The eastern section of Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Alta
By Tom Perry
This Guide was last updated on 12 February 2010
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Barrel room at Finca Valpiedra, the only Grandes Pagos de Espaņa estate in Rioja. Š Mick Rock/Cephas
Logroņo, the administrative capital of the autonomous community of La Rioja, is located in the centre of the Rioja wine district, on the south bank of the Ebro river. In the Middle Ages it was known as a crossroads, both because of its location on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, or Pilgrims Route, and as a border town in the disputes between kingdoms. The name Logroņo comes from a Celtic word for ford, as here the river was shallow enough to cross.
Because of its strategic location near the border with the Basque Country and Navarre, Logroņo has always been a centre for the wine trade. An example of the importance of wine is a 17th-century ordinance that forbade carts with iron-rimmed wheels using certain streets to avoid disturbing wine stored in cellars underneath. Nowadays, because the city has grown, few wineries are located within the city limits. However, a great number are located in the surrounding towns and villages, notably the fortified hilltop village of Laguardia and Oyķn in the neighbouring region of Alava in the Basque Country, as well as Fuenmayor, Navarrete and Cenicero in La Rioja.
Even if the old quarter of Logroņo is being restored at present, the Riojan capital makes an excellent base from which to explore the region with a good number of bars, restaurants and hotels.
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. The eastern Rioja Baja is warmer still. Temperatures reach above 35ēC in July and August and rainfall is scarce, about 300mm per year.
Logroņo is located about 140km south of Bilbao and 360km north of Madrid. The closest airport with an international service is Bilbao. The train service to Logroņo is limited, therefore driving is the simplest option. From Bilbao, take the AP68 to exit 12 (Logroņo). To reach Rioja from Madrid, take the AP1 north to the junction of the AP68 and turn east to exit 12. Logroņo has a small airport operating two flights a day to and from Madrid and Barcelona.
La RiojaTourist Office
Plaza del Espolķn, 26071 Logroņo
Logroņo Tourist Office
Portales 50, 26071 Logroņo
Laguardia Tourist Office
Palacio de Samaniego-Plaza de San Juan, 01300 Laguardia
Consejo Regulador de la Denominaciķn de Origen Calificada Rioja (Rioja Wine Information)
Estambrera 52, 26002 Logroņo
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