{"api":{"host":"https:\/\/pinot.decanter.com","authorization":"Bearer MjIzMjNmOGFkNjgzYzI2NjhhMWFiN2UxYzMzY2VjNzY4YmM5ODU2OTU2NzU2OTg2YjM0ODc1MmUyM2Y0MTYzMg","version":"2.0"},"piano":{"sandbox":"false","aid":"6qv8OniKQO","rid":"RJXC8OC","offerId":"OFPHMJWYB8UK","offerTemplateId":"OFPHMJWYB8UK","wcTemplateId":"OTOW5EUWVZ4B"}}

PREMIUM

Rioja’s best wine bars

A visit to a wine bar in Spain is as much about the food on offer as it is about the wine list, and Rioja has raised the practice of tapear – going out for wine with tapas or pinchos – to a fine art.

Tapas, pinchos or pintxos (as it is written in Rioja Alavesa and the rest of the Basque Country) come in various forms and sizes. But regardless of the wording, everyone agrees that they are small appetisers served alongside a drink.

Understanding this is important. Locals usually have pinchos between 12.30pm and 2.30pm, before going home for lunch, or between 8pm and 9.30pm, just before dinner. Go for pinchos at 7pm and you might be faced with an empty counter instead of the colourful array of snacks you expected.

Size does matter, so be suspicious of bars with lots of oversize pinchos – quantity usually means lower quality. Also bear in mind that a bar with quality pinchos doesn’t necessarily serve wines of equal quality. While many bodegas offer tastings with some appetisers, finding wine bars outside Logroño to sample Rioja’s diverse, terroir-driven, quality wines remains a challenge.

If you’re hungry, order raciones: cooked-to-order platters that may range from charcuterie to fried calamari. When a full ración is too large, try a media ración, which is half the quantity. Or, for something a bit more substantial, a menú del día makes a great lunch option on weekdays. Costing less than €25, it usually includes three courses and wine.

In this article, we begin in Logroño before heading west.


Roots

Marqués de Vallejo 14, Logroño

Just before the pandemic, sommelier Oleg Buyalo moved from London to Logroño to open Roots, an independent wine bar that quickly gained a reputation for its ever-changing selection of bottles and wines by the glass. With his menu full of small producers from Rioja but also featuring niche wines from elsewhere, Buyalo is always happy to advise his customers, many of whom work in the wine trade and flock here to share a bottle of wine in the evening.

Since the move to a larger venue with an outdoor terrace, Roots serves breakfast with locally roasted coffee and sourdough bread made in-house. At other times, you can drink your wine with gildas (anchovies, guindilla peppers and green olives on wooden skewers) and small platters of salmon gravlax, patatas bravas or beef cheeks in red wine sauce.

Open Wed to Sun, 9am-12am.

Roots owner Oleg Buyalo (centre) serving wine to customers sitting outside

Roots owner Oleg Buyalo (centre)


Tastavin

San Juan 25, Logroño

Two things will draw your attention at this bar: the dozens of tapas lined up along the counter and the enormous chalkboard listing more than 100 wines. Available by the glass (via Coravin) or bottle, 90% of the selection is from Rioja and features a combination of classic names and lesser-known producers.

Unsurprisingly, Tastavin is a firm favourite among wine lovers and foodies, who huddle in the bar or sit at the handful of tables at the back to enjoy its crispy bread toasts with an endless variety of toppings. Other tapas and raciones are made to order, for example squid in tempura with kimchi mayonnaise, or steak tartare. It gets crowded in the evenings so booking a table is recommended.

Open Tue to Thu, 8pm-12am and Fri-Sun, 1pm-3.30pm and 8pm-12am.

Interior of Tastavin

Tastavin


Umm No Sólo Tapas

Marqués de Vallejo 10, Logroño

A couple of doors down from Roots is this venue serving a huge variety of neatly laid out tapas in glass cabinets, resembling a jeweller’s shop. There are classics such as vermouth-marinated olives, as well as fusion bites like pulled-pork brioche with pickled onion. But if you want to try a local speciality with a contemporary twist, order a ración of pig’s ear in garlic, coriander and tomato sauce and you’re guaranteed to say ‘umm’ (‘yum’ in Spanish).

You can sit at tables inside or on the outdoor terrace, which is popular on weekend evenings. The by-the-glass wine list features a dozen reds from Rioja and a few whites and rosés, along with a couple of local vermouths.

Open Tue to Sun, 12pm-4pm and 7.30pm-12am.

A dish at Umm No Sólo Tapas

Umm No Sólo Tapas


Sugar

Páganos 35, Laguardia

Specialising in grilled meat, Sugar (written ‘Svgar’) is no longer a pincho bar but offers a varied selection of raciones and a well-stocked wine cellar packed with classic labels and the latest releases from young producers from Rioja and beyond.

If you book a table at lunchtime, choose from one of three set menus with several options for starters, mains and desserts. Costing between €30 and €45, they are great value, considering that the price includes a bottle of young Rioja wine. In the evening, you can dine à la carte from a good selection of cold and hot dishes. Run with a friendly smile and fast service by Aitor Nadador and Adriana Neagu, Sugar is a favourite among local producers.

Open Wed to Sun, 1.30pm-4pm and 8.30pm-10.30pm.

Aitor Nadador and Adriana Neagu, of Sugar

Aitor Nadador and Adriana Neagu, Sugar


La Cofradía del Renegado

Travesía Primera San Roque 1, San Vicente de la Sonsierra
@la_cofradia_del_renegado

Opened last summer in a charmingly renovated stone house, this new bar and restaurant has been a welcome addition to the gastronomic offering in the hilltop village of San Vicente de la Sonsierra.

Sitting on the outdoor terrace with a cup of coffee and an omelette pincho on a mild morning is a great way to start the day, but it’s worth keeping La Cofradía in mind for a menú del día, and for raciones or an à la carte meal in the evening. The friendly staff, supervised by owner Eduardo del Río, will help you choose dishes and a bottle of wine from the 100 available. A by-the-glass list features young wines made by respected producers from the village such as Cupani and López de Haro.

Open Tue to Sun, 9am-12.30am.

Interior of La Cofradía del Renegado

La Cofradía del Renegado


Jatorrena

La Florida 10, Labastida

It’s not strictly a pincho bar, but if you want to eat your lunch among wine-growers and other locals, this is the place to go in Labastida. Dating back to 1969, Jatorrena has a basic and functional decor, but the food makes up for its lack of glamour.

Grilled lamb chops and potatoes with chorizo stew are the trademark dishes here, but you can also order simple salads or raciones such as grilled squid or tuna belly salad with piquillo peppers.

As in many straightforward country bars in Rioja, the wines by the glass are young, easy-drinking styles from local producers, but there are a few interesting options if you order a bottle, including a selection from Abel Mendoza, Remelluri and Tierra.

Open daily, 8am-11.30pm (closed in January and February).


Barrio de la Estación

Haro

The largest concentration of century-old bodegas in the world is the perfect spot for a fun-filled morning visiting multiple wine bars in Haro. Daily tastings – to sample wine at your leisure with tapas – are held in the wine bars and stores of Bodegas Bilbaínas, CVNE, Gómez Cruzado, Muga, La Rioja Alta and Roda (but not R López de Heredia, which is not open to the public).

Some stock current and older vintages of their wines, usually served with Coravin, and others offer the opportunity to have a meal on the premises, always by appointment. On Thursdays and Fridays, the bodegas host three-and-a-half hour tours visiting three wineries, with three premium wines and tapas pairings included.

Opening times vary, see website for details.


Los Caños

Plaza de San Martín 5, Haro

With its narrow streets and dozens of bars and restaurants, La Herradura in Haro is probably among the liveliest districts in Rioja, second only to Calle Laurel in Logroño. One of the oldest establishments here is Los Caños, a more casual venue than Nublo, its one-star Michelin sister restaurant next door.

At Los Caños, expect a short but sensational list of pinchos and raciones to enjoy at the tiny bar or outside on the bustling terrace.

Don’t miss the potato salad or the torreznos, a crunchy pork belly snack cut into strips that will delight carnivores. For a sit-down meal, book one of the indoor tables and choose from a longer list of options. The wine list features some local cuvées as well as vermouths.

Open Tue, 8pm-11.30pm; Wed to Sat, 1.30pm-4.30pm and 8.30pm-11.30pm; and Sun, 1.30pm-4.30pm.

Interior of Los Caños

Los Caños


Los Paraguas

Siervas de Jesus 1, Haro

+34 941 31 14 53

Just outside La Herradura in Haro, this small bar stands out for the numerous wine bottles on display. Most of them are from Rioja and a few are available by the glass with Coravin. If you are in a group or want to enjoy a light dinner with pinchos and raciones, you can order a bottle to drink at one of the high tables indoors or on the wine-barrel tables on the terrace.

Prices are very reasonable: you can buy a Viña Bosconia Reserva 2017 for €27 or La Rioja Alta 904 Gran Reserva 2011 for €58, plus a €3 corkage fee. But beware that the glasses are nothing fancy and the staff aren’t always very friendly, especially when the bar gets crowded at weekends.

Open daily (except Wed), 11.30am-11.30pm.

Bottles of wine in Los Paraguas

Los Paraguas


Tasca Los Nidos

Barrio Verde 1, Alfaro

+34 941 18 03 39

A typical village bar, with the sound of the TV in the background and

groups of locals gathered at the counter to have their daily glass of wine and therapeutic chat, Los Nidos is not about looks but genuine substance.

Popular on weekend evenings, it serves delicious traditional tapas such as Spanish omelette, anchovies, stuffed red peppers or tuna pasties. The list of wines by the glass is short, inexpensive and local, with reds including La Montesa by Alvaro Palacios or the juicy Puppi Barbarot by Bárbara Palacios, and rosés from the likes of Ilurce.

Los Nidos is named after the dozens of nests on the towers of the church of San Miguel in Alfaro, home to the largest white stork colony in a single building in Europe.

Open daily, 11am-11.30pm.


Beyond bars: Three great wine stores in Rioja

The One Wine

Plaza Mayor 2, Laguardia

@theonewine_laguardia

This bright and modern store stands in the main square of Laguardia and offers a wide selection of 250 terroir-driven wines from Rioja and elsewhere. These wines rotate regularly and differ from what’s on sale in most of the bars in the village (namely carbonic maceration Rioja Alavesa reds and fruity whites). Owner Xabier Vadillo hosts tastings starting from €3 per person and has a dedicated space for larger groups.

Vinoteca Larría

Avenida Pérez Galdós 52, Logroño

A 10-minute walk from Calle Laurel, this wine shop stocks some 350 selections, each one clearly exhibiting its price tag. Most of them are current vintages from well-known classics and small-scale producers in Rioja, but there are also a handful of bottles from other regions in Spain, as well as Champagne.

Vinum Vita

Virgen de la Vega 15, Haro

@vinum_vita_

Wine lovers will enjoy exploring the list of about 100 Rioja selections here. They can be consumed in the store for a €3 corkage fee, but Vinum Vita also has an Enomatic with 24 bottles dispensing 25ml, 100ml and 150ml tasting samples priced from €0.50. The wines rotate frequently and can be sampled alongside a selection of charcuterie and canned food.


Related articles

Decanter’s Dream Destination: Hotel Bodega Tío Pepe, Jerez, Spain

Top Seville restaurants and wine bars

Exploring Spain: day trips for wine lovers

Latest Wine News