La Rioja is Spain’s largest wine-producing region. It has approximately 63,593 hectares of vineyards and produces 280 to 300 million litres of wine per year, 90% of which is red, and 10% of which is white and rosé.
The capital of La Rioja, Logroño, is not a very famous or well known, often overlooked in favour of other Northern Spanish cities. The city, however, is a vibrant and lively place with one of the best tapas and pintxo bar scenes in the whole of the country. Head down Calle Laurel to find the best – each bar specialises in a particular ingredient, for example Bar Soriano serves only mushrooms (and of course wine).
Not only does La Rioja produce the most red wine in Spain, it also produces some of the best. Wines have been made in the region since the times of Phoenicians and the Celtiberians, using ancient methods. The reds here are bright and full-bodied, and are mainly made using Tempranillo grapes, although Garnacha, Graciano and Mazuelo varieties are also used.
With so much wine produced here, it’s no wonder that the region is strewn with some excellent bodegas (wineries). Some of the oldest ones in the region include Bodegas Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia (1890), Bodegas Marqués de Arviza (1874), Marques de Riscal (1858), while the cutting-edge and more modern ones include Bodega Viña Real (2004), Bodegas Roda (2001) and Bodegas Baigorri (2002).
Bodegas Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia, Avda. de Vizcaya, 3, Haro, La Rioja, Spain
Bodegas Marqués de Arviza, Calle Bodegas San Cristóbal, 34, Fuenmayor, La Rioja, Spain
Bodegas Marques de Riscal, Torrea, 1, Elciego, Álava, Spain
Bodegas Roda, Av. Vizcaya, 5, Haro, La Rioja, Spain
As well as the more traditional wineries, La Rioja is home to some very striking ones. The first is Bodegas Ysios, designed by the famous architect Santiago Calatrava, who also designed Valencia’s City of Arts and Sciences. It was created to blend into the landscape and mirrors the rolling hills, which frame it. The second is the Bodegas Marqués de Riscal. While very old, they’re also home to distinctive contemporary element – a hotel designed by the Guggenheim Bilbao architect Frank Gehry. Made from twisted titanium sheets, it’s cast in a purple hue to match the colour of the wines.
Every year on June 29, the small town of Haro hosts Spain’s best wine festival – the Batalla del Vino. Literally translated as ‘Wine Battle’, the event begins with hundreds of people climbing to the top of a mountain to throw more than 500 litres of red wine over each other.