La Rioja is synonymous with Spanish wine and for good reason. Although Spain in general has very good wines, the bulk of the best wines are without a doubt coming from La Rioja.
The region is divided into 3 areas: Rioja Alta, Rioja Baja and Rioja Alavesa. Only Rioja Alavesa is located in the Basque Country and most points of interest are located within this region.
However, if you are really into wine, it might be worth it to explore the entire region as the wine from the three different parts have their own particular characteristics. La Rioja wines are of the highest quality, which is reflected in continuous ratings of 90+ points from Robert Parker, the world’s leading wine critic.
Not only is the wine amazing, but there are also many points of interest to be explored. Laguardia is a small, walled town set atop a hill in the heart of La Rioja Alavesa. The town once held a strategic military position and, because of this, tunnels and cellars were built under the houses. After it was no longer of any military value, the villagers began to take advantage of the cellars perfect conditions for creating wine. And the rest is history.
Today, there are several wineries that still use the cellars and it is possible to tour them. It’s like stepping back in time before state-of-the-art facilities existed and the products were still very artisanal in nature. Laguardia is a definite “must see.”
There are literally hundreds and hundreds of bodegas in the region. Some are very traditional and some very modern. Modern examples can be seen at the Ysios Bodega from Santiago Calatrava and the Marques de Riscal Bodega from Frank Gehry.