The La Rioja region is situated in the western parts of Argentina, north of the cities of San Juan and Mendoza. The wines of the La Rioja wine region have a distinct character thanks to the region’s unique location in the foothills of the Andes mountains. The terroir of the region is largely mountainous with very little rainfall received each year. The location of the region is made even more unique due to its close proximity to the equator. In fact, La Rioja is considered internationally as the wine region closest to the equator. Visit La Rioja to experience one of the best in Argentinean wines and landscapes.
Although the La Rioja wine region might not be as well-known as the neighboring wine regions of Mendoza and San Juan, the area has a long and detailed history of making some of the finest Argentinean wines. The first grapes were planted at La Rioja during the 16th century by Spanish missionaries who came from Rioja in Spain. This history means that many of the local winemakers in the region believe that it is where the first Argentinean wines were produced.
La Rioja is located at a relatively high altitude. This location helps to moderate the extremely hot temperatures during the long summer months. The climate of this wine region is similar to that in another wine region of the Andes. During the winter months, there is plenty of hail and a high risk of frost. The shadow of the Andes Mountains that is cast over the wine region puts it at risk of drought and irrigation is taken from the surrounding rivers.
The soils of the La Rioja region are sandy and alluvial. The terroir is largely mountainous which is perfect for wine production.
La Rioja and its sub regions
The sub regions of the La Rioja wine region include Chilecito (6,219 ha), Coronel Felipe Varela (744 ha), Famatina(375 ha), Castro Barros (258 ha), San Blas de los Sauces (74 ha) , General Lamadrid (59 ha), Vinchina (48 ha), Sanagasta (18 ha) and Capital La Rioja (11 ha).
Red: Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Syrah, Bonarda
Argentinean Wines of the Andes Mountains
The La Rioja wine region is best known for its production of excellent red wines. The red wines of the La Rioja region are produced using mainly the Bonarda grape varietal. These wines have a full body and a wonderful deep red color. Bonarda red wines have a wonderful body and color. They have aromas of raspberries and aniseed that make them distinct from other red wines made in the region. Bonarda grapes are often used in the production of blends as they provide a high level of intensity and fruity notes. The structure of the grape allows for it to be aged in barrels with excellent results.
La Rioja Syrah wine carries rich flavors of black fruits with a peppery finish. If the Syrah wines have been oak-aged, this process adds notes of chocolate and coffee to the finished product. The Cabernet Sauvignon red wine of the region is easily recognized by its intense red color. This wine has aromas of blackberries and green peppers.
In terms of La Rioja white wines, these are made using Torrontes grapes. The white wines that are produced in the region range from sparkling wines to dry and crisp whites. The Torrontes grape is indigenous to the La Rioja region and is highly aromatic.
The Valle de la Puerta winery and the estate is situated between the Fatamina and Velasco mountains. Visiting the winery not only provides the opportunity to taste the best in local wines but also to admire the views of the surrounding mountains. Valle de la Puerta welcomes visitors to enjoy a bike ride or walk through the vineyards and olive groves and experience the excellent estate wines.
The Chanarmuyo Winery is located in the Chanarmuyo Valley at 1720m above sea level. This winery invites visitors to witness their wine making process using the finest in French wine making technology. Wine tastings can be enjoyed on the estate in the most beautiful natural environment and guests are invited to spend the night at the estate Guest House.
The Bodegas San Huberto is located in the Valley of Castro Barros in the La Rioja wine region. The wines of Bodegas San Huberto are so popular that they are exported to the most demanding wine countries including Australia, The Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. Bodegas San Huberto invites visitors to enjoy their beautiful vineyards and taste their extraordinary Argentinean wines.
Have a look at our selection of Wineries in La Rioja with open cellar door and the greatest hospitality!
Where to Go When in La Rioja
City of La Rioja – Where History and Tradition Meet
The City of La Rioja is the perfect place for visitors to this wine region to experience the local charm of the region as well as the wealth of local history. This wonderful city is considered by many as being the soul of the La Rioja region and is characterized by the sweet scent of orange blossoms that emanates from the main city square. Strolling through the streets of La Rioja takes one back into time when passing all of the historical buildings and monuments. While exploring the city, the sites that should not be missed include the Government House, the famous Social Club, the Minor Basilica of San Nicolas de Bari, and the house of Joaquin Gonzalez.
La Rioja Coast – Follow the Route of The River
Although one of the main attractions in La Rioja is the La Rioja coast, this coastline is in fact nowhere near the sea! The La Rioja coast follows the part of the La Rioja river, passing various quaint local settlements and meandering through extraordinary nature. This region is most visited because of its favorable climate throughout the year. The main attractions along the ‘coastal’ route include the Las Penas settlement, the Velasco Mountain Range, the settlement of Agua Blanca, the orchards of Pinchas and the main town of Aminga. An adventure along the La Rioja coast provides the perfect opportunity to escape to the La Rioja countryside and experience the best that the region has to offer.
Cristo del Portezuelo
The Cristo del Portezeulo is a relatively new and very large statue of Christ located in the town of Chilecito. The statue is easily accessed from Chilecito’s plaza and is situated on a platform that is accessible by 203 steps with beautiful cactus gardens on either side. The views from the top of the stairs offer a panoramic perspective over the whole town and the perfect photo opportunities. On the street level of the stairs, there are two cafes to relax at before or after the ascent. For those with weary legs, there is a funicular taking guests to the top of the statue. The Cristo del Portezeulo is open for visitors from Monday to Friday from 08:00 – 21:00 and on Saturdays and Sundays from 08:30 – 22:00.
Hidden Gem – Step Back in Time in Chilecito
Chilecito is a city in the La Rioja region of Argentina. This charming city was established in 1715 by Spanich colonizers as a mining town in the valley formed by the Sierras de Velazco in the east and the Sierras de Famatina in the west. Chilecito offers visitors a range of wonderful activities, the most popular of which is a spiritual trip to this wonderful location. This town is the perfect place to explore the local religious sites which are important parts of the catholic religion. In total there are 32 churches and chapels in the region, many of which still have their original entrances and naves. Most of the churches have been declared National Historical Monuments for their remarkable sacred colonial design and architecture. Other activities to enjoy in Chilecito include visiting the Borgiolo olive oil factory, viewing the deep red firewalls, visiting the old La Mexicana mine, and enjoying the many local wineries.
Natural Places to Visit
Chirau Mita Botanic Garden – The Natural Garden of La Rioja
The Chirau Mita Botanic Garden is home to over 60 species of native cacti from the La Rioja region as well as hundreds of other species from Mexico, Brazil, Cuba and the Galapagos Islands. The entire garden covers an area of 2 hectares and is in essence a cactus museum that is unlike any other in Latin America. The fields of cacti in the garden appear as a labyrinth over the mountain on which it is located. From the top of the garden there are breathtaking views over the plants and the nearby city of Chilecito, characterized by the rising bell tower of the Santa Rita de Casia church. The Chirau Mita Botanic Garden is open to visitors throughout the year and is a truly one-of-a-kind experience for all who visit.
Talampaya National Park – The Geological Treasure of La Rioja
The Talampaya National Park national park is located in the Cuyo region of La Rioja and is considered the geological treasure of the area. The entire park covers an area of 215 000 hectares of land, but only 5% of this is accessible to visitors. The rest of the area is used mainly for research purposes. In 2000 the Talampaya National Park became inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List as an environmental, social, and economic site of significance. It has also become the center of sustainable tourism development in the La Rioja region. Tours into the park run daily from La Rioja city and Villa Union. On these tours, the park can be enjoyed by foot, bike, or vehicle.
Quebrada de los Condores Natural Reserve – The Nature Reserve of the Andean Condor
The Quebrada de Los Condores Natural Reserve is the official reserve of the native Andean Condor bird. This nature reserve is located 35k from the city of Tupungato. The reserve covers an area of 25 000 hectares of land, most of which is used for the preservation of the mountains and their resident Andean condors. The Quebrada de Los Condores Natural Reserve was first opened in 1993 and welcomes visitors to engage in a number of activities including bird watching, horseback riding, and photographic safaris.
The Cuisine of La Rioja Wine Region
The cuisine of La Rioja is a culinary mix that has developed over time. The local gastronomy has been influenced by the region’s location on the Camino de Santiago route where travelers and cultures have long interacted and influenced each other. La Rioja is the perfect gateway to the world of wonderful Argentinean food.
Chuletilles de Cordero – Homestyle La Rioja Lamb Chops
One of the dishes that cannot be missed while exploring the La Rioja wine region is the Chuletilles de Cordero or suckling lamb chops. These lamb chops are cooked on the grill until they are crispy and succulent. Traditionally, the lamb chops are served with garlic and parsley mashed potatoes. Chuletilles de Cordero is the true taste of La Rioja and is available on most restaurant menus across the region.
Charqui – South American Jerky
Charqui is a form of dried and salted meat that is a staple food in the La Rioja region. Originally, this dish was made using readily available Llama meat, but today it is made using mostly beef. Historically, charqui was made as a way to preserve meat over a long period of time but today this delicious snack is enjoyed as a treat with any meal and at any time of the day.
Tamales – A Complete Meal in One Small Dish
Tamales are made using a mixture of corn dough, which is then filled, wrapped in a banana leaf or a corn husk, and steamed. When the steaming is complete, the tamale can be unwrapped and is traditionally eaten on the go. The filling used in Tamales varies widely and whichever one you pick to enjoy is based on personal preference. Fillings include meats, cheese, fruits, vegetables and chills that are all prepared according to taste. Tamales are best served hot and paired with your choice of local La Rioja wine.
Share about La Rioja Wine Region:
Soil: Sandy and alluvial soils
Climate: Risk of hailstorms and frost with drought conditions