Named after the River Oja, Rioja is the oldest DO (Denominación de Origen) in Spain, dating back to 1925 and recognised for its tradition and quality of wine making. In 1991 it was promoted to a DO Calificada (DOCa) to be the top quality wine region in Spain. Rioja reds are normally a blend of Tempranillo, Graciano, Garnacha and Mazuelo grapes. Famous for oak ageing, Rioja has the largest barrel cellars in the world, as oak ageing in 225 litre casks from Bordeaux is obligatory for Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva wines.
Rioja is split into 3 sub regions, the Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Baja that each differ in soil, climate and altitude. Protected by the Sierra de Cantabria and Demanda mountains the valley formed between the 2 ranges is a microclimate perfect for grape growing. Nowadays the contrast of the long standing, traditional wineries alongside the newly built architectural wineries is very dramatic.
WHEN TO GO AND FOR HOW LONG?
You can visit Rioja throughout the year (wineries stay open all year round except for Christmas and New Year). Late spring is beautifully green and in autumn the vines are a tapestry of colour.
Harvest (late September to October) is certainly the most dramatic time to go for a wine tour as there is an air of excitement in and a flurry of activity in the vineyards. The towns are perfumed with the scent of fermenting grape juice so follow your nose to discover Rioja's impressive array of wineries.
WHERE TO GO?
- The most famous wine areas are Rioja Alta (around Haro) and Rioja Alavesa (around Laguardia). Haro is known as the capital of Rioja wine and is home to some of the oldest names associated with Rioja Wine making. It was the first town in Spain along with Jerez de la Frontera (Sherry) to have electric light thanks to the economic wine boom in the 1890´s. Haro´s wineries in the Barrio de la Estación are nestled around the railway station as wine was taken by train up to the North coast.
- Wineries in Rioja Alavesa are characterised by modern wine making techniques and above all for modern architecture. Architects such as Gehry, Calatrava, Quesada, Aspiazu and Hadid have all in the last 10 years been commissioned to construct wineries in the D.O.Ca and have put Rioja on the map.
- Rioja is scattered with hill towns, topped with castles. The churches often have resident storks perched on top of the steeples. Visit the Balcón de la Rioja for panoramic views of the Rioja Valley.
- Riojans don't believe in drinking without eating something, so the tapas culture is very important! In Haro's Herradura (horseshoe shaped street), and Logroño's Calle Laurel the bar top counters are piled high with tasty morsels, the perfect accompaniment for your glass of Rioja.
- The Batalla del Vino in Haro on the 29th of June. A fiesta where locals all dressed in white with red neckerchiefs, reinact a territorial battle. For weapons they have water pistols loaded with wine!
- The Rioja Alavesa Fiesta de la Vendimia in September. The villages in Rioja Aavesa take turns to host the annual tasting event. Buy a glass and tasting tokens and enjoy!
Pictures courtesy of La Rioja Turismo
Marqués de Vargas
Four generations of excellent Rioja wines
The winery Marqués de Vargas, built in 1989 on the Hacienda Pradolagar Estate, was the first project of the Grupo Vinícola Marqués de Vargas. The winery, set in the middle of its own...
- Premium Rioja wines
- Wine tastings with food pairing
Crta de Zaragoza, Km. 6 26006 LOGROÑO SPAIN
+34 (941) 261401
Our choice of restaurants
Hector Oribe - Paganos $$
Spanish, traditional. Great place for lunch near Laguardia and then exploring the wineries around.
C/ Gasteiz, 5 Páganos Álava
+34 945 600 715
Echaurren - Ezcaray $$$
Michelin star restaurant serving local cuisine. Choose from one of the two rooms: El Portal which is fine dining and...
C/ Padre José García, 19, 26280 Ezcaray
+34 941 354 047
Venta Moncalvillo - Daroca de Rioja $$$
Michelin star restaurant serving Spanish cuisine.
Crta. Medrano, 6, Daroca de Rioja
+34 941 444 832
Pata Negra - Logroño $
Tapas. Come here for the best mouth-watering iberico ham!
C/ Laurel 24, Logroño, La Rioja 26001
+34 941 213 645
Red: Tempranillo, Garnacha, Graciano, Mazuelo.
White: Viura, Malvasia, Garnacha Blanca, Tempranillo Blanca, Maturana Blanca, Torruntés.
Rioja benefits from 3 distinctly opposing climates: Continental, Atlantic and Mediterranean. This means that there is sufficient rainfall (in general no irrigation is allowed), milder temperatures than neighbouring Castille but a notable difference in daytime and nightime temperatures allowing thicker grape skins.
Chalky-clay, ferrous-clay and alluvial.
How to get there
Bilbao Airport (BIO) 1 hr drive to Haro.
Santander Airport (SDR) 1.30 hrs drive to Haro
San Sebastián Airport (EAS) 1 hr 45 min (only national flights).
Once you are there all distances are short between wineries.