The Rioja wine region, located in northern Spain, is renowned for its exceptional wines and rich winemaking history. The region is divided into three sub-regions: Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa, and Rioja Oriental (formerly known as Rioja Baja). Rioja wines are predominantly made from the Tempranillo grape, known for producing elegant, structured red wines. The region also produces white and rosé wines, with increasing focus on varietals like Viura and Garnacha Blanca. Rioja wines are often aged in oak barrels, adding complexity and oak-driven flavors.
The Rioja wine region is situated in the northern part of Spain, primarily in the autonomous communities of La Rioja and Basque Country. The easiest way to reach the region is by flying into Bilbao or Logroño airport. From there, you can rent a car or take a bus to explore the different towns and wineries within the region.
Wines of the region
Rioja wines are known for their exceptional quality and aging potential. The red wines are typically classified into four categories: Joven (young), Crianza, Reserva, and Gran Reserva, based on their aging requirements. The Joven wines offer vibrant fruit flavors, while Crianza wines have spent a minimum of two years aging, including at least one year in oak. Reserva and Gran Reserva wines undergo longer aging periods, resulting in increased complexity and depth.
Wineries to explore
Some of the famous wineries in Rioja that are worth exploring include Bodegas Marqués de Riscal, Bodegas Muga, Bodegas López de Heredia Viña Tondonia, and Bodegas CVNE. These wineries offer guided tours, tastings, and a glimpse into the region's winemaking traditions. For off the beaten track wineries, consider visiting Bodegas Baigorri, Bodegas Finca Valpiedra, Bodegas Remírez de Ganuza, and Bodegas Tobía. These smaller, boutique wineries provide unique experiences and the opportunity to discover lesser-known producers.
The Rioja region boasts a rich culinary tradition that perfectly complements its wines. Local cuisine includes specialties such as Riojan-style lamb, grilled chorizo, and piquillo peppers. For a delightful dining experience, consider visiting renowned restaurants like El Portal de Echaurren in Ezcaray, Restaurante Venta Moncalvillo in Daroca de Rioja, and Restaurante Tondeluna in Logroño. These establishments offer a fusion of traditional and innovative dishes, highlighting local ingredients.
In addition to wine, the Rioja region offers a range of cultural activities. Explore the charming old towns of Haro and Laguardia, where you can wander through narrow streets, visit historic sites, and soak in the medieval charm. Attend the annual Batalla del Vino (Wine Battle) in Haro, a festive event where participants drench each other in wine. Visit the Vivanco Museum of Wine Culture in Briones, which showcases the history, art, and science of winemaking. Take part in the San Fermín festival in Pamplona, where the famous Running of the Bulls takes place. These cultural activities add depth and excitement to your visit to the Rioja wine region.