La Rioja is one of Spain’s most famous regions, largely because of one thing; its wine. However, this province and autonomous region, situated between Castilla y León, Castilla La Mancha, Aragón and the Basque Country, remains one of Spain’s largely undiscovered areas.
Geography of La Rioja Region
This very fertile part of the country can be found in between the Iberian mountain range, with a highest point at San Lorenzo of 2262m, and the Rió Ebro basin in the south. There are seven major rivers flowing into the Ebro which make this one of Spain’s most prolific suppliers of water. La Rioja is Spain’s second smallest autonomous region in terms of geographical size but, with regard to population, it is the smallest of them all – just about half of its inhabitants live in Logroño, the capital city, and, astonishingly, half of its 174 municipalities have under 200 people living in them.
Map of La Rioja
History of La Rioja
Although the first human settlements in the region date back to the Celtiberians of the fourth century, this is a good area for dinosaur hunters, as there are some well-preserved fossil tracks to follow. The Romans controlled the area for about 700 years from the second century BC, appreciating its strategic importance on the Ebro, which led to the development of Logroño. For many years after, however, the region was passed from one hand to another and it wasn’t established as a place in its own right until the province, originally called Logroño, was established in 1822. By that time, two significant factors in the region’s development had started to take shape. Firstly, the famous Camino de Santiago helped the area’s economy significantly. In addition, from the sixteenth century, wine growing has developed in importance. Even before these occurrences, though, La Rioja had been the site of the first known writing in Castilian Spanish. Gonzalo de Berceo, Spain’s earliest known poet, was at the Monastery of San Millán de la Cogolla at the beginning of the thirteenth century.
Although La Rioja was first known by its present name as long ago as 1099, it didn’t officially change its title from Logroño province until 1980.
Economy of La Rioja
By far the most important contribution to the economy of La Rioja is the wine itself. Although the area in which rioja wine is produced actually extends outside of the province into Álava and Navarra, the area around the town of Haro is the heart of the region which has been producing wine since it was introduced by the Romans. There is other farming here – notably wheat and barley – and a large number of sheep but wine and wine related technology and products are vital to the area’s economic fortunes.
La Rioja Climate
The climate can generally be considered to be a typical Mediterranean one, although the areas in the north, known as Rioja Alta, receive rather more rainfall, colder winters and hotter summers than the lands in the Ebro basin to the south, Rioja Baja. Rioja is well-known for its Cierzo wind, which can be surprisingly strong during the winter.
See also: La Rioja Tourism