This fall we’ll be cycling our way through Spain’s most famous wine region – La Rioja. Rioja is located in Northern Spain and is known for its high-quality wines, scenic patchwork of vineyard-covered hills (don’t worry, e-bikes are an option!), and captivating medieval villages.
Not a wine aficionado? No problem! You definitely don’t need to be a wine expert to enjoy this tour. In fact, you don’t even need any knowledge of wines at all. All you need is an open mind, an ability to discern what you like and don’t like, and an adventurous spirit.
But if you’re curious and would like to get a jump start, check out 5 fascinating facts about the Rioja Wine Region:
The Rioja Wine Region is not a one-trick pony.
Rioja is home to more than 600 wineries, has 140,000 acres of cultivated land, and yields 250 million liters of wine annually. 85% of the wine produced is red and since Rioja wine is usually a blend of a few different varietals, there are never-ending wine-tasting possibilities. You know what they say, variety is the spice of life!
The first wineries in the Rioja area were planted by the Romans.
Similar to other regions in Spain, Rioja has had many different groups of people call it home over the centuries. When discussing wine, the most notable group would definitely be the Romans. The Romans planted vineyards and started their own wineries throughout the region, many of them withstanding the test of time. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the Moors moved in but wanted little to do with the wineries the Romans left behind. Once Spain became its own country in 1512, the Benedictine monks revived the land and built numerous wineries throughout the area.
The dreaded phylloxera gave Rioja its rise to fame.
In the mid-19th century, France and other European countries had suffered from The Great Wine Blight caused by an aphid called grape phylloxera that attacked the roots of grapevines. (Read up on the Great French Wine Blight) Though the Rioja Wine Region dates back to the year 873, it gained popularity after French vineyards were devastated by phylloxera. Those in the wine industry flocked to Rioja and joined up with local vineyard owners to create the reds now known as Rioja.
You’ve heard of a food fight but have you ever heard of a wine fight?
Rioja is the host of an annual wine fight every summer in Haro, the wine capital of the region. Thousands of locals and tourists come together for the wine festival, La Batalla de Vino de Haro. One of the most well-known events is a wine fight where people climb a nearby mountain and throw red wine at each other. Now the question is – would you join in the fight or would you stick to the outskirts and sip your wine while people watching? Both sound like fun!
Currently, there is so much wine being produced in Rioja that if they were to stop production today, they could continue to provide wine for many years to come.
Due to the labeling laws that have minimum age requirements and to the nature of the wines produced in Rioja, vintners hold on to their wines anywhere between one and 20 years. Some of this depends on the type of label they are looking to classify their wine (Crianza, Reserva, Gran Reserva, etc). Since their cellars are full of aging wine, vintners could easily supply their customers with wine for many years.
There’s so much more to learn about Spain’s incredible Rioja region – interesting history, exquisite cuisine, and a captivating culture. Come explore (and taste!) with us this fall and see for yourself – join us on the Spain Biking, E-Biking, & Wine Adventure!