Taste the Best of La Rioja

Rioja wine is synonymous with fine Spanish taste. The region has become known worldwide for the excellence of the wine its vineyards produce. The Tempranillo grape, which is native to Spain, is most commonly used in Rioja wines. Along with their early ripening qualities, Tempranillo grapes are particularly popular for the full-bodied reds they produce. Great wines can be differentiated by their aging abilities and thanks to the role of oak barrels in its slow process of micro-oxygenation, wines from La Rioja acquire a unique aromatic flavor. The process involved in aging Rioja wines involves centuries of tradition which are noticeable in every step. Rioja wines develop their unique flavors from their natural oak aging process, making them pleasurable to many palates.


la rioja


There are 4 classes of Rioja wine:

Garantía de Origen: Rioja wines bottled in their first or second year and therefore retain their fresh and fruity taste.

Crianza: Rioja wines bottled in their third year. Aging process for red wines require at least 1 year in oak barrels and 6 months for white wines.

Reserva: Reserva Riojas are aged for at least 3 years. For vintage reds, they require aging in oak barrels for 1 year before being bottled and then are aged for an additional 2 years. Vintage whites require 2 years of aging, with a minimum of 6 months in an oak barrel.

Gran Reserva: Great vintage wines in this category are stored for a minimum of 2 years in oak barrels and an additional 3 years in the bottle. On the other hand, Whites are aged in oak barrels for 6 months and bottled for an additional 4 years before they reach maturity.

There is nothing more exciting for oenophiles than visiting vineyards and tasting the finest vintages. Wine lovers will delight their taste buds while learning about the process of winemaking on site. We begin Omio's Rioja wine tour in Bilbao. Although this major Spanish city isn't located in the La Rioja winemaking province, Bilbao's international airport is the easiest destination for wine lovers to begin their tour. The route then takes travelers through the vineyards of northern Spanish cities including Haro, Logroño, Calahorra, and Alfaro. Of course, this is not the only route travelers can take to enjoy great Spanish wines. If you feel like going off the beaten path, other notable points of interest include Aldeanueva de Ebro, Briones, Cenicero, and San Asensio, all of which feature wineries producing the finest Spanish vintages.



Bilbao

As the capital of Vizcaya, the autonomous community of the Basque Country, Bilbao is situated in northern Spain. Characterized as modern and cosmopolitan, visitors can admire Basque culture and influences present in every corner of the city. The city's main attraction is the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. However, it's not just the modern and contemporary art displayed inside the museum that is worth admiring. The building, which was designed by American architect Frank Gehry, is a unique structure constructed from titanium, stone, and glass. Bilbao also has a great balance of urban energy and tranquility, so if the hustle and busle of the city's diverse culture and history gets too overwhelming, there are a vast number of parks and gardens for visitors to unwind. One major festival to take note of in the city's event calendar is the "Aste Nagusia". Held at the end of August, celebrations fill the streets with 9 action packed days of music and cultural entertainment.

When drinking and dining in Bilbao, test out their local wine, Txakoli, which is produced mainly in the Basque, Cantabria and northern Burgos provinces. Originally produced and known within local villages, the quality of Txakoli has risen significantly over time and is now considered one of Spain's top white wines. Txakoli has three major varieties from the Basque country: Álava, Bizkaia and Getaria. If you are looking for top Txakoli wineries in this region, visit Gure Ahaleginak, as they allow visitors into their cellars for tastings.

Haro

Bilbao to Haro
01:50 Renfe

The wine capital of La Rioja, Haro is a charming town located northwest of the region. Home to some of La Rioja's finest red wines, enthusiasts will be happy indulging in a glass of Roda or López de Heredia. Along with the beauty of its vineyards, Haro's historic town is easy to explore by foot. Stroll through its old town which was declared a Historic-Artistic Site and visit Santo Tomás Church which dates back to the 14th century. Like many towns in the provence, local festivals in Haro are held in June and September. One of their most popular events is Haro's Wine Fight Festival, which takes place between the 28-30 June. And as the name suggests, it involves an enormous water fight involving 50,000 liters of wine.

Thanks to its climate, grape variety and soil, Haro is known for its production of wine protected by the Denominación de Origen Rioja regulatory board. Wines from Haro are of such a superior quality that it's considered the capital of the Rioja region with its 20 Crianza bodegas. So no matter if you are new to the world of wine or have an experienced palatte, there is something for everyone. For wineries in the area, we recommend Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España (CVNE). They have won numerous awards, including best wine in Wine Spectator Top 100 List in 2013. The winery is located in Haro and walking distance from the main station with tours that allow tastings of 2 wines at the beginning and end of the tour. Many wineries and bodegas in the area are within walking distance of each other, making Haro another great little town to try different out different wines. While visiting the area, enjoy a picnic in their eight hectare vineyard located in Cerro de la Mesa.

Logroño

Haro to Logroño
00:40 Renfe

The next stop on our wine route takes travelers to Logroño, the political capital of the La Rioja province. Situated along the Ebro river, it is a great city combining both urban scenes and countryside. As its rural areas are relatively close to the city center, it easily allows wine lovers to visit local vineyards and cellars. One of the most popular wineries worth visiting is Bodega Olarra. Situated on the outskirts of the city, visitors can explore and taste wine produced from its vineyards.

Spending time in Logroño offers visitors the opportunity to enjoy local tapas and pinchos accompanied by a good Rioja. Make sure to try out local food and drink on Calle Laurel, Logroño's favorite street for tapas and pinchos. Between wining and dining, we also recommend visiting the city's beautiful landmarks. Within the historical city center, visitors can visit the Co-Cathedral of Santa María de la Redonda, as well as the Church of San Bartolomé which was built in the 12th century. September is a recommended time to visit Logroño since it coincides with the week of Fiestas de San Mateo- or the Harvest Festival. A week filled with foodtasting and firework displays, visitors can also test their feet with some traditional grape-stomping!

Calahorra

Logroño to Calahorra
00:32 Renfe

Calahorra is the second biggest city of the autonomous La Rioja community and capital of the La Rioja Baja province. It is easy to identify Calahorra's long history when looking at the architecture of its old town. Landmarks to note include the city's cathedral dating back to the 15th century, the Roman arch and church of San Andrés dating back to the 16th century and Iglesia de Santiago (church of Santiago) situated on Plaza el Raso, which had previously been a Roman forum. The city hosts two major festivals during the year that commemorates Saint Emeritus and Saint Celedonio. Taking place in March and August, both festivities allow locals and visitors to enjoy varied cultural events including concerts, parades, bullfighting, food, wine tasting and firework displays.

One of the standout wineries which have put Calahorra on the wine tourism map is Bodegas Dunviro. The wines they specialize in are: Dunviro Blanco Joven, Crianza Tinto, Reserva Tinto, Rosado Joven y Tinto Joven. Take note that reservations are required to visit Bodegas Dunviro.

Alfaro

Calahorra to Alfaro
00:14 Renfe

The last stop on Omio's Rioja wine route is Alfaro, situated in the East of Rioja Baja province. As well as being famous for its wine production, the town is also known for the annual return and nesting of the largest colony of storks in the world. Many of these storks nest on the San Miguel Collegiate Church- arguably the most beautiful building in the city. Along with the other destinations on our Rioja wine tour, Alfaro has centuries worth of history that are noticeable while walking through the streets. If you are making a visit in August, take note of the Fiesta de San Roque. Held on August 16, the town errupts with with cultural events, music, and local parades consisting of giant statues.

Alfaro is home to several vineyards where wine is protected by the regulatory board of Denominación de Origen Rioja. We recommend Ilurce Winery, situated on Carretera de Alfaro a Grávalos. Their tours educate visitors on the complete wine production process from choosing the ideal grape to the bottling and maturation of wine. Oh, and lets not forget the most important part- tasting the end product!

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