Are there "not to be missed" Rioja wines?
My husband and I will be traveling to Spain and France late this spring. We will spend three days in Bilbao and three days in the Rioja region before heading into France. I know determining what is a good wine is, at least to some extent, a personal thing. But while we are in Spain, we would like to taste some of what are considered to be the "best" Rioja wines, either at bodegas or in restaurants. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
hola marilaine, I'd suggest that you post this on the ch "wine" board, there are quite a few experienced imbibers who post there. If you care to get more information about some of the better-regarded producers, try the vibrantrioja.com site, which has a link to an "i-wine review" article with descriptions of many producers and notes on their wines. Maribel's guide (much of which is available on-line for free) also has a fairly large section on the rioja with her recommendations for wineries to visit there. You'll also get to taste the wines for yourself if you get around to the pintxo/drinking spots in Bilbao of course, if that's your first destination--any number of places there have extensive choices of riojas.
First, where do you come from and what wines do you normally drink? Rioja is a huge region and you will probably be best falling in with the local recommendations from smaller producers. Be aware that a lot of wine production is at the less expensive, industrial end of the scale - there is great Spanish wine, but there is also plenty of very, very bad Spanish wine.
The super-premium wines that travel abroad (Pingus, Vega Sicilia) are mainly from Ribera del Duero.