Rioja is the first of ten Spanish wine regions we will pay a visit in this new series. Some of the tips were included in the text we sent to the great guys over at GotSaga, but we felt that each region deserved more space than we could give through just one post. If you enjoy the text, feel free to follow us on Twitter, Facebook or using RSS.
Rioja, probably the most famous Spanish wine region, doesn’t only produce great wines, but also has some excellent places to sit down and try those wines – or perhaps fly above in a hot air balloon. With seven rivers flowing through, mountains for skiing, hiking or climbing combined with great places for horse riding there’s something for everyone.
The main place to stay is the regional capital Logroño, which is a nice base for your wine tour to take off. The city has some great wine bars and taperias around the market and of course a lovely cathedral, being on the pilgrim route to Compostela. For someone who has never been to the region and enjoys letting others do the planning, I would recommend the La Rioja Alavesa wine tour. The tour takes you through the mountains, along the rivers and into a few charming medieval towns with relaxing wine tastings. If you however decide to go without a guide, it’s still an easy task to navigate through Rioja, and I would recommend visits to Bodegas Muga, Baron de Ley and Bodegas Riojanas as places with interesting character.
Looking at grape varietals, the region allows Tempranillo, Garnacha Tinta, Graciano and Mazuelo for the reds, while the whites show up with Viura, Malvasia and Garnacha Blanca. The Tempranillo is the most dominant, with a vast majority of vines, as in most of Spain. Look out for words such as Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva to see if and how long the wine has been aged in oak barrel – although longer doesn’t have to mean better.
While writing this post, I’m actually having a Crianza 2006 Viña Amate from Rioja with my girlfriend (from FashionStylizer), which I would certainly recommend. It’s full of Tempranillo and Garnacha grapes, giving complimenting aromas in the great 2006 year vintage – excellent both by itself and with a bloody steak.