Bilbao | Rioja

In Spain the holiday season is a marathon that lasts about a month, from December 8 with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception to January 6, the celebration of Epiphany.

Wine tourism is a relatively recent activity for companies in the Rioja region, dating from the 1990s. Today however, more than one hundred wineries entertain tourists with an ever-increasing range of innovative activities.

Bodegas Valdemar in Oyón and  the Villa Lucía museum in Laguardia have worked together to raise the bar even higher by becoming the first wine-related businesses in Rioja to develop an extensive all-inclusive program allowing people with disabilities to learn about wine, its history, and the winemaking process without physical, visual or auditory limitations.

This effort recently earned them a 2020 International 'Best Of Wine Tourism' award.

Villabuena de Álava, a small village with 300 inhabitants, lies on both slopes of a ravine carved out by a small creek.  You could drive by the village on the main road and probably miss it completely if you weren’t looking carefully. But if you turn off the road and drive down the hill into the village, you are in for a pleasant surprise, because this village has more than 40 wineries, a fact that surely deserves a place in the Guinness Book of Records.

Twelve of these wineries, along with the spectacular Hotel Viura, have created an innovative wine tour through the village that won a regional 2019 ‘Best Of Wine Tourism’ award from the Great Wine Capitals Global Network.

We decided to take the tour to find out for ourselves.

 

BODEGAS MURUA


Bodegas Murua, located in the heart of the Rioja Alavesa, has beautiful facilities reminiscent of the stately mansions in the area, where some 250,000 bottles are produced. Among its tourist activities has included a permanent collection of paintings and sculptures art, really valuable. Murua belongs to the Masaveu Group, an Asturian family linked to banking and owns a private art collection that has largely decided to share with the people who visit their wineries. You can also enjoy a spectacular library with manuscripts, incunabula and an extensive wine literature that increases the attraction and interest of the wine tourism activity of the winery.
 

MUSEO VILLA LUCIA


VILLA LUCÍA MUSEUM, in Laguardia, directed by Juanma Lavín and in coordination with Valdemar, has fully developed inclusive tourism. In any of its rooms and without the need for prior appointments, people with disabilities can know everything about wine, its elaboration and enjoyment in an integral way.
 

JUAN CARLOS SANCHA, S.L.

Mr. Juan Carlos Sancha, Doctor in Viticulture and Oenology and professor of Oenology at the University of La Rioja, and his wife, Mrs. Marian Nalda, are personally committed to a project that fights to avoid forgetting minority grape varieties and pulling up old vines.

Five years ago, local entrepreneurs and music lovers Jose Pancorbo and Rafael Bezares weren’t sure if they wanted to create a special music festival or a special wine festival.  So they created both: MUWI La Rioja Music Fest, an annual event that fuses music, Rioja wine and tourism.  This unique focus earned the event a 2019 ‘Best Of Wine Tourism’ award for Art and Culture from the Great Wine Capitals Global Network.

The ‘Best Of Wine Tourism’ People’s Choice Award is an offshoot of the ‘Best Of Wine Tourism’ awards.  The accolade, created in 2018, gives wine tourists from all over the world the opportunity to vote for their favorite wine tourism experience from among the latest winners of a prestigious ‘Best Of Wine Tourism’ award.

What are the ‘Best Of Wine Tourism’ awards?

During the recent visit to Rioja of a one hundred-person delegation from the World Tourism Organization, its Secretary-General Zurab Polokikashvili confessed that he was “in love with La Rioja”.  It’s not surprising, given Rioja’s spectacular scenery, the well-deserved reputation of Rioja wines, the wineries’ increasing focus on tourism, and the region’s vibrant food culture.

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