Travel Guide to Rioja Wine Region

The Most Famous Bold Spanish Wines in the World

Like many of Europe’s famous wine regions, Ancient Romans were first also here to start viticulture. Once traveling in Rioja, you will discover the traces of the history of the region. The 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.


Our local partners in the Rioja wine region are ready to host you for a great wine experience. We prepared the list of wine tastings & tours in Rioja to help you in planning your wine trip.

We created a guide with insider tips to make your wine trip in the Rioja wine region unforgettable. Here, you will discover more about:

Rioja Wines

Wineries to visit in Rioja

Cultural and natural places to visit

And, of course, local gastronomy

Vineyards of Rioja Wine Region, Spain

La Rioja is a province of Spain located in the north of the Iberian Peninsula. This region is famous for the wines and has over 500 wineries spread across 54000 hectares of land. However, the diversity of Rioja is not just limited to its wines. The region 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. It 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 – The Fine Wine Capital of Spain

Rioja is known as Spain’s fine wine capital and the region is characterised by the 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, the 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.

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.

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

Climate & soil: The Cantabrian Mountains, which flank Rioja to the north and west, provide shelter from 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.

Although the 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. Tempranillo, Garnacha 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 Chardonnay, Sauvignon blanc and Verdejo.

What to Expect from Rioja Wines

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.


Wineries to Visit in the 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.

Have a look at some of them below:

bodegas corral beautiful courtyard against estate in lovely spain

Taste Your Wine at World Heritage Site

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 hundred years are willing impart their knowledge and art of winemaking to every visitor to their historical winery.

luis alegre wine tasting session in the unique spanish winery

Wines from the Most Exclusive Part of Rioja

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 the respect of 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

Play Escape Room at the Winery

Wine lovers can visit the 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 exciting escape room game.

Top 3 Sights to Visit when in Rioja

Logrono – Where History and Traditions are Perfectly Preserved

Logrono 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 Logrono in its pages and it is documented that many merchants, artists and pilgrims passed through the towns cobbled streets. The Ebro River passes through the city with two bridges over the river that connect the city to Navarre and Alava. Around Logrono, 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.

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

Calahorra – the Heart of Lower Rioja

Calahorra is the main town in Lower Rioja 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.


An Entire Continent of Wonders Tucked into One Region

Must see natural places in Rioja

Rioja is the smallest region in 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 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. Staying 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 pleasurable experience to 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 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. 


What to Eat in Rioja

Food is the Key to Warming the Soul

The region of Rioja is home to superb cuisine, where there is a great wine, 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 this 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.

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 speciality 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.


Share about Rioja Wine Region:

Region Highlights

Surface: 56500
Wineries: 673
Soil: Clay and limestone
Climate: Continental, Mediterranean and Atlantic

Selected wineries in Rioja

Alútiz Vinos (Bodegas Pascual Berganzo)
Artisan winery that specializes in making maceración carbónica red wines
Arizcuren
Welcome to Arizcuen in the Yerga Mountain Range
Bodega Eduardo Garrido Garcia
A family boutique winery with around 500 years of winemaking history
Bodegas Alvia
Boutique winery producing wine with handmade processes

Wine tastings & tours in Rioja

Don Jacobo wine tasting and tour at Bodegas Corral
Let's have a wine tasting clubbed with a guided tour at Bodegas Corral
Wine tasting and bike-riding tour at Bodegas Corral
You will appreciate the wine tasting along with a bike-riding tour at Bodegas Corral
Wine tasting and horse-riding tour at Bodegas Corral
Enjoy a wine tasting paired with a horse-ridding tour at Bodegas Corral
Wine tasting and tour at Alútiz Vinos (Bodegas Pascual Berganzo)
A guided visit of their historic underground cellar and tasting of their wines at Alútiz Vinos (Bodegas Pascual Berganzo)

Other Wine Regions in Spain

Andalusia
Discover Andalusia by visiting all its UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Andalusia wine region is a great destination with a broad offering of wineries with wine tasting and tours. On our website you can book your visits in order to be prepared for your time in the region.
Aragón
Sonomontano is the famous wine of Aragón. You can experience amazing wine tasting and tour activities at the various wineries in Aragón . On our site you can read all about this regions to be prepared for your stay.
Balearic Islands
The beautiful beaches and also much more. Balearic Islands has a large number of wineries that offer wine tasting and tour. Visit our website to book beautiful wine-filled experiences and learn more about the wine region.
Basque Country
Unique people, unique culture and unique wines. Basque country wine region is a great destination with a broad offering of wineries with wine tasting and tours. On our website you can book your visits in order to be prepared for your time in the region.

Map of Wineries in Rioja wine region

Discover the long wine tradition of Rioja and discover some of the best wineries in this region

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