Rioja, modern and traditional, wine, gastronomy, history, art | New wine tour

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Spain is today a wine country where much exciting things happen. Rioja is of course the most famous and classic of all Spanish wine regions. But it is also a region with a lot of modernity and innovation.

If you think of Rioja as a source of soft, vanilla oozing, old wines, then it is time to think again! Sure, it was a bit like that in the 80s, but that time is long past. During the past decades, Rioja has turned into one of the most modern wine regions in Spain. Huge investments have been made in new wineries and the region has directed his gaze outwards, toward wine consumers.

If you travel in Rioja today often you see along the winding rural roads impressive new wineries. A lot of care has been dedicated to build wineries that give the winemakers the opportunity to bring out the best characters from the grapes. But at the same time great emphasis has been place on the building itself. Even Frank Gehry, architect of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, has been engaged by one of the wine producers.

The Guggenheim museum in Bilbao with its glittering geometric shapes
The Guggenheim museum in Bilbao with its glittering geometric shapes, copyright BKWine Photography

The most important thing is of course what happens inside the wineries. In the wine cellar. Today there are two main trends: the traditional school where they still use long oak aging. The rules for reserva and gran reserva still stipulate that the wines have to be aged several years in the barrel. The other school is the “modernist” group where they talk about fruit and about the origin and maybe even about terroir.

But in fact there is no great divide between the two “schools”. Traditionalists make wines of great vitality and modernists clearly base their work on Rioja traditions.

All this makes the Rioja one (of many) very exciting wine region in Spain today.

Landscape with vineyards, church and mountains, Rioja
Landscape with vineyards, church and mountains, Rioja, copyright BKWine Photography

If you think of Bilbao as an old port town with dilapidated docklands and morose industrial setting (as I did before I went there) the it is high time to think again! About that too! Bilbao was not at all what I thought. It is in fact a very elegant city. Indeed with a history as a port city.

But probably largely thanks to the Guggenheim Museum and all that has come with it Bilbao has become a great and exciting travel destination. The museum of course. But you also have the “Old Town” which probably dates back to the Middle Ages, with old winding alleys, squares and churches. Plus a fine food market. A “modern” town, mainly from the 1800s, with elegant houses, shopping streets with fashionable boutiques. A restaurant quarter where tapas bars are stand tighter than sardines in a can. And through it all winds the glittering Nerviòn River. In the evening you often see kayakers on the river who choose a frog perspective up against the equally glittering façade of the Guggenheim museum.

Rows of wine barrels in an modern wine cellar in Rioja
Rows of wine barrels in an modern wine cellar in Rioja, copyright BKWine Photography

Our new wine tour to Rioja takes you to all of this. With a start in Bilbao we go up over the Cantabrian Mountains to the wine district of Rioja. For a few days we will take you around to some of the best winemakers in Rioja. We will serve you some wonderful meals, at home in the wineries, where you get to try authentic Spanish cuisine and also see how modern it can be. We stay in Logroño, the capital of the Rioja wine region and a historic resting place on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela. We take a look at the medieval town of Laguardia. And much more.

The Rioja wine tour is currently offered as a custom wine tour in English. It is also featured as a scheduled wine tour to Rioja on our Scandinavian program.

Feel tempted to come?

Tapas in a bar in Plaza Nueva in Bilbao
Tapas in a bar in Plaza Nueva in Bilbao, copyright BKWine Photography

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