Bilbao | Rioja

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.

The US magazine Wine Enthusiast recently nominated three wineries from Rioja  (Muga, CVNE and Vivanco) to receive Wine Star awards. The awards honor outstanding members of the worldwide wine and spirits industry.

Starting a new career in wine after studying for an unrelated degree has proven valuable to two young members of the Rioja community:  Marta Ortiz-Arce Vizcarro and Alex Las Heras.

Visitors to Rioja can find much more than wine inside the winery walls.  Two of the most outstanding examples are the Ontañón Winery and Museum and the Vivanco Museum of Wine Culture.

Ontañón’s motto is “Passion for vineyards, passion for wine and passion for art”.  To visit the winery and museum just outside Logroño is to immerse oneself in the Pérez Cuevas family’s collection of paintings and sculptures created by artist Miguel Ángel Sainz depicting the role of wine in Greek mythology.

The most heartwarming moment at the 2019 Bilbao-Rioja ‘Best Of Wine Tourism’ awards ceremony was the standing ovation given to three women from Bodegas Bohedal for their innovative wine tourism program. Three generations of women not only run the winery but have created experiences that perfectly define the family’s passion for wine, with a feminine touch and great attention to detail.

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.  

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