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Jun 15, 2022

Solar de Samaniego: Wine, Culture and Landscape

With more than half a century of history, Bodegas Solar de Samaniego in Laguardia (Rioja Alavesa, Spain) has recently built a beautiful wine tourism experience based on the love of lanscape, contemporary art, the history of industrial architecture and the literary heritage of Rioja.

In 2018, Bodegas Solar de Samaniego (Laguardia, Rioja Alavesa) launched an ideas competition – Solar de Samaniego, Integrated Landscape. Its purpose was to integrate the winery into the natural landscape and culture of the Rioja Alavesa.

How it all began

The genesis of the competition was a study of the cultural landscape of Rioja Alavesa wine carried out by Ander de la Fuente, a landscape architect and professor of architecture at the University of the Basque Country.

This project earned for Solar de Samaniego a 2022 ‘Best Of Wine Tourism’ award for Art and Culture from the Great Wine Capitals Global Network.

An inspirational vineyard

The company’s La Escobosa is the vineyard near Laguardia that served as the literary inspiration for the 18th century fable writer Félix María de Samaniego, Laguardia’s most famous son.  Here, Samaniego wrote on a stone table that still sits in the middle of the winery.

Rethinking an industrial winery design

The winery itself is an example of Riojan winery architecture in the 1970s, built with reinforced concrete, featuring large cement storage tanks.  It was a totally unremarkable design where function took preference over form. The first project carried out by the winery was a redesign of the façade that produced an immense improvement in the property’s visual appeal. It was carried out in cooperation with the UNESCO Chair for Cultural Landscapes and Heritage.

The “Half Million” Spaces

The most remarkable design change in the winery was painting huge lifelike figures on the seven 13-meter high storage tanks, each of which with a capacity of 500,000 liters..  The design was the brainchild of Australian mural designer Guido Van Helten, who created a common thread for the seven figures:  the people and crafts of the grape and wine industry as well as literature in the Rioja Alavesa.

The design on the first tank represents a worker in a nearby label design and printing company.  The second tank depicts Rafa, the winery foreman.  The third shows a woman leading a tour around the winery.

Tanks four and five show people writing about the history of the winery and making tasting notes.  Tank six depicts a sommelier reading a book while tank seven is the winery’s longstanding winemaker Alberto Serrano.

“Half Million” Spaces has added an additional element for the enjoyment of those who spend the night in the area:  a nighttime visit to the winery with a sound and light show.

Tasting Room and Vineyard Gallery spaces

Another area of the winery has been designed as a tasting room-wine shop that in addition houses a library, reinforcing the connection between literature and the area around Laguardia.

The Vineyard Gallery houses a collection of paintings of vineyards owned by the the Solar de Samaniego group  in Rioja and Ribera del Duero.

The winery’s project has been rewarded

In addition to the Great Wine Capitals ‘Best Of Wine Tourism’ award for Art and Culture, Solar de Samaniego has received numerous other recognitions for the excellence of its wine tourism offering:

  • Award for the Best Wine Tourism Experience from the Spanish Wine Route Association (2020);
  • The Safe Tourism Seal following an audit by the Spanish Institute of Quality Tourism;
  • Certificates of Excellence from Trip Advisor/Traveler’s Choice , yearly from 2018. A visit to the winery is consistently voted the top attraction in Laguardia on the Trip Advisor website.

Contact

Bodegas Solar de Samaniego

Carretera de Elciego s/n.

01300 Laguardia (Álava)

Tel. +34 945 943629

Visits:  solardesamaniego.com/visita-bodega-rioja-alavesa

Text:  Tom Perry, Inside Rioja.

Photos:  Bodegas Solar de Samaniego