Rioja is a wine region, north of the Iberian Peninsula, in Spain and regarded as Spain’s wine capital with the perfect blend of tradition and modern innovation. The Rioja wine region is 120 miles south of Bilbao, with more than 65 thousand hectares under vine and, at the time of this publication, is home to 673 wineries. It is arguably Spain’s top wine region and certainly the most famous. The vineyards run the course of the Ebro River for approximately 60 miles between the towns of Haro and Alfaro.
In Spain, wineries are commonly referred to as bodegas, also known as a wine cellar or warehouse. The Rioja wine industry has been dominated by family vineyards and co-operatives that have bought the grapes that make the wine. Some bodegas would buy fermented wine and age the wine to sell under their own label. In recent times, there has been elevated value in securing vineyard land and making estate bottled wines from the bodegas.
Located in Northern Spain, Rioja is best known for their exquisite wine options and beautiful settings. The region is divided into provinces: Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Baja.
Rioja Alta, known for its wine culture, with many of its vineyards lying south of the Ebro River. There are several bodegas open to the public, giving evidence of just how vital wine production is to the town’s economy.
Rioja Alavesa, considered to produce the best wines of the region. This ‘wine city’ houses modern yet modest wineries featuring impressive bodegas. The Cantabrian mountains dominate the landscape, setting high altitudes and clay-like soil, which help the grapes to acquire their rich taste, character, and color.
Rioja Baja is the largest portion of the region and accounts for 40 percent of its wine output. The flatter terrain, along with its climatic conditions, makes it a less significant wine region, in terms of quality, despite its output.
Overall, Rioja is an extraordinary land of spectacular wineries. Defined by its age, its winemakers are known to be brave, hard-working, and unpretentious; continuously led by a legacy of authenticity, respect for artisanship and a love for making the finest wines. Proud to be the leading designation of origin wineries with more than 14,000 grape growers and the largest number of barrels in the world creating wines which are present in 124 different countries. Predominantly featuring American oak, which gives the wine flavors of coconut, vanilla, dill, and caramel; however, many producers now use a blend of American and French oak barrels.
Weather throughout the Rioja vineyards is extremely desirable. If you would like to be captivated by the rolling green vineyards, summer is the best time to visit the wineries. But if you are excited to witness the harvesting season and want to have a first-hand experience of picking the grapes with your bare hands, fall is the perfect season! Even during the harshest of winters, wineries in Rioja have something to offer. No matter the time of year you choose, Rioja is the perfect destination to many because of their favorable climate.
Traveling to Rioja, specifically for their wine tourism, is an incredible experience. The tiny spaces full of vines, the dozens of historically operated and family-owned wineries, and the incredible modern architecture, are just a few of the fabulous reasons to visit this gem.
For further information, please contact the Tourist Office of Spain www.spain.info