Travel Guide: Rioja
Spain's most famous wine region is often misunderstood, especially by American travelers.
When you work as a wine writer, the audience often demands that you “demystify” the beverage, to make a complicated topic simpler to understand and consume. And I get that impulse. But there are deep, mysterious reasons why wine has been enjoyed since long before recorded history. And it’s why I enjoy Rioja, the famed wine region in northeastern Spain. Human beings have been making wine here for thousands of years. It’s a place where wine is both demystified and re-mystified.
I’ll admit that, for years, I had been skeptical of the big, oaky Rioja wines I’d mostly been exposed to. But that all changed in the summer of 2021, when I was charmed by the new generation of winemakers during my visit, which I wrote about here. I even ended up spending extra solitary time in an apartment in Haro once because I tested positive for Covid and couldn’t travel home (which I recounted here in the Washington Post.) I have returned several times since.
This a dynamic time in Rioja with a new wave of winemakers upending the status quo. Everyone who loves wine should travel here. My Rioja recommendations below:
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