Dealing with borders

One of the most difficult things a potential visitor to Rioja has to deal with is the fact that the wine district is located in three different regions, or comunidades autónomas as they’re called in Spanish:  La Rioja, Álava and Navarra. These are like states in the USA, or länder in Germany – regions with a high degree of local autonomy.  And, as we all know, where there is autonomy, there are regional governments eager to promote the beauty and other attractions of their particular region.

This poses no problem for locals, who drive back and forth across the Ebro every day with scarcely a thought about entering and leaving La Rioja, Álava and Navarra.  It has, however, been the source of some confusion for tourists, who have heard about Rioja wines for years, only to discover that there is no single source of information about accommodations, restaurants and tourist attractions in the area.  In addition, since grapegrowing and winemaking are major sources of employment (and tax revenue) here, the three regional governments work hard to promote ‘their’ Rioja as if the others didn’t exist.

Sometimes this regional focus borders on the absurd, such as holding two harvest festivals, international wine tastings featuring only Riojas from one region and ‘wine bus’ tours that stop at the border.  This is especially confusing because it’s been a tradition for wineries to buy grapes and wine from all over Rioja. For the regional governments, however, the location of the winery is the key.

The Rioja Regulatory Council has worked very hard to bring these regional elements under one umbrella.  In fact, one of the most important accomplishments of the current president, Víctor Pascual, has been to convince the governments of Álava, La Rioja and Navarra to invest in brand Rioja. 

While I’ve always defended the idea of a single, unified PR pitch for Rioja wines, regional autonomy is a fact of life, so today I’m going to point you to the wine tourism websites of La Rioja (roughly speaking, the area south of the Ebro river) and Rioja Alavesa (most of the area on the north bank of the Ebro west of Logroño).

Both the Rioja Alavesa Wine Route and the La Rioja Tourism websites contain a wealth of information about wine villages, wineries, accommodation, restaurants and other attractions that will help wine tourists make the most of their visit to our region.

I hope that this information, as well as Inside Rioja will make your trip here as enjoyable as possible.

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