in the world? Italy? France? Australia? Surprisingly, none of those are even close to the world leader, Spain. Part of the reason for such vast acreage is that, despite an arid climate, irrigation is mostly banned in Spain, so the immense plantings yield less than a ton and a half of grapes per acre, and as a result Spain only ranks third in the world in volume of wine produced. Located in northern Spain along the Ebro River (and named after its tributary, the