Planning a trip to the Rioja Bodegas (Wineries)

Ok, you want to sample some good Spanish Rioja with some stunning architecture, sunshine and tapas thrown in for good measure? But where do you start? If you are planning a trip to the Rioja Bodegas then this could help you. I’ll take you through, step by step of how I did it.

Planning a trip to the Rioja Bodegas

Planning a trip to the Rioja Bodegas

The Region

When planning a trip to the Rioja Bodegas it may be helpful to know a little bit about the region and its wines. In short, the region is split into 3 areas, Rioja Baha in the East, Rioja Alta in the West and Rioja Alavesa in the North. For a fuller and more detailed explanation of the Region and its wines have a look at this page on the Rioja region and its wines.

La Rioja Region Thanks to Google maps 

Cheap Flights

In the first place, you need to get there! Being based in the UK, I choose British Airways as they are my go to airline. Being a big collector of Avios (British Airways’ loyalty program points) it cost me 15,500 Avios and £50 in taxes and charges return in Business class.

Boost your Traveling Power

(By the same token, if I was to travel Economy I could get it for 8,000 Avios and £35 in taxes and charges). Avios are a great way of boosting your travelling power, see my How to collect Avios page for more details. If flying BA, join their Executive Club. It has on the whole many benefits, the more you progress the more benefits you get.

Planning a trip to the Rioja Wineries

Elciego Vinyards

Planning a trip to the Rioja Wineries

Tasting!

Where to stay

When planning a trip to the Rioja Bodegas a good place to stay is a must! To be sure, Logrono is the capital of the La Rioja region, but the main Bodega on our list to see was Marques de Riscal. The one designed by Frank Gehry. That was in the town of Elciego. Hello, Booking.com via Topcashback.

Topcashback is a cashback site (as the name implies) where you can get cashback on your spend, 4% in this case. Maybe not much but it all adds up and at the time of writing, I have earned over £1000 via Topcashback on my everyday spending. See my Topcashback page for more details.



CashBack? I’ll have some of that!

Booking.com is my go-to website for accommodation. Chiefly, I check location and price for my area. See my Booking.com page here for how to get the best out of it. I found a little Bodega called Agriturismo Valdelana, which was just down the road from Marques de Riscal Bodega, I could see it from my balcony!

See my Bodega Valdelana page for more info, I can highly recommend them! A tour of the Bodega is included in the price and well worth it. As well as a museum, the unique bit of this tour was a wine colouring room and a smell/bouquet room which I have never experienced on a wine tour before.

Planning a trip to the Rioja Wineries Bodegas

Bodega Valdelana

Which Bodegas to visit?

As Tam, my long-suffering significant other was coming with me, I let her choose the bodegas. But as she does not really drink red wine (I know, I know) she had as much input in planning a trip to the Rioja Bodegas as I did.

Fabulous Architecture

You see, architecture and design are, very much, her bag and I knew she wouldn’t be disappointed in the range of architecture La Rioja has to offer. Life, as always, is full of small compromises and I knew I would find interesting wines wherever I went. So, Tam made a list of the bodegas she wanted to visit. Over to Jose from Wine Taste Lovers!

Planning a trip to the Rioja Wineries Bodegas

Marques de Riscal Hotel designed by Frank Gehry

Planning a trip to the Rioja Wineries

Marques de Riscal Bodega

Planning a trip to the Rioja Bodegas? – Local Guides are Best!

Wine Taste Lovers is a tour company which offers wine tasting and tours. I had contact with Jose on a recent trip to Bilbao and although a tour didn’t work out then, Jose, being the great guy that he is, had kept in touch and was offering another tour.

Wine Taste Lovers Tour

On a personal note, and this is just something I prefer, I like to use local guides. Jose is a local, born and bred with an excellent knowledge of the region. Local guides, generally speaking, have a great local knowledge and a good guide has their finger on the pulse of the region.

I mentioned Colleen in my Marlborough Wineries page as a great guide and now I mention Jose in the same breath. His site can be found here. Firstly, I’d originally found Jose on TripAdvisor and can thoroughly recommend him as a competent and engaging guide.

Planning a trip to the Rioja Bodegas

Bodegas Ysios designed by Spanish Architect Santiago Calatrava

The Advantages

The advantage with a guide is you pay them the money and they sort out all the reservations, tasting and tour costs and transport. Consequently, all you have to do is tour and taste. Consequently, this takes all the stress and hassles out of the day, map reading appointments, payment and the fight of choosing someone as the dedicated driver!

If I don’t have a contact in the area, TripAdvisor is my first port of call when looking for an activity or tour company. The reviews are from real people and as a result, will really help you in your decision-making process. You can usually get a very good idea of what the company is like before investing your hard earned cash.

Our list

In Tam’s list of ‘must sees’ for architecture were:

Marques de Riscal –Frank Gehry
Lopez de Heredia – Zaha Hadid
 
Tam also listed a few other ‘would like’ visits. Jose was able to get us to all of our ‘must sees’ and also a few on our ‘would like’ list. There were also visits to some bodegas we hadn’t mentioned but we were very glad Jose took us.
 
Notably, one such was Campo Viejo Bodega. The UK is the biggest market for Campo Viejo, my full blurb on it can be found here. At Campo Viejo, we got to taste some wines not normally available in the UK, bonus!
 
Planning a trip to the Rioja Wineries

Raoul at Campo Viejo Bodega – a charming and knowledgeable host for our tasting

Planning a trip to the Rioja Wineries

70,000 Barrel of Campo Viejo Rioja!

 

Further Reading and Further Tasting!

 

Planes Trains and Automobiles

Getting from Bilbao Airport to Bodega Valdelana in Elciego presented us with a number of options initially. We looked at the bus timetable but they were not running on the day we wanted! There were no direct train lines;  so we rented a car.

More chance to earn Avios

At this point, Avis came to our rescue with a rental car. Avios points are available with car rentals and Topcashback too!

Planning a trip to the Rioja Wineries

Zaha Hadid Decanter

Planning a trip to the Rioja Bodegas

Inside the Zaha Hadid Decanter

Planning a trip to the Rioja Bodegas – Conclusion

If you are planning a trip to the Rioja Bodegas, most importantly, have fun! You can be as serious or irreverent as you wish. I am very irreverent and take neither myself or anything else that seriously!

When it comes to tasting the wine, however, it’s always worth learning how to taste. That way you will get more out of the wine, and it’s fun to do! There are other ways but this is how I do it;

  • Look at the colour of the wine against a white background. This can tell you a lot about what to expect from the wine. Also, can you see through it? Is it slightly cloudy or clear?
  • Holding the glass up, sniff inside without swirling the glass. What notes can you smell?
  • Swirl the contents of the glass and have another sniff. Comparatively, have the notes changed?
  • Taste. I always have at least two tastes one straight after the other as sometimes one taste is not reliable.

Top Tips

  • Get a local guide.
  • Let your guide know what you want to see in advance.
  • Research your hotel and the amenities within walking distance.
  • Go with an open mind, you’ll learn and taste lots more.
  • Learn how to taste.



Booking.com

 

This tour was undertaken and paid for with my own money. As such, what you are reading is an honest and non-biased review.

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