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You can't think of Spain without also thinking of Rioja, the country's flagship region. Here, the Tempranillo grape is king (and holds court with dozens of other equally delicious varieties, like Mazuelo, Graciano, and Garnacha). But the story is about more than grapes. Rioja is as famous for its centuries‐old winemaking heritage as it is for its ever‐burgeoning streak of innovation. So whether you're a staunch traditionalist or a seeker of the latest new trend, Rioja offers something delicious for every explorer.
Located in northern Spain, straddling the Ebro River, Rioja is divided into three subregions: Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa, and Rioja Oriental (previously Rioja Baja). The majestic Sierra Cantabria range frames the northern edge of the region, protecting it from harsh Atlantic influence — and creating a stunning backdrop.
The beauty of Rioja wine — no matter the style — is its versatility with food. A mellow Rioja Reserva, for example, is equally at home with a fancy roasted lamb as it is with pizza on a random Tuesday. These wines are easy‐going picnic pours that can also add a lovely caché to your dinner table.
Consider the popularity of tapas. Those now‐ubiquitous small plates meant for sharing in a group are an unofficial sport to Riojan locals (with good reason). The evening's paseo sees them strolling from tapas bar to tapas bar, sipping Rioja with all kinds of mouthwatering fare, from ham croquetas and bacalao to jamón ibérico, manchego cheese, and succulent olive oil.
You can't go wrong when you uncork one of these wines. Except maybe when you only have one bottle on hand ...