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Ever since the Spanish missionaries arrived in Argentina a few hundred years ago, the La Rioja region had the feeling of an amazing wine destiny, and you might wonder if those monks thought of it when bringing the Rioja name from Spain in the 16th century. In an area which is almost like a desert, you will find the third largest wine region of Argentina, giving some amazing wines to the world.
The most important part of La Rioja is Chilecito Valley, with excellent wine growing climate conditions. This is especially great for the common Bonarda grapes, but also Torrontés, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Chardonnay vines are thriving.
If you plan on going to La Rioja, I would suggest starting your tour in the city of La Rioja. There you’ll find a number of interesting historical monuments, plazas, churches and other interesting landmarks – often with a strong European influence. If you enjoy festivals and have a free choice on when to visit, visit the city in March for the Festival del Vinador and celebrate local vintners with dance, wine tasting and music.
This is the seventh part of 10 about amazing and beautiful wine regions to visit in South America, a series which has been previously summarized in GotSaga. For more wine places, go through the backlogs to read about wine places in France and Spain. After South America, we promise you the world, and a look at the amazing wine regions in New Zealand. Enjoy!
If you love sparkling wine, and perhaps enjoy a cooler climate, the Rio Negro wine region is probably a great destination for you. Just like in other Argentinean wine regions, many wineries have converted buildings into hotels and inns following the wine tourism boom, to let you experience the combination of great wine at the source with great living spaces. You can however also find Pinot Noir and Merlot wines in a European style in the windy and dry wine Rio Negro region – where the climate allows for more organic wine products and lets growers stay away from agrochemicals.
For a great wine experience and education, I would recommend visiting the Bodega Humberto Canale, which combines a century of wine producing knowledge with modern techniques; the Bodega Estepa with their wide variety of excellent wines, growing vines on both sides of the river in non-traditional picturesque vineyards
This is the fourth part of 10 about amazing and beautiful wine regions to visit in South America, a series which has been previously summarized in GotSaga. For more wine places, go through the backlogs to read about wine places in France and Spain. After South America, we promise you the world, and a look at the greatest wine destinations in New Zealand. Enjoy!
The Mendoza region is now one of the top tourist destinations in Argentina. This was the first wine region I heard of in the country, and still the one I hear mentioned most often. Mendoza also has by far the highest amount of wine production in the country with 80% being produced here, as well as the longest history of wine making. There are around 1500 wineries in the region, divided into the five sub-regions Lujan de Cuyo, Uco Valley, Maipú (sometimes referred to as ‘The Centre’), San Rafael in the south and Rivadavia in the east. Lujan de Cuyo is considered being the “home of Malbec”, and I would highly recommend going there for anyone who enjoys the Malbec wines – I know I enjoyed it! You would also find a lot of Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as some Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah being grown in the region
Besides being the main wine producing region of the country, Mendoza is also a haven for adventure travelers – with world class hiking, biking, fishing, rafting and skiing, all within two hours flight from Buenos Aires, or 50 minutes from Santiago, the capital of Chile. If you enjoy festivals, you might love the Mendoza wine festival in March
Just a few years ago, back in 2005, Colchagua Valley in Rapel was rated the best wine region in the world by Wine Enthusiast. It is not difficult to understand why when you consider the quality of their wines – often based on Malbec, Syrah, Cabernet and Carmenere grapes – and that the area is host to two of the most famous wineries in the country, Casa Lapostelle and Montes. Besides having the most famous wineries, the area also have the Chilean wines regularly rated highest among wine experts and magazine reviews.
For anyone travelling to Colchagua Valley, I would heartily recommend taking the Train of Wine (El Tren del Vino) for a complete wine experience. You would have a train full of love for wine, 14 vineyard visits and a couple of museums on the way – and it’s easily accessible with transfer from Santiago. If you want to travel without any guides or the help of the wine train, I would recommend that you at least try to visit Viña Caliterra, Viña las Niñas and Viña Lapostelle.
I would recommend a visit to Bodega Pirineos in Barbastro, the region capital of Somontano situated close to the mountains. Wines from the Somontano are often referred to as the “new world wines of southern Europe”, with their elegance and vibrating fruity aromas. This is a great region to visit if you’d like to combine your wine experience with hiking in the Pyrenées.
There are a number of wine growing regions in Levante on the east coast of Spain, where you will also find the third largest city of the country, Valencia. The Valencia region primarily creates sweet Merseguera and Moscatel desert wines, while you find grapes for white wines being grown at high altitude in Alicante and the reds dominate the Utiel-Requena region. Less famous table wines come from the Murcia area, dominated by Monastrell grapes – and even called the Monastrell Imperium by some.
The entire Levante region is a haven for the sun lover, the history buff and the Monastrell wine connoisseur. Start off a tour from Valencia, maybe with a drink at Enoteca – with 6000 wines from across the world they have something for everyone. If you rent a car, go north along the Júcar river to the Utiel-Requena region for what some believe is a future star of Spanish reds, or go south to Jumilla in Murcia, for some excellent light reds. If you want to combine your wine discovery adventure with sunny beach days, Alicante is probably one of the best places in Spain for you – ask any of the millions of European tourists visiting the beaches every year.
If you see a few battered windmills, you might think back to Don Quijote’s fictional adventures in the area, which is located on a plateau between Madrid and Andalusia. Having little rain and moderately hot summers, the area produces fully ripened grapes. For the reds, you will find Cencibel is the main grape, accompanied by Cabernet Sauvignon, Garnaca, Merlot and Moravia. White wines from La Mancha contain Airén, Macabeo and Pardilla according to regional standards.
Starting off in the amazing city of Pamplona, you have a region producing fruity deeply colored wines in the Navarra wine region – a region with more than 2000 years of wine history started when the Romans were here. Stretching from the Pyrenees to Ebro River Valley in the north of Spain, you will find more than 13.000 hectares of vineyards in the area.
Start off a Navarra wine tour in the shadows of the Pyrenees mountains, in the regional capital Pamplona, possibly with the famous bull running event in July. Going through the region, you can discover a rich culture and history, combined with a diversity of climates including Atlantic, Mediterranean and continental European weather patterns. There are so many vineyards worth a visit in the region that it’s impossible to name them all, but make sure to at least visit Bodegas Artajona if you start from Pamplona, Castillo de Monjardin if you love Merlot and Bodegas Ochoa with at least 700 years of history in the same family.
As usual in Spain red wines usually contain Tempranillo grapes, but you will also find a lot of Garnacha, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot – however often enough you can find Syrah, Pinot Noir and Mazuelo wines if you look around a bit. If you enjoy white wines more, you would usually find Chardonnay or Viura wines in the Navarra region – but there are a few others as well, including Moscatel de Grano Menudo, Sauvignon Blanc and Malvasia. The rosé wines are still very present though, with 40% of total production and a long tradition in the area.
Already 2500 years ago, in the 6th century BC, the Phoenicians were growing Mourvedre grapes in the Barcelona area – where it had probably been brought from the Caucasus and Anatolia Regions. In the 6th century, there were Chardonnay grapes growing in this western Spanish region. Much later, the region was the birthplace of the sparkling wine Cava, which is nowadays accompanied by some powerful red wines and dry whites, where most wines are blends.Catalonia includes famous subregions such as Priorat, Penedes and Tarragona. Wines from the region can however simply have Catalunya on the label, basically meaning the wine doesn’t fit with any other DO classification area. Starting off any wine tour, you should definitely go from Barcelona, visit at least one of the multitude of great wine bars such as Monvinic, Ginger, La Viña del Señor or Vinatera del Call. I would love to give more recommendations for things to do or places to visit in Barcelona, but with lomited space comes fewer recommendations – and of course you should have to visit the many amazing places in the city which aren’t wine related as well.
Considering that Catalonia is one of the most dynamic wine regions in the world, it’s difficult to give you the ‘perfect trip’ through the area, but I would certainly recommend the origin of modern Spanish wine making in Penedés, finding out where the Cava production first began, and visiting the great vineyards of the Priorat region. You will probably need a few trips to the region before starting to feel like you covered some ground though, and a good idea is probably to follow the wine world in differing between Priorat, Penedès and Tarragona, and take one subregion at a time.
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.