Rioja is a famous wine region in the north-central part of Spain and is best known for producing the well-known and loved red wine, Rioja. Rioja is a blend of the indigenous grape of Spain, Tempranillo, along with other fruity additions like Garancha, Mazuelo and Graciano.
The denomination of origin spreads along 54.000 hectares around three different Communities (La Rioja, Basque Country and Navarre).
Our first stop was in Elciego, part of the Basque Country community. In this region you will find breathtaking landscapes, an amazing blend of traditional and modern architecture, fantastic restaurants and hotels, some of which are built on wineries, mountainous backdrops and an endless sea of vineyards! Be sure to stop off at the "balcony" picnic spot, which has an amazing view out over the entire region.
When planning winery visits in the region, it is important to book in advance, particularly if you would like an English speaking guide. Tours appear to always start right on the scheduled time, so if you are late then you will need to join the tour wherever it is up to (although we note that if you are more than 10 minutes late, some operators will not let you join the tour after this point)
While most of the tastings are served with bread and/or crackers, very few places served water with the tasting, so make sure you are prepared and take your own!
There are numerous food offerings in the region, however, we had dinner at both the formal and less formal restaurants at Marques de Riscal and had lunch at Baigori. Each meal was fantastic.
Our second stop was in Haro, part of the La Rioja community. Boasting the highest concentration of centuries old wineries in the world, the Station District in Haro is a wine lover's paradise.
With so many of La Rioja's best wineries within a stones throw of each other, a day spent tasting wine is easy to organise. Haro is not large, and it is possible to walk to most of the wineries. If you just want to do a tasting of the wines, appointments are not necessary and while you will be required to pay, a tasting of a few wines should not cost more than €5-10, although many offer an option to book a tour and/or premium wine tasting.
We did note in this area in particular, that the opening hours posted on the gates often differed to those on the wineries website, with the times posted on the gates appearing to be the more accurate. As such, we suggest taking a quick wander around the Station District when you arrive and take photos of the opening hours before you make your plans!
A great region, amazing wines, fabulous surrounds, beautiful food and definitely a mist visit for wine lovers!