(ree OH hah)—This region in north-central Spain makes the country’s most popular red wine from Tempranillo, Garnacha (Grenache), Graciano and Mazuelo grapes. Rosado (rose) and white wines are also produced here. Traditionally red Rioja was aged for many years in small barrels made from American oak; this produced wines that were pale, gentle, and lacking in fruitiness. Current trends have been away from only oak aging and the wines are now much fresher tasting. In addition, the introduction of French oak barrels has contributed to its distinctive vanilla quality. The Rioja region is divided into three zones, the most well known being Rioja Alta. Alta-based wines tend to be firmer and leaner in style. Rioja Alavesa produces delicate, perfumed reds. Both Alavesa- and Alta-based wines are blended with wines from the third region, Rioja Baja, a somewhat warmer area that produces heavier grapes. The label of a Rioja will reveal much about the characteristics of its contents. Sin crianza Riojas receive no oak aging and are released young; they are Beaujolais-like, fruity and fresh. Some wines are aged for two years in oak or bottles; these are labeled crianza and, while still fresh and fruity, begin take on the famous oakiness. Wines aged for three years, at least one year in a barrel, are labeled reserva. These are often the most enjoyable of all Riojas. The most expensive wines are aged for five years or more, earning the status of gran reserva. The youngest Riojas pair well with seafood, spicy sausages, and Spanish-style bean dishes. The mature reds should be eaten with game, stews, and cheese.