The Hidden Gems of Spain’s Rioja Wine Region
One of the best ways to spend a holiday or weekend as a wine lover is to take a wine tasting tour. A quick search of the best places to visit on such a tour will give you the Rioja region in Spain. Wine lovers from all over the world have been visiting the region to taste delicious wines from different wineries. You will have an unforgettable trip if you choose Rioja as next holiday destination. However, organising a trip to this region with limited information is a daunting task. This guide provides the information you need to organise a fun and authentic trip to the wine region.
Why Visit Rioja?
A wine tasting tour is only exciting if your destination has many wineries with multiple brands to sample. Rioja attracts thousands of wine lovers every year because of its wineries and mass production of wine. The region produces about 250 million litres of wine every year. Some of the best wineries in this region are hundreds of years old. Hence, you will not only be tasting the best wines but also learning about the history of the region and its wineries.
The Rioja wine region is divided into three sections that include Rioja Baja, Rioja Alavesa, and Rioja Alta. Each of these regions produces a unique type of wine. You need to visit all the sections to make the best out of your Rioja wine tour. Most of the wineries here use Tempranillo grape to make red wine. Some of the wine cellars blend Tempranillo with other grapes such as Graciano, Mazuelo, and Garnacha Tinta.
You will taste at least four major types of Rioja wine with different ages in oak barrels and bottles. The first type that you must sample is the Rioja Joven, which is the youngest wine in the market. It is aged less than a year in an oak barrel. The second type is Crianza, which is aged at least two years with at least a year in an oak barrel. Rioja Reserva follows closely with three years and at least one year in an oak barrel. The last type is Rioja Gran Reserva, which is aged three years in a bottle and at least two in an oak barrel.
If you want to get the best taste of Rioja wine, go for a brand that has stayed in an oak barrel for a longer period. The barrel adds different taste notes to the brand, including the chocolate, coffee, and wood tastes that wine from this region is famous for. The wine absorbs more of these tastes as it stays longer in a barrel. Another aspect that makes Rioja wine region stand out is the cost of wine. You can sample the best wines in the region from as little as £20.
The Wineries to Visit in Rioja
Many tour guides will promise the best wine tours in Rioja, but the best Rioja wine tour should include all the major wineries in the region. You will find many winemakers willing to take you through their historic wineries. The reality is that you need more than one trip to visit all the wineries. Most of the wineries are family owned. Here are some of the best wineries to visit on your first trip.
- Bodegas Domeco de Jarauta: The winery is located in Aldeanueva de Ebro, which is about 36 miles from Logrono. You cannot miss the family-owned winery because of its church-like structure, including stained glass windows. In addition to delicious red wine, you will enjoy a breath-taking view of well-dressed vineyards.
- Bodegas Vinedos Real Rubio: If you want to visit a more popular winery in Aldeanueva de Ebro, try Real Rubio. Plan a trip during the hot weather to enjoy a complete tour of the winery’s classic cellars. The winemakers allow you to taste the wines outdoors as you enjoy an amazing view of their vineyards.
- Bodegas Marques de Arviza: The winery is located in Fuenmayor, which is six miles from Logrono city. It is the second oldest winery in the wine region and dates back to 1874. Your guide will take you through the historic wine caves. Some of the caves date back to the 16th and 17th century. Hence, you will have a lot to learn about winemaking in the Rioja region. One of the best brands that you must taste in this winery is El Tractor, which has caramel, violets, and blackberry tastes.
- Bodegas Altanza: You can visit this new refinery while in Fuenmayor. The new winery ranks among the best wineries in the region because of its outstanding brands. Ask for the Lealtanza Reserve, which is aged three years in a barrel and an additional one year in a bottle. You can also add Lealtanze organic olive oil to your wine tasting tour.
- Bodegas Ontanon: As you move closer to Logrono city, you will find this family-owned winery. As wine tours in Rioja go, a visit here makes your Rioja wine tour more interesting because the winery has a wine museum and several wine tours in Rioja will stop by this winery. It is considered the home to the Greek wine gods. The location near the city makes it a perfect spot when you do not want to take a long ride.
- Bodegas CVNE: The winery produces the famous Cune, which is among the top brands of wine in Spain. The winery is located in Haro, which is just 22 miles from Logrono City. It dates back to 1879 and hence you are assured of an interesting tour. The guides here will take you to some of the underground caves and wine cellars. Some of them have been in place since the winery was established. You will also find a wine cemetery and a wine shop, where you can purchase different brands, including the famous Cune Crianza.
- Bodegas Roda: One of the greatest challenges you may encounter while organizing your tour is getting an English tour. Most of the tours in the region are Spanish with a few exceptions. You can get a French or English tour at Roda, which is also situated in Haro. The major wines to look out for here are Roda Sela and Roda Reserve. In addition, you can sample extra virgin olive oil. The winemakers offer a tour of the cultivation process if you visit the winery during the harvest weekends.
We have listed a few of the popular wineries in Rioja. Before taking a trip to any of these or other wineries, ask about the languages used by tour guides. Some wineries offer Spanish tours only. Ask about the availability of an English-speaking guide or get an interpreter.
Transport and accommodation
Logrono is the major city in Rioja. Hence, it is advisable to travel directly to the city and get accommodation here. Logrono hosts classic hotels including the popular Hotel Marques de Riscal Elciego. You can travel around Rioja by bus or train from the city. Ensure that you book your train tickets early because the tickets often sell out. Alternatively, you can rent a car, which gives you the option of staying in Barcelona, Logrono, or Madrid.
You can now plan your visit trip to Rioja with this basic information. The winemakers in the region are kind and passionate about their trade. You will get all the historical information about winemaking in the region and tour the oldest cellars and caves. The wines are affordable, including the oldest wine brands. Since the region attracts thousands of tourists each year, it is advisable to start planning your trip early.
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