Rioja Wine Tour

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Rioja in Spain — exciting wines, breath-taking scenery and architecture

— Come with us on this exciting tour to Rioja, a wine region that is both classic and modern in a way that you only find in Spain. The wineries market themselves not only with excellent wines, but also with the breath-taking and extraordinary architecture. The landscape is mountainous and scenic. We start in Bilbao, famous for the Guggenheim Museum, and stay for two nights in the capital of La Rioja, in the city of Logroño. There are tapas bars everywhere and people seem never to sleep.

Program    |    Travel facts    |    Book    |    More on the tour


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Next wine tour to Rioja:

  • Contact us!

This is a sample program, an example. Every wine and food tour that we organise is different and specially adapted for the season and the circumstances. Details in the program, e.g. which producers we visit, will be different each time.

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Rioja has undergone several transformations over the last 20-30-40 years. In the 80s it was many wine-lovers’ favourite wine. But then Rioja was over-taken by the New World and has struggled to get back. But now they are back, and with a vengeance. Today the wines are world-class and the Spanish gastronomy is famous all over the world.

We meet in Bilbao where we will stay the first and last night. It is easy to fly to Bilbao. Maybe take you take an extra day or two there so that you have time to visit the stunning Guggenheim Museum and the beautiful city.

On Thursday morning our bus picks us up at the hotel and we head for the Rioja district, just under two hours from Bilbao. We will have the time to visit around 8 different producers. There will be a mix of big and well-known wine producers and smaller family bodegas. We will see examples of the various styles of wine made in Rioja.

One trend is for some producers to promote more terroir in Rioja wines. Instead of blending grapes from different parts of the region, as is customary, they prefer making wine from grapes from a single vineyard to reflect the character of the soil. There are also those who prefer 100% tempranillo, others who want to blend with other grapes. And yet others who are redeiscovering almost forgotten grape varieties.

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

Some bottle the wines earlier so as not let the oak dominate too much and instead letting the varietal character show through. Some use French oak instead of American. Opinions are many.

A Rioja wine today is not in any way a predictable wine. However, one can safely say that the overly soft and vanilla-tasting wines that were common in the 80’s belong to the past. A new generation of winemakers has arrived.

Rioja has 50,000 hectares of vines of which 31,000 are used for the dark, thick-skinned Tempranillo. It is the most important grape in Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa, the two Rioja’s sub-districts (of a total of three) that many consider the “best”. It thrives in soil that is rich in clay and limestone. Garnacha (Grenache), the other major grape, can manage both hot climate and draught. It is the most planted grape in Rioja Baja, the third and hottest part of Rioja.

As always on our wine tours we will also focus a lot on the local gastronomy. Spanish cuisine is today famous all over the world and the Spanish chefs’ ability to innovate is legendary. We will have several examples of this. We will enjoy three lovely lunches with traditional cooking at wineries we visit.

The evenings are free for your own exploration of the restaurants in Bilbao and in Logroño.

The tour is led by one of BKWine’s wine and travel expert guides.

Filling barrels in the wine cellar, Rioja
Filling barrels in the wine cellar, Rioja, copyright BKWine Photography

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More info

We have written a lot about Rioja and about wine touring in the region, what to do and what to expect.

Here you can find more about travelling in the Rioja wine region.

You can also find more information on the wines from Rioja on BKWine Magazine.

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Program — wine tour in Rioja

This is a sample program, an example. Every wine and food tour that we organise is different and specially adapted for the season and the circumstances. Details in the program, e.g. which producers we visit, will be different each time.

Preliminary programme.

Contact BKWine for more details.

Program overview

  • Day 1, Wednesday — Arrival in Bilbao
  • Day 2, Thursday — The Rioja and its capital, Logroño
  • Day 3, Friday — The Bodegas in Haro, Rioja’s second city
  • Day 4, Saturday — The road through the landscape in La Rioja
  • Day 5, Sunday — Return home

Wednesday, Day 1 — Arrival in Bilbao

You arrive in Bilbao and check-in at our centrally located 4-star hotel. Your arrival is according to your own travel plans any time during the day. The evening is free to explore the city. The modern airport is only 20 minutes from downtown.

Bilbao is a fantastically city. A mix of old and modern with a few hundred thousand inhabitants in the central parts of town.

The construction of the Guggenheim museum has given a big boost to Bilbao. Today it is a prosperous and dynamic city with plenty of shopping, art and restaurants.

You can find both world-class gourmet restaurants as well as more humble restaurants with excellent Basque specialities that include fine seafood, high-quality pork and meat products like the fabled Spanish top quality charcuteries.

The Old Town has narrow winding streets between medieval houses. You can buy a genuine Basque beret in a hat shop in the historic centre. In the “modern” part of town (from the 19th century) there are many streets filled with outdoor cafés and tapas bars. Everything is within convenient walking distance. A walk along the river when the sun is setting is also a must.

The Guggenheim museum, Bilbao
The Guggenheim museum, Bilbao, copyright BKWine Photography

Thursday, Day 2 — To Rioja and its capital Logroño

In the morning our bus picks us up at the hotel and we start our journey to Rioja which takes approximately 2 hours.

The road trip is actually a bit of an experience in itself. On the sea side, in the Basque Country, the landscape is green and lush. The wind from the sea brings with it a lot of humidity, and sometimes rain. To get to La Rioja, we go over the Cantabrian mountain range.

When we pass over the summit the landscape changes dramatically. It changes colour, it is not nearly as green. Instead, at a distance, you can see an imposing mountain range. Old villages dotting the landscape that becomes more and more covered in vineyards the closer to the centre of Rioja we come.

The structure of the wine business in Rioja is in some ways similar to that of Champagne. A modest number of very large bodegas buy grapes and sometimes finished wine, from a very large number of small farmers, or from any of the 40 co-operatives. Most have contracts with grape farmers in all three sub-districts of Rioja: Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Baja. Although the bodegas own some of the vineyards, there are few who are self-sufficient. But there is also another side to Rioja.

A hilltop village, Rioja
A hilltop village, Rioja, copyright BKWine Photography

On today’s program we have for instance the spectacular Bodega Baigorri in Samaniego. The winery has a truly eye-catching position in Rioja Alavesa. The views from the winery over the vineyards are go to the horizon.

They also have an excellent restaurant (open only to private guests). From there we can enjoy views of the vineyards on one side and the view over the oak barrel cellar on the other.

On our way to Logroño, we will also make another winery visits.

Late afternoon we arrive at our hotel in Logroño. Logroño is the undisputed capital of Rioja and the biggest city in the region. Our hotel is centrally located, just at the edge of the old city centre.

The evening is free for your own gastronomic adventures. A stone’s throw from our hotel you have the old food market and just next to it the famous “tapas street”, Calle Laurel. With a quite unlikely sequence of tapas bars you will find one with your favourite specialty: ham, grilled prawns, foie gras, omelettes, etc.

A Rioja winemaker in the vineyard
A Rioja winemaker in the vineyard, copyright BKWine Photography

Friday, Day 3 — Bodegas in Haro, Rioja’s second city

Our bus picks us up in the morning at our hotel. We head west to Haro. Haro is much smaller than Logrono but it is no less important from a wine point of view in La Rioja.

Almost all the bodegas in Haro are clustered around the old railway station. It is strange with such a concentration of wineries on a very small area. This is where we will spend the day. In the Barrie de la Estacion.

In Rioja it is not only the grape varieties that give their character to the wines but also the barrel ageing. The tempranillo needs some time in oak to bring out many of the typical aromas, or so it is thought.

But today there is an intense debate around how much time in barrel is needed. The traditional character of a Rioja is the red-brick colour, soft, silky vanilla character, and butter toffee. All this comes to a large extent from the long oak ageing.

In many cases the wines are kept for a longer time in barrel than what the rules for Reserva and Gran Reserva stipulate. But things have changed compared to the past. The traditional wines are today much more elegant. And there is another category of wines which are not all playing on the oak fiddle, one that is more focused on the fruit. Many producers make wine both styles.

Old bottles in the wine cellar
Old bottles in the wine cellar, copyright BKWine Photography

We will talk about ageing in oak and many other things during the day. We will for example visit Muga. This is one of the old and familiar names in Haro, a family winery that is successful in in combining tradition with modernity. And which also has its own cooperage.

On today’s program we also have one of the smaller wineries in Haro, one that is not as internationally famous: Gomez Cruzado. That does not mean that their wines are any less worthy of attention. On the contrary.

Their young winemaker is full of ideas about what kind of wine wine he wants to make and presents an exciting range of wines worth all your attention. Another illustration of that it is not only at the great and famous that you will find top-quality wines.

One more visit to a bodega in Haro is on the program today.

At one of the wineries we will enjoy a lovely lunch with classic Rioja specialities matched with several delicious wines.

Late afternoon we are back in Logroño. The evening is free to stroll around in town and to discover some new tapas bars. Kick off with fino sherry for aperitif and the rest will go smoothly.

Oak barrels in an old wine cellar
Oak barrels in an old wine cellar, copyright BKWine Photography

Saturday, Day 4 — The road through the landscape of La Rioja

After breakfast we check out of the hotel and load our luggage in the bus. We head to the picturesque small town of Briones.

We start the day with a visit to the magnificent Dinastía Vivanco winery. A few decades ago it was an unknown name. Now their winery in La Rioja is one of the most stunning in the region. The outside does not reveal much but once you come down into the wine cellar is quite impressive. The winery is now run by two enthusiastic brothers.

At Vivanco they supplement the Tempranillo with Graciano, Mazuelo (a very exciting grape variety!), and Garnacha and are also experimenting with some cabernet sauvignon.

One of the brothers is a passionate collector of … grape varieties, so they have a botanical museum with many different varieties.

The other brother is art collector. He has amassed a collection of unique wine-related items that are now on display in their museum.

We will also make a visit to the Bodega LAN, an interesting estate which since 2012 belongs to Sogrape, Portugal’s biggest wine company. Their 6400 square meters (70,000 sq ft) oak ageing cellar contains thousands of barrels of French, American and Russian oak.

We will visit one more bodega before we start the journey back to Bilbao. On the way back we drive through the rough but beautiful landscape, blood red and yellow in autumn.

Early evening we are back in Bilbao for the last night on the tour. The evening is free for more discoveries of Bilbao. Perhaps one last visit to one of the gastronomic restaurants, or maybe another glass of wine and some tapas? We’re happy to recommend our favourite restaurants and wine bars.

Tapas / pinchos in a bar in Logroño
Tapas / pinchos in a bar in Logroño, copyright BKWine Photography

Sunday, Day 5 — Heading back home

The tour ends after breakfast. Departure.

Program may be subject to minor modifications.

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

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Tour Details — Rioja wine tour

Dates: This is a sample program. Look in the menu “Our Tours > Scheduled Tours” to check what scheduled tours are currently on the program or contact us to discuss a custom made private wine tour.

Price per person: This is a sample program. Look in the menu “Our Tours > Scheduled Tours” to check what scheduled tours are currently on the program or contact us to discuss a custom made private wine tour.

Included in the price:

  • 4 hotel nights, double occupancy, including breakfast:
    • 2 nights in the city centre of Bilbao in a 4-star hotel
    • 2 nights in Logroño in a 4-star hotel
  • Meals as described in the program above (*):
    • 3 gastronomic multi-course lunches with local specialities, including tasting of several wines, as guests at wineries
  • Start and end point: Bilbao
  • Bus transport during the whole trip
  • All vineyard and winery visits
  • Private, high quality tastings at wineries, approx. 3 per day
  • Interpretation from Spanish as needed, some visits will be in English
  • Wine guiding and wine tutoring by an expert BKWine guide

(*) See below for more important information on our meals.

Not included:

  • Travel (flights) to the destination and back from your home location.

You organise your travel to Bilbao yourself. If you want assistance with organising your flight tickets etc, please contact us.

We warmly recommend that you plan a few extra days here if you have the time! It is a very interesting place and well worth some “non-wine” tourism too! We can assist you with booking additional hotel nights if you want.

For this trip to take place we must have a minimum of 4 participants registered at the “book before” date. Maximum number of travel guests: 8.

Book This Tour

Book before: [this is a sample programme]

Booking is confirmed by paying the booking fee of [sample programme, this varies by trip]. Full payment should be received at the latest [sample programme, one month or 60 days, depending on the trip] before the departure date (see our terms and conditions). Details on how to pay will be sent to you when you register.

It is important that your read our travel booking terms and conditions.

We also invite you to read more on why you should travel with BKWine, about customer protection, and about what you can expect from our wine tours in the section below “More on our wine tours”.

You book by contacting Britt Karlsson, BKWine:

  • phone: +33 1 58 88 04 66 or +33 6 80 45 35 70 (+33 is the country code for France)
  • Skype: “bkwine”. Call us on skype.
  • email: info@bkwine.com, or use the contact form below

“I want to book this tour” or “I want more info.”

(*) = required

Important: We automatically send you a copy of this email when you submit it. If you have not received it within a few minutes: 1) check your spam folder, 2) consider resending it, you might have misspelled your email address. Or simply send us a normal email using our address noted just above.

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More on our wine tours

Why travel with BKWine?

We are Britt and Per Karlsson. We are specialists in wine and food tours and wine tourism, but also experts in wine in general. We are internationally published wine writers and have written ten award-winning wine books.

No other tour operator has a comparable knowledge and experience of wine, wine regions, wine tourism and gourmet travel.

We have organised hundreds of wine and food tours, and this is what we love to do. We take it very seriously (it is not a sideline or a hobby), and what we want more than anything is to share all these wonderful experiences with you.

All our tours are led and managed by guides who have in-depth wine knowledge, and in many cases we lead the tours ourselves.

Read more on why you should choose BKWine for your wine and food tour.

Thousands of happy customers

Over the years, thousands of wine lovers have travelled with us. Many come back to tour again with BKWine to new wine regions. Our record-breaking client has been on more than ten BKWine tours. We are happy and proud to have such faithful customers.

Read more on what previous travellers have said about our tours.

Awards and Mentions

We’re pleased and proud to have received many accolades, including:

  • “World’s Top Wine Tours” (Travel+Leisure Magazine, the world’s biggest travel magazine)
  • “Best wine tasting holidays” (AOL Travel’s list of top wine tours)
  • “Recommended Wine Tours” (Munskänkarna, the world’s biggest wine appreciation association)
  • “World’s Best Wine Book for Professionals” as well as “Best Wine Book of the Year” (Gourmand International awards) and many other book prizes
  • Three OIV book awards
  • “Wine Personality of the Year 2011” (an honour bestowed on Britt Karlsson by Munskänkarna, the world’s biggest wine appreciation association)
  • Inclusion on the Wine Media Power List by Wine Business International magazine

About the wine producers and wineries we visit

Our aim is for you to experience some of the very best and most interesting aspects of the wine world, in terms of wine and food.

We put great effort into creating outstanding winery visits, and in this way we are quite different to many wine tour organisers. It is not always the most renowned, internationally known estates that offer the best experiences. Organising a wine tour featuring famous names of the wine world is relatively easy: it is merely a question of making lists and ticking boxes. On these kind of “bucket list” wine tours, you rarely meet the winemaker or the owner. You will simply be one of thousands of visitors they receive each year.

We do things differently. With BKWine Tours, you will meet the people behind the label, often the winemakers and/or the owners. Thanks to them, you will have a unique, truly personal experience and an insight into the wine world that no one else can offer. When you travel with BKWine, you are more like a special guest than a tourist.

We have personal connections and unparalleled knowledge thanks to more than 20 years as wine journalists, with 10 wine books published, and as wine tour organisers with more than 30 years’ experience. You can be sure of getting the best wine travel experiences with BKWine Tours.

Read more on the wine producers and wineries we visit.

A true gourmet experience: food and gastronomy

For us, wine and food are intimately linked, and this is a fundamental part of our wine travel philosophy. For this reason, a wine tour with BKWine is always an outstanding culinary experience both for the wine enthusiast and for the gourmet. A BKWine tour is a gastronomic voyage that explores the deep relationship between food and wine.

Read more On Meals: Food and Gastronomy on Our Tours.

Customer Protection,  Financial Travel Guarantee, and Terms and Conditions

You can always feel safe when you book your tour with BKWine. BKWine has a bonded bank guarantee that gives full protection according to EU and Swedish law. BKWine is a Swedish limited company and as such is regulated by strict rules.

Read more on Customer Protection, Financial Travel Guarantee. and our Terms and Conditions.

When you book a tour it is important that you read the terms and conditions. BKWine’s booking terms and conditions follow the guidelines developed by the Consumer Protection Agency.

Health, vaccination and allergies

Our tours have no particular health requirements although inevitably we will be walking a certain amount in wine cellars and vineyards. Sensible footwear is a must.

Most of our travel destinations have no particular health guidelines or requirements for vaccinations or medical certificates, but if in doubt, you should always consult a medical professional, vaccination centre or relevant embassy in your country of origin.

We can always accommodate food allergies. However, in order for us to manage such requests you must let us know about any allergies before the tour starts.

Read more in our FAQ and in our Terms and Conditions.

Travel insurance

BKWine does not sell travel insurance. If you want travel insurance, check if your regular home insurance policy includes some kind of travel insurance, or contact your regular insurance company or a travel insurance specialist.

Custom Tours

We also offer custom wine and food tours if you want to travel on different dates, or if you want something different to what we currently offer on our scheduled tours. This tailor-made service can be offered for individuals, companies, professionals, wine tastings clubs etc.

Important information

Our groups are always small. The number of people in the group may vary. The maximum can range from 8 to around 20; check the details in each programme. But our groups are always modest in size. This is important because it guarantees a quality experience and a personal welcome at the wineries we visit.

Read the BKWine Booking Terms and Conditions here. They are important to you!

You are expected to organise your travel independently to the destination for most of our tours, but once you are at the location, we take care of everything.

For more inspiration

Read our wine travel blog. For more, read our online wine magazine the BKWine Magazine with articles from all over the wine world.

And also:

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Subscribe to our free wine and travel newsletter, the BKWine Brief. Each month, it gives you news from the world of wine, restaurant recommendations, tips on our favourite wine producers and much more. It will also keep you updated on forthcoming wine and food tours.

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