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La Rioja Wine Region

Listed under Wine Regions in La Rioja, Spain.

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Rioja, not surprisingly, comes from La Rioja, a wine region in northern Spain, but confusingly not all of the La Rioja region is allowed to give their produce the Rioja label.

Within La Rioja the province are three different microclimates which create a diversity in the wine produced. The northern most part is Rioja Alavesa, where Tempranillo grapes produce fruitier wine best drunk young, the Rioja Baja region is best for Garnacha grapes which are heavier and produce darker wines with higher alcohol contents and the Rioja Alta suits Tempranillo grapes but here they’re more suitable to be matured and produce spicier flavours. The regions whites were once thought of as uninspiring but now some of the creamy, oaky varieties are appearing on shelves and menus outside of Rioja.

La Rioja centres around the Ebro Valley plains enclosed by dramatic mountain ranges to both the north and the south. Some of the top Rioja producers to visit are Allende, Martinez Bujanda and La Rioja Alta, but many of the smaller family owned bodegas have cellars and will welcome you in and take time to talk to you about their wines. Labastida offers an especially good guided tour of their winery.

Examined close up the sweeping mountains are rocky and quiet villages nest amongst their folds, surrounded by alternating cornfields and vineyards under the hot sun creating a grand, expansive scene. This is a big region to get around so one of the best ways to see it is via chauffer driven car - it may seem a bit extravagant but unless you have a designated driver with you it can be difficult to get from tasting to tasting. Alternatively this is a place of pilgrimage, the Camino de Santiago runs through it so there are plenty of walking routes and places to say on the road overnight. While you’re here you’ll also enjoy the art, history and colourful local culture and cuisine.

Written by  Kat Mackintosh.

Comments, reviews and questions by other travellers

Visiting La Rioja

Lovely area, small, varied and lots to do. You don't have to be a vineyard addict to enjoy the area. If all you want to do is go from winery to winery then get a chauffeur and get quietly soaked. For my money, after a couple, wineries really are not all that. I'd recommend Muga because it does everything by hand, in wood - they still have coopers on site. The newer and undoubtedly beautiful looking wineries are so efficient that there is no atmosphere. I was in one recently where I worked out that each employee had 1,500 square metres of floorspace. It's like wandering through an empty factory. Call me a philistine by all means but there's more to do....

I would say, mix it up. Go see a couple of vineyards, visit the wine museum at Dinastico Vivanco (it really is quite interesting), if you can, book in for a wine tasting course (just a couple of hours). Combine this with walking - there are some lovely walks in the Ebro Valley, amidst the vines. Or go to the south of the area where the mountains rise up and the scenery becomes really quite dramatic - fantastic for full day walks.

Head back down to a small hotel (Rioja does small/boutique very well) for a shower and then head out to eat. Now this is where I think the real enjoyment of wine is. La Rioja has some of the best food in Spain. The valley itself produces fantastic vegetables. To the north you have the fish & seafood of the coast and to the south you have the delicious meats of the plains. These 3 elements all come together in the cuisine of La Rioja. Wine tastes best with food. The food here is every bit a match for the wine.

So there you go, save the sozzling for the evening with supper. Spend your days out and about. It's a wonderful area.

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