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Today the riders in Le Tour de France finished close to the Spanish border, in Peyragudes with young Frenchman Romain Bardet taking the glory for the stage. Across the French-Spanish border, Rioja rests not too far from the boundary line. This well-recognized wine region is divided into three sections, Rioja Alavesa, Rioja Alta, and Rioja Baja. It was colonized by the wine drinking Romans and historical evidence shows vine maintenance was part of their lives in the northern s…ection of La Rioja. When the Moors were dominant here, winemaking maintained a part of the economic system, but it was under the Christian rule at the end of the 15th century when winemaking regained major popularity and strength. As vine loving monks settled the northern section of Spain, they built monasteries to serve pilgrims along the route of Santiago de Compostela, and this geographical expansion helped the wine region grow and flourish. In fact, wine was such a large part of life, the first wine laws of Rioja date back to this period. The isolated physical placement of Rioja kept the wines from gaining international traction, but this all changed in the 17th century when methods of communication improved and Bilbao became a more valued trading center. The winemaking aspect of the region finally organized with the establishment of the first commercial Bodega in 1850, created in response to the demand for wines in Spanish colonies located in what is now South America, Central America, and North America. The true popularity of wines from Rioja came as a result of difficult periods for winemakers in France due to powdery mildew and phylloxera. In response to their viticultural crisis, the Bordeaux wine merchants crossed the Pyrenees to source wine from Rioja, creating a boom in the industry which lasted through to 1901. At this time, Rioja suffered a crippling hit from their own invasion of phylloxera. The wine economy recovered from this invasion in stages, reaching full momentum only in the 1960s. The red grape of choice, Tempranillo, is known to respond well to the clay and limestone soils. Other varietals of note are Garnacha, Mazuelo, Graciano, as well as Malvasia and Viura for the whites. The classification system used is four tier: joven for young wines meant for early consumption, crianza for wines with two years ageing, reserva for wines with three years ageing, and gran reserve for wines with five years of age before release. The river in Rioja is the Ebro, the longest river in Spain with more than 200 tributaries. This water source winds between the Sierra Cantabrica and Sierra Demanda, with its tributaries facilitating the growth of vineyards in the region.

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