Bilbao | Rioja

Some people still doubt that our planet is getting warmer, but growers and winemakers in Rioja aren’t among them. In a recent study carried out by sociologists Sergio Andrés Cabello and Joaquín Giró of the University of La Rioja*, 90% of the 481 growers and winemakers surveyed believe that climate change is a reality. 65% feel that its effects will be negative or very negative and 46% think that Rioja will have to adapt to new circumstances.

The Rioja wine district has more than 600 wineries, and there is fierce competition to attract visitors.  Several wineries have sought to gain an edge by including among their services the possibility to dine in the winery to enjoy Rioja’s delicious cuisine, paired with wines from the cellars.

‘Terroir’ is a popular buzzword in the wine world. One of the Oxford dictionaries’ definitions of terroir is “the characteristic taste and flavour imparted to a wine by the environment in which it is produced”.
Making wines from a specific terroir is popular at the top end of the wine spectrum but is a relatively new concept in Rioja.  Until recently, Rioja wineries have followed two main directions:  making blends of different grape varieties from all over the region and single varietal wines.

If you want an unforgettable experience when you visit the Rioja wine country, go on a pincho tour instead of a sit-down lunch or dinner. ‘Pincho’ is the northern Spanish version of the classic Spanish ‘tapa’. It has evolved from a simple plate of olives placed on top of your drink (‘tapar’ in Spanish means ‘to cover’) to highly complex dishes that show off the creativity of the chefs in our region. You will soon discover that the kitchen staff in bars here are not simply spatula-wielding food flippers, but rather culinary school- trained chefs.  

When the name of your gastrobar is Wine Fandango and your logo is a ‘porrón’ (an old time wine bottle), it’s no surprise that here things are done in a different way.

The Rioja Wine Train takes wine lovers on a fascinating trip to the Haro Train Station District, home of seven wineries, five of which were founded in the 19th century.  During the daylong experience a theater company and the wineries themselves entertain and educate the travelers about the importance of the railroad to the international expansion of Rioja wines. 

The Great Wine Capitals Global Network recognized this initiative by bestowing on The Rioja Wine Train a 2019 regional award from Bilbao-Rioja as well as an international ‘Best Of Wine Tourism’ award.

Imagine you’re a young couple with two small children.  You’re also wine lovers and would like to visit a Rioja winery.  But you have a problem:  you can’t find a baby sitter and your parents are busy.  What do you do with the kids?  The answer is simple – bring them along! 

Cava is one of Spain’s most unusual denominations in that it is shaped by method rather than by geography. Though most fans know it as a product of the Catalan region, a number of Rioja wineries also make Cavas. And they’re what locals pour at celebrations here, where cuisine, art, and architecture bring on the season’s cheer.

The most eagerly anticipated meal of the year in both the Rioja region and the Basque Country is supper on December 24.  As an American who has lived in Spain for almost 50 years, this meal is only comparable in scope and sentiment to Thanksgiving.  We look forward to dressing up, greeting our family members at the door with a glass of bubbly and sitting down to enjoy a multi-course meal, together with regional wines paired specifically for each dish, with holiday music playing in the background. It’s the time of year when we bring out the best of the wines we’ve been collecting throughout the year.

The region consolidates its position as a top dining experience

 

The Guide Michelin recently awarded new stars to three Bilbao-Rioja area restaurants in in 2019:  Eneko and Atelier Etxanobe in Bilbao and Íkaro in Logroño.

With the addition of these restaurants, a total of fifteen dining establishments from the Bilbao-Rioja area boast Michelin stars. 

Already holding stars are:

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