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Travel Guide to Rioja Wine Region

Like many of Europe's famous wine regions, Ancient Romans were the first also here to start viticulture in Rioja wine region. Once travelling in Rioja, you will discover traces of the history of the place. Rioja wine region boasts beautiful countryside dating back to medieval times, a breathtaking hilly landscape dotted with fortresses. In addition to this, here, you will be able to discover fabulous wine museums, wineries with modern architecture, great restaurants, and hotels.

Nestled in the heart of North Central Spain, not far from the vibrant city of Bilbao, lies the renowned La Rioja wine region. Despite being Spain's second smallest region, spanning a mere 5,000 km2, La Rioja holds the esteemed title as the country's most distinguished wine-producing area. Home to approximately 316,000 residents, this region is a wine lover's paradise, producing some of Spain's finest wines. Known globally for its exceptional wine quality, La Rioja is truly a testament to Spanish viticulture

Find out more about Wine tastings and Tours in Rioja Wine Region.

Explore more about Rioja wine region with the help of our travel guide:

Rioja Wines

Wineries to visit in Rioja

Cultural and natural places to visit

Local gastronomy

Vineyards of Rioja-Wine-Region-Spain
Vineyards of Rioja Wine Region, Spain

Rioja – The Fine Wine Capital of Spain

Rioja is a province of Spain located in the north of the Iberian Peninsula. This region is famous for its wines and has over 500 wineries spread across 54000 hectares of land. However, the diversity of Rioja wine region is not just limited to its wines. It offers a great amount of religious and cultural variety. Rioja is linked to the famous Saint James pilgrim route and boasts the San Millan Yuso and Suso monasteries, which are designated UNESCO World Heritage sites. Rioja wine region is also a great destination for nature lovers. The amazing landscapes of Sierra de Cebollera Nature Reserve and the Arnedillo Biosphere Reserve are not to be missed!

Rioja is known as Spain’s fine wine capital and the wine region that is characterised by rich tradition and modern innovation. In the area, there are many historic wine producers, many of whom have been making wine for centuries. More recently, Rioja wine region has seen the arrival of a new wave of modern bodegas that are pushing the boundaries of winemaking and taking the local wines to even greater heights. The region spans a terrain stretching 75 miles from northwest to southeast. Rioja wine region is surrounded by other winemaking regions of Spain. It borders the Basque Country to the north, Navarra to the northeast, Aragón to the southeast, and Castilla y León to the west and south.

Interested in customizing your Rioja wine vacation? Simply send us your preferences here, and our team of experts will tailor the perfect itinerary for you.

Rioja Wine Region Map

Rioja Wine Map

Vineyards of Rioja Wine Region

Rioja wine region is best known for red wines made predominately from Tempranillo with dark berry aromas, spice on the palate, and long barrel ageing. The region is regarded by many as Spain’s top wine region and is certainly the most famous, the vineyards follow along the route of the Ebro River for roughly 100 km between the towns of Haro and Alfaro. In 2017, the vineyard area was recorded at 64,215 hectares, 91 % of which is planted with red grape varieties. Certified production of wine exceeded 250 million litres.

Climate & soil: The Cantabrian Mountains, which flank Rioja to the north and west, provide shelter from the cold, wet influences of the Atlantic Ocean. This is a significant factor in the local climate, which is warmer and drier than that just to the north. The region's soils vary from plot to plot, with the finest containing high levels of limestone.

Vineyard landscape of Rioja Wine Region, Spain
Vineyard landscape of Rioja Wine Region, Spain

Although Rioja's vineyards focus very strongly on producing wines in the regional style, and for sale under the Rioja DO appellation title, other styles of wine are also produced here. The most notable of these, and perhaps the most unexpected, are sparkling wines – not something with which Rioja is often associated. However, certain parts of the region are officially authorized to produce Cava. A few dessert wines are also produced on a commercial scale from both red and white grape varieties. These hark back to traditional wines called Supurados, dried in lofts over the winter.

Grape Varieties: Usually, Rioja wines are a blend of various grape varieties. Since 1925, there have been seven authorised local grape varieties. TempranilloGarnacha Tinta, Mazuelo, and Graciano from red grapes and Viura, Malvasía, and Garnacha Blanca from white. However, in 2007 Regulating Council of Rioja permitted more grape varieties to be planted and used in winemaking. This regulation also included some international grapes such as ChardonnaySauvignon blanc and Verdejo.

Classification System

Rioja's traditional classification system for ageing wine has influenced other Spanish regions. All high-quality Rioja is matured in new oak barrels. American oak has been the preference historically, but many wineries now use a mix of American and French oak. American oak maturation is what gives more traditional Rioja red wines their distinctive notes of coconut, vanilla, and sweet spice. The amount of time that a Rioja wine spends in a barrel dictates which of the official Rioja ageing categories goes on the label: Joven, Crianza, Reserva or Gran Reserva. The Rioja Classification for wines guarantees the wines have aged for a significant amount of time in both barrel and bottle. Here is a simple guide on how to differentiate Rioja wines and what to expect.

Joven, which literary means "young" is a fruity refreshing wine, which in most of the cases have not even seen oak. The name tells that these wines should be drunk young at its prime period, max 2 years.

Crianza wines spend a minimum of two years ageing, 12 months in oak barrels for red wines and six months in oak for whites and rosés. Crianza red is a more complex wine, which expresses more red fruit and spicy flavours.

Red Reserva wines require a minimum of three years of ageing with a least one year in a barrel. White Reserva wines need a minimum of two years, including six months in oak. Reserva wines express the great balance between fruitiness, acidity and tannins. If you are looking for Rioja wine for a special occasion, this is what you have to choose.

Gran Reserva wines require a minimum of two years in oak, and at least three years more in a bottle. White Gran Reserva wines need a minimum of four years altogether, of which at least six months must be in oak.

Top Wineries to Visit in Rioja Wine Region

If you are planning a trip to Rioja, our local partners would guarantee the best wine experience for you. Check the full list of Wineries in Rioja Wine Region, where you will be able to discover the most famous wines from Spain and a long history of winemaking.

bodegas corral beautiful courtyard against estate in lovely spain

Bodegas Corral

Bodegas Corral is located right on the Camino Francés, a World Heritage site on the oldest pilgrim road to Santiago de Compostela. The family that kept winemaking traditions and culture for over a hundred years are willing to impart their knowledge and art of winemaking to every visitor to their historical winery.

luis alegre wine tasting session in the unique spanish winery

Bodegas Luis Alegre

Bodegas Luis Alegre is located in Laguardia, which is one of the most exclusive parts of the Rioja wine region. Since 1968 the passionate winemakers family is trying to reach exceptional quality and produce wines with personality. With respect to local traditions and innovations, the family is producing one of the highest quality of Rioja wines.

bird view of the Bodegas Alvia estate in Spain

Bodegas Alvia

Wine lovers can visit Bodegas Alvia any time of the year. The winery offers a diversity of experiences. Starting from wine tasting paired with local food and desserts and harvest experience, finishing with an exciting escape room game.

Where to Stay in Rioja?

Hotel Boutique Real Casona De Las Amas

Hotel Real Casona de las Amas is located in a 17th-century palace in Azofra. It offers a salt-water swimming pool, sun terrace, and a garden area. An exclusive spa for guests is also available, including a thermal circuit and Scottish showers. The hotel is set close to the wine and monastery routes. Local activities include hiking, cycling, skiing and golfing.

Hotel Marqués De Riscal

The stunning Hotel Marqués de Riscal is located in Elciego, in La Rioja’s Álava province. Designed by Frank Gehry, this avant-garde hotel offers a spa and 2 restaurants. The Vinothérapie Spa offers a range of grape-based treatments. There is also an indoor pool, hammam, Finnish sauna, fitness centre and massage services.

Limehome Haro Calle De La Vega

Situated in Haro, 26 km from Rioja Alta, limehome Haro Calle de la Vega features air-conditioned rooms with free WiFi and all amenities for a comfortable stay. The nearest airport is Vitoria Airport, 42 km from limehome Haro Calle de la Vega.

Palacio Tondon, La Rioja Brinas

Featuring a restaurant, bar and views of river, Palacio Tondón, La Rioja Brinas is set in Briñas. Guests at Palacio Tondón will be able to enjoy activities in and around Briñas, like cycling.

Top 3 sites in Rioja Wine Region

Logroño- Where History and Traditions are Perfectly Preserved

Logroño is a city rich in history and traditions which has been preserved since the Middle Ages. The town is one of the most important along the Pilgrim’s Route to Santiago de Compostela which became a popular route in the 11th century. The first guide of the Pilgrim’s Route to Santiago de Compostela makes mention of Logroño in its pages and it is documented that many merchants, artists and pilgrims passed through the town's cobbled streets. The Ebro River passes through the city with two bridges over the river that connect the city to Navarre and Alava. Around Logroño, there are various examples of St. James architecture such as the pilgrim’s shelter or the famous pilgrim’s fountain. One of the most significant sites in the town is the Cathedral of Santa Maria la Redonda whose baroque towers rise above Market Square.

If you are staying in Bilbao and looking for the wineries to visit nearby, check out our list wineries near Bilbao.

Depositphotos_62016333_l-2015-min
Stone Bridge in Longrono, Rioja, Spain

San Millán de la Cogolla - a Gem at the Foot of the Demanda Mountains

Located in the centre of the Cardenas River Valley is San Millán de la Cogolla, a town founded by a saint of the same name and which has for centuries been linked to the Pilgrim’s Route to Santiago de Compostela. The town has its roots in the monastic traditions of the area, this is apparent through the many beautiful historic buildings and houses. The Monasteries of Suso and Yuso have both been declared as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. San Millán de la Cogolla is considered the cradle of the Spanish language since the first documents written in the language are preserved here. Around the 16th century, San Millán sought spiritual refuge in the town in a dugout rock-dwelling, a historic event – a historic event which now attracts crowds of pilgrims to visit.

Yuso Monastery, San Millán de la Cogolla, Rioja
Yuso Monastery, San Millán de la Cogolla, Rioja

Calahorra - the Heart of Lower Rioja

Calahorra is the main town in Lower Rioja wine region and is situated on a promontory overlooking the plain of Cidacos. In the historic centre of Calahorra, there are many vestiges of the past such as the flamboyant Gothic-style cathedral which dates from the 15th century.  Around the town, there are also many smaller chapels such as the Cristo de la Pelota or Visitación chapels.

In the Muslim old town, there is a Roman arch and the church of San Andres which was built in the 16th century. In Plaza del Raso, a former Roman forum, stands the church of Santiago, a beautiful example of Le Rioja’s neoclassical style. Other sites worth visiting in the town are the Municipal Museum which houses around 11 000 archaeological pieces, and the Carmelite Convent where one can see a magnificent statue of Christ tied to the column by Gregorio Fernandez.

Where to Go in Rioja Wine Region

An Entire Continent of Wonders Tucked into One Region

Rioja wine region is the smallest of Spain, but the territory is home to a range of landscapes and locations typical of a continent. The Mediterranean essence appears in the vineyards, the alpine climate takes shape in the snow-capped mountains, and the rain-fed land creates incredible moonscapes. Despite all of this, it is the rivers of the region that steal the show. Seven rivers originate in the region and criss-cross, decorating the landscape. Every step opens onto a new world without ever leaving the region. Stay at a country guesthouse in a unique natural environment and enjoy a starry night while staying in the region.

Sierra de la Demanda - Dramatic Mountains and Exciting Adventures

Sierra de la Demanda is a mountain sub-range situated in the Northern Iberian Peninsula. The highest peaks of the range are normally covered in snow between October and May; one can visit the Valdezcaray ski resort. The hiking trails follow the mountains through a nature reserve that encapsulates the highest peaks allowing visits to many historic and cultural highlights. There is a lot of wildlife to be seen in this area including wolves, deers, otters, royal eagles, falcons, and a lot more.
The beautiful horses found in the area are Spanish and Arab mix. Horseriding in Sierra de la Demanda gives a pleasurable experience for visitors. Overnight accommodation is available in a variety of characteristic small country hotels along the riding trails.

Sierra de Cobollera National Park - Preserved Natural Beauty at Its Best

The Sierra is considered to be an area of international importance for the passage of migratory birds.

The Sierra de Cobollera National Park is one of the best-preserved forest areas of the region. The park is surrounded by the central mountains of the Northern Iberian Mountain Range, in the region of Cameros, on the border of the province of Soria. In this protected space, there are some exquisite forest areas in the Iberian Mountain Range.

The most outstanding natural forests are of wild pine, beech, and Pyrenean oak groves. Lime trees, maple trees, whitebeams, mountain elms, yew trees, quaking aspen, and ash trees also appear in the National Park. Various animals can be found such as the fox, wild boar, deer, squirrel, mountain cat, and otter, and in the rivers. There are numerous species of forest birds of prey, such as the goshawk, the sparrowhawk, the honey buzzard, the booted eagle, the common buzzard, and the short-toed eagle. Nocturnal birds can also be seen such as the long-eared owl and the tawny owl.

Rioja Baja Valleys - Seven Valleys in One UNESCO Biosphere

The Rioja Wine Region stretches over seven valleys of the Baja, with incredible biodiversity throughout. The Ebro River together with seven small tributaries form these valleys, each with unique characteristics of climate and terroir. 

The valleys of the Rioja Baja are very distinct and diverse in terms of their flora and fauna, which has earned the region Biosphere Reserve recognition by UNESCO. 

This diversity gives an explanation as to why Rioja wines are so distinctly different across the region. The highest elevated vineyards are located in the Oja Valley which is often referred to as "Alta Alta” translating to the “High High”. The Najerilla Valley offers ancient wine terraces planted with indigenous vines. Visiting these various valleys and tasting the wines from each location is the best way to understand their diversity. 

Find the best Rioja Wine Tour Guides and experience unforgettable Guided Wine Tours in Rioja.

Gastronomy in Rioja Wine Region

Food is the Key to Warming the Soul

Rioja wine region is home to superb cuisine, where there is a great wine, and excellent food is usually nearby. The agricultural region of Rioja provides many excellent and high-quality products such as olive oil, red peppers, and other vegetables. With all of these excellent product, the gastronomy of the region is very diverse both classic and creative.

Rioja Potatoes, Accompanied by Tinto de la Rioja - Spice up your Potatoes!

Most visitors to Spain know of the famous Spanish Patatas Bravas, but Rioja potatoes are a very different version, everyone who tastes them absolutely loves. Spanish cuisine is not well known for spicy food but in Rioja, potatoes come cooked with spicy chorizo and smoky paprika – a delicious combination. The only way to make this meal better is to pair it with a Tinto de la Rioja, a spectacular local wine made with a variety of different grape types.

Rioja potatoes with spicy chorizo to be paired with Tinto de la Rioja

Cod ‘A La Rioja' - Not your Average Cod Fish Dish

In historic times when fridges did not exist, the only fish that was available in Rioja was the salty preserved Codfish. In Cod ‘A la Rioja’, the salty preserved Codfish is cooked with local ingredients including tomatoes, onions, and peppers using a recipe that has been passed down through many generations. This dish is also known as Bacalao and the drying of the fish preserves many nutrients which are said to make the dish even tastier!

Vegetable Garden of Rioja

Due to the climate and the fertile soil of the region, Rioja is one big natural fruit and vegetable garden where most of the product is natural, and organically grown. At the beginning of autumn, one can find the local people in villages roasting small red sweet peppers with delicious aromas wafting. The peppers are skinned and cooked before being eaten and are also perfect for making salads.

White asparagus is a regional specialty from the southeast of Rioja, nothing can beat their flavour and tenderness. To get the white colour, the asparagus is buried and covered with soil to avoid sunlight, which also makes them extremely tender. The asparagus can be found either fresh or canned. The artichoke variety called Blanca de Tudela can also be found in Rioja and is usually eaten fresh but can also be preserved in jars.

Check out our blog about Rioja food and wine pairings.

Insider Tips about Rioja Wine Region

Where to eat in Rioja?

Regi Jatetxea

  • Address: Calle Hegoalde, 2. Urduliz, Vizcaya, Spain
  • Menu: Spanish Traditional and modern cuisine
  • Specialties: Meat

Recommended by Bodega Eduardo Garrido Garcia

Asador Julian

  • Address: Paraje la Venta, 11, 31579 Cárcar, Navarra, Spain
  • Menu: Traditional Spanish food
  • Specialty: Meat

Recommended by Bodegas Bagordi

Venta Moncalvillo

  • Address: Ctra. de Medrano, 6. Daroca de Rioja, Spain
  • Menu: Spanish food, Gourmet, Vegetarian options
  • Specialties: Game, fresh fish, homegrown ingredients

Recommended by Bodegas Corral

Where to stay in Rioja?

Hotel Viura

  • Address: Calle Herrerías, s/n, 01307 Eskuernaga, Álava, Spain
  • Facilities and services: Restaurant, Gym, pool in the building next door, bike rentals, spa treatments

Hotel Villa De Ábalos

  • Address: Plaza Fermín Gurbindo, nº 2 26339 Ábalos (La Rioja), Spain
  • Facilities and services: Restaurant, Terrace and Garden

Posada Ignatius

  • Address: Plaza del Arco, 4, 26370 Navarrete, La Rioja, Spain
  • Facilities and services: Restaurant, outdoor area

The best wine bars in Rioja

Tercera Estacion Wine Bar

  • Address: Calle el Remedio, 12A, 26338 San Vicente de la Sonsierra, La Rioja, Spain
  • Wine menu: Regional wines

Bar Tory

  • Address: Calle Ramón y Cajal, 70 Bajo, 31261 Andosilla, Navarra, Spain
  • Wine menu: Local wines

La Tavina

  • Address: Calle del Laurel, 2, 26001 Logroño, La Rioja, Spain
  • Wine menu: International and Local wines

What to do in Rioja?

Visit Cathedral of Santo Domingo de la Calzada

  • Address: Calle Cristo, s/n, Santo Domingo de la Calzada, La Rioja, Spain

Walk at Calle San Juan

  • Address: Logroño, La Rioja, Spain

Visit Iglesia de San Servando y San German

  • Address: Calle Tomba 2, 26589 Arnedillo Spain

Frequently Asked Questions about Rioja Wine Region

1. Where is the Rioja wine region located?


Rioja is located in the north of the Iberian Peninsula, Spain. The Rioja wine region is 120 Miles south of Bilbao, with more than 65 thousand hectares under vine.

2. What are the most famous sub-regions and appellations in Rioja?


There are three historical sub-regions in Rioja, which are Rioja Baja, Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa.

The Rioja wine region has its own appellation or DOca (Qualified Designation of Origin) and besides that, most of the sparkling wines of the regions are sold within the Cava appellation. In Rioja you still will find the IGP Valles de Sadacia.

3. What are the main grape varieties in Rioja?

Rioja wine regions produce wines from a range of grapes, which the most expressive are Tempranillo, Garnacha, Mazuela (Carignan), Graciano, Maturana, Garnacha Blanca, Malvasía, Chardonnay, Maturana Blanca, and Viura (Macabeo).

4. What is the best wine to try in Rioja?


A great option to try within the wines of Rioja is the purple-red Tempranillo. This grape usually carries the aroma of violets and raspberry fruits to its wine, providing a delightful experience from young to aged bottles.

5. Is Rioja red or white?

The grape varieties authorized within the traditional DOca Rioja from 1925 are both red and white, totalizing 7 grapes. Of then, the reds are Tempranillo, Garnacha tinta, Graciano, and Mazuelo; and the whites Viura (Macabeo), Malvasía, and Garnacha blanca.

Discover Rioja With Local Wine Guides

Check out our local wine tour guides with their wine tour offers to have everything organized when visiting the Rioja wine region.

Displaying 1-3 of 3 local wine guides

Anton

Anton

Offers tours in:
Rioja Alavesa, Rioja, Spain

We began in 2010 leading tours and welcoming visitors to the San Francisco Bay Area, in...

€230.00
Diego

Diego

Offers tours in:
Rioja Alta, Rioja, Spain

My name is Diego and I am a certified local guide working in the Basque Country and Rioja. I have...

€575.00
Local Experts Tours

Local Experts Tours

Offers tours in:
Rioja Alavesa, Rioja, Spain

We operate in small groups and private in the region of Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Alta, operating...

€220.00

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