Rioja is a wine region located in northern Spain. It is named after the Rio Oja which runs through the Oja Valley. Winemaking began in Rioja in the 11th century AD and many of the vineyards were founded by the Ancient Romans. The Cantabrian Mountains in the North and West not only provide perfect shelter from wet and cold influences from the Atlantic Ocean but also protect the vineyards from strong winds that are characteristic of this region.
The soil in Rioja is clay placed with limestone and sandstone and contains a very high content of iron, giving the soil a red hue. This may be another reason behind the naming of the region, as roja is the Spanish word for red. The harvest in Rioja is September to October and the main grape harvested is Tempranillo, with other varieties including Cabernet Sauvignon and Garnacha. Rioja was the first region in Spain to be awarded the highest appellation, the DOC (Denominación de Origen Calificada), due to its proven record in continually producing top quality wines.