Wednesday, 13 March 2013

On Rioja

As I’m gradually reviving from my winter beauty sleep, visions of travels – both past and future – are starting to occupy my mind. Ages ago in mid-November when we had just returned from Spain I posted a couple of stories about our trip to the Rioja wine region (here and here) indicating more was to be expected. Unfortunately, soon after that we couldn’t help falling into hibernation. 

The hilltop village of San Vicente de la Sonsierra:

Now that I’m somewhat alive again, I thought this is as good a time as any to start delivering what I promised four months ago. But first a few words to serve as an introduction. Sorry, I can’t help myself. Once an editor, always an editor – but you are welcome to skip the boring details and just browse the photos if you couldn’t care less.

The hilltop village of Briones:

Before this trip I was under the impression that the autonomous community and province of La Rioja in the northern part of Spain south of the Basque Country and Navarra, and Rioja the wine region refer to the same geographical area. I have now learned that there is a difference. This is how I would describe it:

Like Italy and in roughly the same position, the wine region of Rioja resembles the shape of a boot, a fold-out boot of a musketeer with the fold turned up to cover the knee to be more exact, and the river Ebro is running through it from the top to the heel. The northern and eastern areas of the province of La Rioja constitute the main part of the Rioja wine region but some areas on the calf side of the boot are in the neighbouring Navarra and two patches behind the knee are in the Álava province of the Basque Country.

Views down from Briones:

Moreover, the Rioja qualified designation of origin (DOCa) is divided into three sub-regions: the knee area of the fold-out boot constitutes Rioja Alta or the ‘High Rioja’ producing wines lighter on the palate, the leg and foot constitute Rioja Baja or the ‘Low Rioja’ influenced by a hotter Mediterranean climate and the two patches behind the knee are Rioja Alavesa, meaning Rioja of the Álava province, producing wines with a fuller body.

Now that I’ve got this background lesson out of my system I’m promising to return to the more entertaining winery visits soon. Definitely, as remembering such good times might wake me up completely.


  1. Very good!
    Wines take shape of a boot.

    1. And those squeezed behind the knee produce a fuller body, naturally.

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  3. Fascinating place! I love this kind of traveling too:)