Why should I go to La Rioja?
Rioja is discerned travelers’ paradise. If you are a wine enthusiast, you will taste some of the greatest reds in the world and visit world-class wineries. If you are a nature lover, you will come across stunning views: Bright blue skies. Emerald vineyards. A vast and peaceful valley full of all shades of green in spring; yellow and red in fall. If you a history buff, you will find traces of Neolithic to the Moorish and the Medieval driving along ancient monasteries and medieval stone villages. To top it all, Rioja (also known as La Rioja) offers delicious culinary traditions, some of the best tapas bars in Spain, exciting avant-garde architecture and boutique design hotels. You will be away from the tourist crowds that flock the streets of Barcelona and Madrid. Time will be forgotten. Wine, food and nature will be all that matter. Rioja invites you to a relaxing and delightful escape: A wonder escape!
What makes Rioja wine special?
Rioja, which is located in north-central Spain along the River Ebro, is the most important wine region in Spain. It is now the home of more than 600 wineries, also known as Bodegas. The region is a vast valley bordering Sierra de Cantabria Mountains to the north and Sierra de la Demanda and Sierra de Cameros to the south. It has three sub regions: Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Baja. What makes Rioja wines, the best Spanish wines is the interplay between the cool Atlantic and the warm Mediterranean climate and the unique soil. Best Rioja wines come from Alavesa and Alta.
History of Rioja wine country
Rioja has been a grape-growing region since times of the ancient Romans. However, winemaking industry really took off towards the end of the 19th century. At the time, French winemakers were looking for an alternative terrain as phylloxera plagued Bordeaux vineyards. They crossed the mountain range of the Pyrenees and found a safe haven here, in Rioja vineyards. Most of the wineries were set up near the train station in Haro (Barrio de la Estacion in Haro), making this town the focal point of wine trade. Spanish aristocrats and entrepreneurs also started investing heavily in the business and eventually; Rioja has become the most important wine region in Spain.
When to go to Rioja, Spain?
The best time to go is late September to early October as it coincides with the harvest time – a unique experience to witness or a be a part of! Also in fall, there is the wine festival in Logrono, known as Fiestas de San Mateo. If you miss this highly entertaining time, you can visit in spring or early summer when the weather is warm but still breezy and fresh. In spring and early summer, vineyards are green; towards fall they turn yellow and red. All year round, you get to taste the best vegetables in season: spring for the famous asparagus (esparragos) and the artichoke (alcachofa), fall for green beans (judias verdes) and borage (borrajas). Summers tend to get hot, so you would need to choose your hotel accordingly – preferably one with a swimming pool or a breezy garden overlooking the golden fields!
How to get to Rioja, Spain?
– The nearest airport to Rioja, Spain is Bilbao Airport (International). From Bilbao, Rioja region (Haro town) is about 1 hour 15 minute drive on a motorway.
– La Rioja region is also a short drive (1,5 hours) from San Sebastian in Basque Country.
– The distance from Barcelona to Rioja wine region is approximately 5 hours. The best way to get there is to drive or to take a train (similar durations).
– The distance from Madrid to Rioja wine region is approximately 3 hours 15 minutes by car and 4 hours 15 minutes by train.
– You will need a private car to get around in Rioja as most wineries are dispersed in many different small towns and the countryside. While it is easy to locate the most known wineries and towns, best kept secrets of Rioja are hard to find sometimes even on Google Maps.