The Rioja Protected Designation of Origin (Rioja DOC) is one of the oldest Designations of Origin in Spain, having existed for more than ninety years, and is considered one of the eight best in the world due to its ability to maintain a high quality of its wines over an extended period of time. Rioja Alavesa forms part of the Rioja DOC with about 300 wineries and 12,934 hectares of vineyard.
A number of circumstances come together in Rioja Alavesa to give the wines of this region their international prestige, these circumstances are the geographical location, the climate, the soils and the types of grapes.
Moreover, Rioja Alavesa is known for its artisanal production, the love and care that the winemakers put into the ageing process and limited production. International recognition of this region’s wines is based on the quality of its red wines, created with Tempranillo, Garnacha, Mazuelo and Graciano varieties of grape, although new and reintroduced white wines can also be found, especially from the Macabeo grape variety.
The tradition of growing and handling the grape to produce the best wines has remained the same for centuries, consequently village life, the landscape and the customs have also been preserved. The result is an authentic tourist attraction, full of experiences that many choose to repeat.
The municipalities of Alava, whose wineries form part of Rioja DOC are Baños de Ebro, Cripán, Elciego, Elvillar, Labastida, Laguardia, Lanciego, Lapuebla de Labarca, Leza, Morada de Álava, Navaridas, Oyón, Samaniego, Villabuena de Álava and Yécora.
The Wine Route
The Rioja Alavesa Wine Route provides an itinerary full of activities throughout the whole year based on a new concept for tourism.
So in addition to experiencing the vineyards and wineries, plus the beautiful landscape, are festivities, popular festivals, vintage car exhibitions, sports marathons or personalised excursions.
Inns, country houses and hotels, welcoming places full of charm and offering accommodation for the night, along with a cuisine that is true to its roots blessed with a prodigious pantry of pulses, vegetables, cured porks, meats and sweets, with some of its best dishes becoming part of traditional cooking to complete the offer. Tempting, isn’t it?
In reality, when we talk about Rioja Alavesa we are talking about wine. The colour of its landscapes, its history, the life of its people, everything is inextricably linked to wine.
For this reason we really have to mention some of the attractions that may be of interest to those who come discover this land where wine and history have gone hand in hand since time immemorial.
This is the name of a winery in Laguardia, and also the oldest building in the town.
Would you like to experience the charm of a 15th century winery? Would you like to venture deep inside the underground cellars of a medieval village? Taste exceptional wines? Share a family’s passion?
Casa Primicia is the oldest building in the town of Laguardia. It was from here, in this emblematic location, that the church collected the tithes and offerings, a tax that required serfs to pay a tenth of the harvest and offer the first fruits.
Not a trace of wheat or rye, the main agricultural products of the Middle Ages, has been found in digs conducted at Casa Primicia. Everything unearthed has been related to grapes and wine, which shows the centuries-old link between the building, and the region, with the grape and wine.
Visiting such a unique building is like using wine to walk through history. To explore Casa Primicia is to travel through a time tunnel, seeking out the essence of a region that has made the fruit of the vine its raison d’être. In short, an attempt to uncover the true history of wine ... before wine.
Marqués del Riscal
Herederos de Marqués de Riscal is famed for the quality of its wines, however, since 2006 one should also add the new building designed by the architect Frank Gehry.
The titanium construction, in the form of large plates, one of its distinctive features in the style of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, already forms part of Rioja Alavesa landscape.
Its facilities, located in Elciego, are made up of the old Marquis de Riscal winery, one of the oldest (1858), a new building designed by architect Frank O. Gehry that already forms part of contemporary architectural heritage, which houses the Marqués de Riscal Hotel and Spa, as well as two exclusive restaurants advised by the Rioja born chef Francis Paniego.
Villa-Lucía Wine Thematic Centre
The Villa Lucía Wine Thematic Centre, , located in Laguardia, offers the visitor a museum space that combines tradition and the latest audiovisual technology to journey through the history and rituals of wine and its production in an enjoyable practical and effective way.
This journey employs innovative projections in 4D, virtual tastings of aromas, smells and colours; information panels; nostalgic corners to represent the associated trades; models, utensils, holograms, and interactive aids for the more curious visitors.
There are also gardens to enjoy a stroll through the old recreational estate of the family of the fable writer Samaniego.
This is the only wine museum in Rioja Alavesa.
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But Rioja Alavesa not only attracts wine lovers, the world of wine has added interests, such as the fantastic buildings that house the wineries, which is also known as “Wine Architecture”.
Vineyards, wineries, glass, metal ... the elements that create this remarkable landscape that we review through the five most original examples, worthy of forming part of any wine route we take in the area.
In the town of Laguardia it is worth starting with the Bodega CVNE, a modern avant-garde construction designed by the French architect Philippe Maziéres. It is shaped like a gigantic vat, in through which natural light seeps. Another outstanding example of integrating architecture with the landscape can be found at Bodegas Baigorri, Samaniego, designed by Iñaki Aspiazu. The exterior of this novel building is an empty glass box from which the vineyards can be viewed. The winery is set out on different levels below ground level.
We continue on our route along the wine trails of Álava. Our next stop is the village of Elciego, where we find one of the most famous buildings in the region and most certainly in the Basque Country, the Marqués de Riscal winery, designed by the great Frank Gehry, who also designed the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and the Haus building beside the Rheinturm in Düsseldorf, among others. As with the rest of his creations, titanium takes the lead role. The different colours are inspired by the shades of wine. Less eye-catching but equally as beautiful is the Bodega Antión, building, designed by Jesús Marino Pascual.
On the way back to Laguardia, we pay a visit to the Bodega Ysios, designed by Santiago Calatrava, a beautiful construction featuring gently undulating forms for which wood and metal were used as the basic materials..
Unusual buildings, some of them quite spectacular. Ideal places from which to enjoy the view while treating our palate to the excellent wine of these lands.