Authentic Tapas in Spain’s Rioja Wine Region


If ever a place embodied the spirit of Spain’s tapas tradition, it’s sleepy Logroño, in the Rioja wine region. Here, a Spanish-style bar crawl to experience the city’s authentic charms.

Standing along the brass rail of a crowded storefront bar in the Casco Viejo neighborhood of Logroño not long ago, surrounded by an arc of friends I hadn’t known an hour before, I was eating a half-sandwich of freshly grilled sardines with tangy guindilla peppers and drinking a wine I probably would have passed up if it had rolled by on an airplane cart. My glass of 2003 Solagüen Crianza, a soft, translucent red that cost all of $1.65, seemed to shine in the dim light. It tasted tart yet viscous, like a Table Talk cherry pie. I’d spent the day sampling decades-old Riojas, fascinating wines that offered up glimpses of truth like a Lorca poem. I could discuss each of those for an hour, consider their attributes, chart their progress. This wine I didn’t want to talk about, just drink. At that moment, in that place, it felt exactly right.

The Rioja is Spain’s most celebrated wine region. In some areas of the country, its name actually serves as a synonym for wine: the way to request a glass of generic red is to shout “un Rioja!” at the barman. Despite all of its $100 bottles and spectacular new wineries, it also remains a bastion of unpretentiousness in an increasingly urbane nation, an area renowned for an elemental way of life that’s rooted in the land and the livestock, and in the farmers and viticulturists who work them. Yet for such a central and evident place, an amorphous stain near the top of Iberia, it can be maddeningly difficult to access. Eating and drinking there at El Soldado de Tudelilla, acting out the useful Spanish verb potear—which connotes a Spanish version of a pub crawl, only with better nutrition—I remembered a doctor I know and his wife, bright and resourceful people, who’d called upon their return from a recent trip to complain that they’d traveled right through the Rioja and yet somehow missed it. They’d had in mind a Spanish version of Burgundy or Tuscany, but instead of gentle slopes and leafy trees and enchanting villages with picturesque cellars, they’d encountered a craggy brown landscape that reminded them of Wyoming. They saw faceless apartment blocks ringing Logroño and charmless wineries along the highway that look like giant warehouses.

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Authentic Tapas in Spain’s Rioja Wine Region

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Fine Estates From Spain
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Frederick Wildman & Sons
Grupo Bodegas Faustino
Marques de Riscal
Ole Imports
Opici Wines
Osborne USA
Palm Bay International
Shaw-Ross International Importers
Ste. Michelle Wine Estates
The Artisan Collection
The Drink Collective
Vinamericas Selections LLC
Vineyard Brands, Inc.
W.J. Deutsch & Sons, Ltd.
Winebow (MundoVino, a member of The Winebow Group)
Zamora Americas
220 Imports
A.I. Selections
ARAEX/Spanish Fine Wines
Arborway Imports
Ascent Wines
Assa Imports
Astor Wines
Austral Wine Merchants
Aveniu Brands
Baron Francois
BCG Consulting
Bodega Classica/Vintae
Bodegas Castillo de Mendoza
Bodegas Corral, S.A.
Bodegas Medrano Irazu
Bodega Nivarius
Bodegas Ontanon
Bodegas Pastor Diaz
Bodegas Patrocinio, SCL
Bodegas Riojanas
Bodegas Tobia
Bodegas Valdelana
Bon Vivant Imports
Boutique Wine Collection
Bronco Wine Company
C & P WinesBronco Wine Company
Carolina Wine Brands USA
Casa Ventura Imports, Inc.
Cerda y Llanos
Chartrand Imports
Chateau Armand
Classic Wines
Classical Wines from Spain
Cognac One, LLC
Coleccion International Del Vino USA (CIV USA)
Constellation Wines
Constellation Wines
David Bowler Wine
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Dionysos Imports
Divino Imports
Domaine Select
Dreyfus Ashby & Co
Eguren Ugarte
Elite Wines
Emporium Nostrum
ENYE Imports Group
Familia Martinez Bujanda
Felix Solis Avantis
Folio Fine Wine Partners
Folio Wine Partners
Francisco Selections, Inc.
Freixenet USA
Frontier Wine Imports
Garnacha Inc
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Golden State Wine Co.
Grapes of Spain
Grupo Bodegas Olarra
Grupo Principe de Viana
H.A.B. North America
HGC Imports Inc.
Hidalgo Imports
HP Selections
International Wine & Spirits
Janet Kafka
Kysela Pere et Fils, Ltd.
La Rioja Alta
Laurel Importers
Lionstone International
Lopez de Haro
Luneau USA, Inc
Maisons Marques & Domaines
Marfa Group
Marques de Murrieta
Michael Skurnik Wines
MJM Imports
Monsieur Touton Selection Ltd.
Murphy Distribution
Natural Wine Co.
New Age Imports
Noble House Wines
North American Organic
P.R.Grisley Co.
Parador Selections
Pernod Ricard USA
Pipeline Distribution
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Protecom Wines Inc.
Regal Wine Imports
RM Distributors
RM Mabor
Romero & Miller, LLC
Royal Wine Corp.
Serendipity Wines
Signature Imports
SolStar Wines
Spain Wine Collection
Spanish Vines Imports, Inc.
Specialty Cellars
Steve Miles Selection
T Edward Wines
Tempranillo Inc
Terra Nostra Vinos
Testa Wines of the World Ltd.
The House of Burgundy, Inc.
The Marchetti Co./Scoperta Importing Co.
The Spanish Wine Imports
Think Global Wines LLC
Tradewinds Specialty Imports
Tri Vin Imports
United Cellars
United Wineries/MHW
USA Wine West
Vin de Terra Imports, Inc.
Vin Divino
Vinaio Imports, Ltd.
Vinole Wines
Vinos and Gourmet Jose Pastor Selections
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Vision Wine & Spirits, LLC
Well Oiled Company
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