Bilbao | Rioja

Among the challenges facing Rioja wineries today is attracting discerning wine tourists who have no shortage of choices of wineries to visit. The most forward-thinking wineries here are moving away from the traditional model of “visit the winery, taste some wine and go to the gift shop” toward an approach focusing on the vineyards.  Explaining how the specific conditions in a particular vineyard – soil, microclimate, elevation, exposition to sunlight, grape varieties, farming techniques and the relationship of the vineyard to its habitat is a necessary step to gain a better understanding of what goes into a bottle of wine.

The Rioja region is a fantastic wine tourism destination.  We have it all - spectacular landscape, picturesque villages with their narrow cobblestoned streets and majestic churches, great wine and food, plenty of things do do when you're not eating and tasting wine in our wineries, and most of all, welcoming locals who go out of their way to make your experience memorable!

About twenty years ago I led a group of sommeliers from the USA on a tour of Rioja wineries and restaurants.  During our visit to one of the area’s top restaurants – sadly closed today  –  to show these sommeliers how wine and food pairings are decided here, I asked the head waiter, who was also the sommelier, how diners chose which wines to order with their meal. He replied, “Older locals always choose their favorite Rioja before ordering the meal.  Younger locals and visitors from other parts of Spain and those from abroad choose the food first and then ask for recommendations about pairings. The older locals will always choose a Rioja but the others are willing to experiment, even with wines from other parts of Spain.”

Wine lovers and those interested in wine tourism have several options to pursue official degree programs and continuing education studies in the Rioja region.

Villa Lucia Museum in Laguardia, in partnership with Bodegas Valdemar, located in Oyón-Oion in Rioja Alavesa, have collaborated to develop an extensive all-inclusive tourism program that enables consumers to visit wineries and museums without any visual, auditory or physical limitations. Throughout the properties and without the need for prior appointments, people with disabilities can learn about wine and wine production and enjoy an integrated experience.

This effort recently earned them a 2020 International Best Of Wine Tourism award.

Rioja wineries have adapted their communications strategies to be closer to their customers and have made an important contribution to the protection of healthcare professionals treating victims of Covid-19.

In addition, from Day One they have made plans to greet future wine tourists in a new environment, maintaining excellence under optimum safety conditions.

Bodegas Murua in Elciego is much more than a winery, although the  winery building, an old stone manor house surrounded by vineyards in gently rolling countryside, creates a picture perfect image of a classical winery.

This image, along with a spectacular collection of artwork and wine-related literature, earned Bodegas Murua a 2020 ‘Best Of’ Wine Tourism award for Art & Culture from the Great Wine Capitals Global Network.

Our World has suddenly entered a difficult period. The covid-19 virus is changing our lives, our habits, our families, our businesses...

Visitors are the lifeblood of a wine tourism business.  The business’s goal is not only to convert visitors into consumers of the winery’s brands, but into brand ambassadors as well.  If you provide an unforgettable experience for your visitors, they will pay you back many times over.

The Rioja Regulatory Council recently released its Wine Tourism Observatory Report for 2019, a detailed study of the current state of wine tourism in the Rioja region, that includes the three zones of Alta, Alavesa and Oriental.

 

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