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Spectacular avant-garde architecture celebrates traditional viniculture in La Rioja, Spain.

A region of Spain that was previously little known outside its borders has, over the past decade, placed itself firmly on the map, thanks to the commissioning of a number of wholly innovative ‘bodegas’ (wineries) by famous Rioja wine producers.

Around 75km south of Bilbao, in a relatively small area at the heart of the Rioja ‘tempranillo’ grape-growing region, a number of ultramodern architectural gems, designed by such internationally prestigious architects as Santiago Calatrava, Frank Gehry and Zaha Hadid, live alongside historic towns and villages.

Perched on a hill and founded in the 12th century, the walled village of La Guardia looks out not only on historic vineyards but also on the Calatrava designed Ysios ‘bodega’ which opened in 2001. Despite its wave-shaped roof topped with aluminium slats, it miraculously manages to blend into its surroundings.

Zaha Hadid designed a tasting room at the López Heredia Viña Tondonia Bodega in nearby Haro but perhaps the most famous design combining tradition and innovation, is Gehry's Marqués de Riscal's Ciudad del Vino (city of wine). Completed in 2006, the complex includes a hotel, wine therapy spa, a restaurant, and a conference centre. Its design feature is the sun-reflecting, coloured titanium strips which whirl around the roof, making it, in the architects words, ‘a marvelous creature with hair flying everywhere’.

Visitors agree that the combination of rich history and local heritage with cutting edge design is a magic mix that makes La Rioja unique and a must- visit region.

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