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by Tom Perry
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 with you to Bodegas Valdemar where they have an experience that is tailor-made for children: “In Search of the Magic Grapes”. Bodegas Valdemar received a ‘Best Of Wine Tourism’ award for innovative wine tourism experiences from the Great Wine Capitals Global Network for this program.
This isn’t a playroom. Kids actually visit the winery with their parents. While the adults listen to a technical explanation of the winemaking process and taste wines, the youngsters follow a series of clues leading them to the elusive archaeologist Count Valdemar and his treasure: the magic grapes.
The first stop for adults and children is a cellar with a video presentation of Bodegas Valdemar’s Alto Cantabria vineyard, the site of an ancient Iberian settlement. There are replicas of old urns and other artifacts scattered around the cellar and inside them, each of the children has to find a small bag with a notebook.
Notebooks in hand, the children go to a barrel-aging cellar where they experience different aromas found in wine. Then, from a world map, they have to identify five countries where Valdemar wines are sold.
This gymkhana then requires the children to follow a map, counting steps and turns to a tasting area inside the bottle aging cellar where they find bottles of red and white grape juice. Here, their task is to put the winemaking process – aging in oak barrels, fermentation, bottle aging, harvest and labeling – in order.
Count Valdemar in his study (Photo: Bodegas Valdemar)
The next step is to scratch a circle in the notebook to discover the last clue to finding the magic grapes – using a flashlight to search for a key in a dark barrel-aging cellar.
Key in hand, the tour proceeds to the old bottle cellar where the children find Count Valdemar’s study and the magic grapes – gummy candies that actually taste like red, rosé and white wine.
The program includes a follow-up: a storybook that the children can read or have read to them.
Marketing director Ana Martínez Bujanda – part of the fifth generation of the owners, the Martínez Bujanda family – and Marisa Alonso, the wine tourism and PR manager, explain that the experience was designed with the help of two professors at the Basque Culinary Center. The idea was to show the children the winemaking process using tools that they understand, to let them see that wine is part of the Rioja region’s culture and to use the five senses to learn.
The biggest challenge, according to Ana Martínez Bujanda was to integrate the children’s’ experience with that of their parents. This has been one of the main reasons for the program’s success. As a fifth generation family winery, the experience is meant to be “from a family for a family”.
The magic grapes (Photo: Tom Perry)
Camino Viejo s/n
01320 Oyón (Álava)