Rioja

Rioja

Spain

Rioja Wine Facts

  • Grape varieties
    • Black: Tempranillo, Garnacha, Mozuelo (Carignan), Graciano
    • White: Viura (Macabeo), Garnacha Blanca, Malvasía, Torrontes, Verdejo, Chardonnay, Sauvingnon Blanc
    Food pairing
    • Reds: Jamon, chorizo, lamb, red pepper dishes, Manchego cheese, game, 
    • Whites: Grilled fish, shellfish, prawns, paella, white asparagus, almonds

    Best vintages
    • 2001, 2004, 2005, 2009, 2010, 2015, 2016  
    • See all
Local specialties

 

  • Dry reds
  • Almonds
  • Olive oil
  • Pintxos/Tapas
  • Basque cuisine
Best Season to Visit Rioja

  • All year round
  • June – San Bernabé festival in Logroño
  • Around the 20th June – Haro Station Wine Experience
  • End of June – Batalla del Vino (Battle of Wine) Festival in Haro
  • August can be very hot with some wineries closed
  • San Mateo – La Rioja Wine Harvest Festival in September
  • La Rioja fall colours are stunning
  • Winter wine tastings and scenic views of snow-covered Cantabric mountains.
  •  

Why to Visit Rioja, Spain?

When I think of Rioja (La Rioja), it is the magnificent mountains, orange ground of vineyards, wonders of architecture and fruity full-bodied wines that come to my mind.

Rioja appears to be one of the few places unspoilt by industries and mass tourism.

If you are visiting San SebastienBilbao or Pamplona, do take a day or two to discover La Rioja and its wines.

On our Rioja wine tour we drove from Haro to Logrono and then to Pamplona. Landscapes changed drastically from high mountains to desert-like areas and so did the wines we tasted.

How to Get to Rioja?

What Kind of Wines Are Made in Rioja, Spain?

Reds, whites and rose mostly in dry style.

The wines of Rioja are the most famous wines of Spain.  Rioja DOCa (denominación de origen calificada) is the Spain’s leading Designation of Origin with more than 600 wineries and 14,800 grape growers and the largest number of barrels.

Tempranillo and Garnacha are the main black grape varieties in Rioja, as well as Mazuelo (also known as Cariñena) and Graciano.

Viura (also known as Macabeo), Malvasía and Garnacha blanca are the main grape white grape varieties in Rioja.

La Rioja is divided into three distinct subregions.

Rioja Alavesa is on the north-west of the city of Logroño and north of the river Ebro, on the foothills of the Cantabrian mountains. The wines of Rioja Alavesa have the most finesse and have the lightest tannins.

Rioja Alta is to the west of Logrono with classic-style Tempranillo wines with smooth tannins, vibrant red-fruit flavours, vanilla and spicy aromas.

Rioja Baja is to the west with hot climates and more full-bodied reds.

Known for their structure, Rioja red wines often appeal to lovers of Cabernet Sauvignon.

What are the Best Rioja Wineries to Visit?

If you plan to rent a car,  you can do a self-guided tour, be sure to make your winery visit appointments in advance by phone or by email.

Try to set up appointments at least a week in advance of your tour.  Make sure you request a visit in English if that is your preference, and that you have a designated driver.

See the Map of Rioja Top Wineries

Plan to visit 2-3 bodegas per day. Allow about 1.5 hours for each visit and the time to move around.  Pay careful attention to opening hours, as some wineries may be closed on Sundays, Mondays or Tuesdays, and national holidays.

You can choose to focus on top wineries of Rioja, authentic and traditional family-owned bodegas, wineries with remarkable architecture, or just the wines that you tend to drink at home.

See my article on about Top Wineries to Visit in Rioja with 90+ Parker Points Wines which may help you with making your choices.

Wine tastings are for a fee starting from 15 to 20 euros per adult and half-price for children. The pourings are quite generous in Rioja.

You can purchase Rioja wines and various wine souvenirs at the wineries. Wineries will be happy to ship wine back to most countries.

Plan to have lunch at wineries with restaurants or in towns. Some wineries offer picnics with wine and wine tastings courses. Wine bars at wineries are good opportunities to taste (and drink!) the best vintages.

Some Rioja wineries welcome kids while others only accept adults. For example CVNE wineries offer workshops for children while parents are touring and tasting.

Wine tourism is mainly concentrated in the Rioja Alta and the Rioja Alavesa areas between the towns of Haro and Logroño (about 1.5 hours from Bilbao).

We stayed in Logroño and it was a great choice. You can be a part of vibrant local nightlife and avoid driving after the Calle de la Laurel pintxo bars crawl.

Map of Top Rioja Wineries

Follow this map to visit Rioja wineries designed by famous architects Zaha Hadid, Frank Gehry, Iñaki Aspiazu and Santiago Calatrava (yellow tags). 

Other outstanding Rioja bodegas with wines rated 90+ by Robert Parker are marked in red.

Rioja Wine Tours

If you don’t feel like driving around and booking your own winery visits, hop on one of the small group wine tours or a private wine tour.

Rioja wine tours depart from Logroño, Bilbao, Pamplona or Saint-Sebastien. Private tour drivers may be able to pick you up from your accomodation in the area. See suggestions of the best wine tours in Rioja below.

Rioja Wine Tours from Bilbao

Rioja Wine Tours from San Sebastien

Rioja Wine Tours from Logrono

Things to Do in Rioja

  • Taste reds, whites and rose wines
  • Visit bodegas with famous architecture
  • Taste 90+ Parker points wines 
  • Crawl pintxo bars in Logroño
  • Eat typical Spanish foods
  • Visit Laguardia, a fortified hill town
  • Stroll through Mercado de San Blas in Logroño 

Top-rated Rioja Wines

Related Tours

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