Rioja is a wine region in northern Spain, which was the first with Denomination of Origin (in 1925) throughout the country, and also the first to obtain the Qualified category in 1991. At the moment it is a candidate for Unesco World Heritage as “Cultural Landscape of Wine and Vineyard”. It is divided in three areas: Rioja Alta, Rioja Oriental and Rioja Alavesa; The latter has the “Biosphere Responsible Tourism” certification. The origin of Rioja name is still under study although it is popularly attributed to the existence of the Oja River.
90% of Rioja grows grape varieties used for red wines, mainly Tempranillo, and the remaining 10% grows white varieties, with the Viura as a predominant white grape variety. A wine tour through these lands allows us to know the history of wine in the area and its workers, but also to see the vineyards, the old wineries and modern architecture. Here you can learn about the ancient and current methods of harvest and production, see the old stone “lagares” and make wine tastings. And of course, know details of the classification of wines in the region: Joven, Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva.
Rioja can be visited in one day and you will be satisfied with a general idea. But for wine lovers and people enjoying the natural, historical, social and cultural context, a stay of at least 3 days is recommended. It is an excellent place for a 7-day relaxing holiday with your partner, or group of wine-loving friends. You won’t get bored, I assure you, count on me.
In Rioja Alavesa, there are some villages of medieval origin such as Laguardia with its remarkable Portico of the Church of Santa María de los Reyes, its narrow streets full of cellars underground, its beautiful wall… that is the reason why it belongs to the Association of the most beautiful villages in Spain, and is the “Best wine tourism municipality” according to the “Wine Routes of Spain”. Or in Labastida, where its old part is declared a Historic-Monumental Complex. As for architecture you can not miss the building of the Hotel Marqués de Riscal in Elciego designed by Frank Ghery or the Ysios winery of the Spanish architect Calatrava.
La Rioja not only boasts wine, but it is also as a place of life and passage of humans since time immemorial. You can see here the archaeological settlement of native “Berones” in the town of La Hoya, or admire some dolmens. It has as several sites recognized as World Heritage Sites by Unesco: Two ways of Santiago (the French Camino de Santiago and the Basque Interior Way of St. James) as well as the Monasteries of Suso and Yuso in San Millán de la Cogolla due to historical, artistic, religious, linguistic and literary reasons. In one of these monasteries, a text was found with the first words in Spanish and Basque languages. Rioja has declared some festivals of National Tourist Interest such as the Anguiano Stilt Dance in May, July and September; The battle of the wine of Haro and the medieval Days of Briones in June. Also interesting are the Elciego Wine and Music Week in July or the Medieval Pintxos Contest held in August in Laguardia.
There are many more options that you can consult, such as wine tastings in the Haro Station Neighborhood, or seeing the Museum of Wine Culture in Vivanco Wineries, discovering dinosaur footprints, or seeing towns with a lot of history and charm like Ezcaray & Nájera (the main foodies destinations in Rioja). If you want specific tastings, vertical tastings, or tastings with wine growers or oenologists, please tell us.
There is no hesitation that Bacchus and the Maenads would have loved these lands!