Bilbao | Rioja

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.  

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! 

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