Things to do in Rioja: visiting small family-run wineries
One of the charms of La Rioja region in Spain is the abundance of family-run rioja wineries (known in Spanish as bodegas), even the biggest. But it’s those small, intimate businesses that you can get to meet on a Rioja in Style wine tour, giving you that human face behind a world-famous industry.
From cooler mountainside vineyards in the Rioja Alta that produce Garnacha wines, to the warm and dry climes of the valleys more suited to Tempranillo, you can gain real insiders’ knowledge as you tour the Rioja wineries in their beautiful settings. You will see for yourself how Rioja winemakers skilfully merge their long-held traditional winemaking methods and respect for the natural environment with the very latest in modern technologies and processes, always reinventing and creating.
You’ll find that even individual vineyards can be divided up into plots with specific characteristics, soil, root stock and irrigation systems that produce different types of wine. In Rioja, the winegrowers are the best in their trade and known for their extensive knowledge and experimenting with viticulture and oenology to create wines with different personalities, and to the highest standards.
Known for its high quality, it’s no surprise Rioja wine is not short of claims to fame, and many of the rioja wineries you visit will have won numerous prestigious awards and accolades. There’s even a small, family-run winery you can visit that is the only supplier to the pope, with no fewer than 2,000 bottles delivered to the Vatican every year! Bottles of the wine that make their way via Madrid to Rome are endorsed with the personal crest of arms of Pope Francis as well as the Latin phrase Misericordias Domini in aeternum cantabo (I will sing the mercies of the lord forever).
Of course, many of the wineries in La Rioja have been established for years and years, and each have generations of histories to share with you about how they followed their individual journeys along the road of Rioja wine production and contributed to its reputation. On a Rioja in Style wine tour you’ll get the unique chance to talk face to face with the owners and hear first-hand their stories while you’re shown around their vineyards and cellars.
Hear about the vineyard owner who started with basic machinery in a small rural village in the 1950s, passing the business down through his son to become a successful firm now producing hundreds of barrels a year. Elsewhere, meet the family who fought for the protection of the Rioja brand and its certificate of origin. In each of these charming bodegas, there is a fascinating story to discover, as well as yet more delicious wine to taste.