La Rioja–an obligatory pilgrimage for any wine enthusiast–may be Spain’s quintessential wine region known for classic Tempranillo-based wines. The wine region evokes images of pristine medieval villages, stellar local products enlivening the cuisine, and traditional old-world Rioja wines. Beneath this classic exterior the Rioja has a bevy of innovative winemakers moving away from the traditional oak-aged style and producing varietal terroir-driven wines. The three Rioja subdivisions–Rioja Alavesa, Rioja Alta and Rioja Oriental–mark differences in climate, soils and to some extent grape varieties. Today there is a movement to label the wines with the village or plot names to differentiate them and give indications as to their provenance and character.

Your private winery visits and wine tastings, often with the bodega owners or the winemakers, will allow you to experience the heart and soul of the region. Your lunches and dinners will be at chef-owned restaurants focused on contemporary cuisine or on age-old traditional fare. Prepare yourself for charming hotels, dramatic scenery, hilltop castles and medieval villages, delicious food, and of course stellar red and, surprisingly, white wines.

Rioja Wine

The beautiful Rioja region is bordered by the dramatic Sierra de Cantabria mountains to the north and the Sierra de la Demanda to the south. These ranges protect the Rioja from the extreme continentality of central Spain and the moisture and storms of the Atlantic. The Ebro river runs through the region, and many premier wines, such as López de Heredia, Muga, Roda, and La Rioja Alta, are made from vineyards lining its banks. Others take advantage of the high altitude offered by the nearby mountain ranges. Tempranillo is the predominant red grape variety grown here, although many Rioja reds contain small amounts of other grapes. The grape varieties allowed for red Rioja wines include Tempranillo, Garnacha, Graciano and Mazuelo; the varieties allowed for white wines include Viura, Malvasia and Garnacha Blanca. Rioja has increasingly produced barrel-aged white wines to critical acclaim.

Lingering over leisurely meals accompanied by the best wines of the region you will find yourself thinking that you have found the perfect food and wine escape.

Rioja Tours

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Change is in the air in Rioja. …You will meet an encouraging new generation of Rioja producers starting their own bodegas.
— Sarah Jane Evans MW