The western parts of Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa
By Tom Perry
This Guide was last updated on 12 February 2010
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Vineyard in the Ebro Valley in La Rioja Alta with the Cantabrian Mountains in the distance. ©Mick Rock/Cephas.
Once a sleepy provincial town, the small town of Haro owes much of its fame to an insect. It was here that French négociants came to buy wine from local producers when the grapevine louse Phylloxera vastatrix devastated French vineyards in the middle of the 19th century. These producers brought vineyard and winemaking techniques to Rioja which were adopted by entrepreneurs from northern Spain, notably Bilbao, most of whom built cellars alongside the railway line. Today Haro is a bustling provincial town whose shops, restaurants and bars are fun to explore.
Another revolution has taken place in this micro-region since the beginning of the 21st century, with the creation of a number of stunning winery buildings designed by world-famous architects, notably the tasting room by Iraqi-born Zaha Hadid at López de Heredia and the Hotel Marqués de Riscal by Canadian Frank Gehry. Other interesting winery designs include Bodegas Baigorri, Bodegas Antión and Regalía de Ollauri, as well as the Dinastía Vivanco Museum of Wine Culture. The wines too - both the better-known reds and the whites - have undergone a dramatic stylistic revolution in the past 20 years, and on a visit here, you will have the chance to taste traditional side-by-side with modern styles.
Rioja is located in northern Spain with vineyards on both banks of the River Ebro, as well as in the valleys of the seven rivers that flow into the Ebro from the south. The Ebro valley is wedge-shaped, narrow at the western end and widening as the river flows east. It is surrounded by mountains, protecting it from the extreme climate of the Castillian plain to the south and from the rainy Basque Country to the north. The vineyards at the foot of the Cantabrian Mountains on the north side of the valley and in the area around Haro are south-facing terraces planted on clay and limestone soils, while those in the valleys south of the Ebro are on hillsides planted on clay and iron-rich soils. The vineyards near the Ebro and its seven tributaries are alluvial and gravelly.
In general, the climate in Rioja is continental, with long, cold winters and short, very hot summers however, there is some cooling Atlantic influence in the vineyards of the Rioja Alta sub-district with both Atlantic and warmer Mediterranean influences in Rioja Alavesa. Temperatures reach above 35ºC in July and August and rainfall is scarce, about 300mm per year.
Haro is located about 100km south of Bilbao and 320km north of Madrid. The closest airport with an international service is Bilbao. The train service to Haro is limited and the nearest city with a good service is Miranda de Ebro, about 20km away, therefore driving is the simplest option. From Bilbao, take the AP68 to exit 9 (Haro). To reach Haro from Madrid, take the AP1 north to the junction of the AP68 and turn east to exit 9.
La RiojaTourist Office
Plaza del Espolón, 26071 Logroño
Haro Tourist Office
Plaza del Monseñor Florentino Rodríguez, 26200 Haro
Tel: 941 30 33 66
Santo Domingo de la Calzada Tourist Office
Mayor 44, 26250 Santo Domingo de la Calzada
Tel: 941 34 12 30
Ezcaray Tourist Office
Sagastia 1, 26280 Ezcaray
Tel: 941 35 46 79
Consejo Regulador de la Denominación de Origen Calificada Rioja (Rioja Wine Information)
Estambrera 52, 26002 Logroño
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