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.
Next wine tour to Rioja: Contact us!
Rioja has undergone several transformations over the last 20-30-40 years. In the 80s it was many winelovers’ 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.
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.
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.
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.
Contact BKWine for more details.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
We will talk about aging 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 specialties 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.
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 abpassionate 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.
Sunday / Day 5 — Heading back home
The tour ends after breakfast. Departure.
Program may be subject to minor modifications.
Tour Details — Rioja 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 Logrono 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.
- 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 XX participants registered at the “book before” date.
Book This Trip
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
More on our wine tours
About the wine producers and wineries we visit
Our aim is that you shall experience some of the best and most interesting that the wine region has to offer, both of wine and food.
We put a big effort into finding and creating outstanding winery visits. Often it will not be the most “famous” and internationally well-known wineries that will give you the best and most unique experiences…
It is usually when you get to meet the winemaker or winery owner himself (or often herself) that the visits become really exciting. And perhaps we even meet the whole family at the estate.
You start discussing and start to understand what it is they do and why in the winery and in the vineyard. Maybe we will also have lunch in the winery or at their home. Need we say we invariably have private wine tastings at the wineries?
That is why our trips are not “jam packed” with visits at wineries. Nevertheless we often run short of time since the discussions – and the wine tastings – can easily become very engaging…
Our wine country tours typically include a mix of small family producers, exclusive boutique wineries and larger internationally well-known wine estates, all selected with great care so that it will give you a unique experience of the people and of the behind-the-scenes in the winery and a good understanding of the wine district’s characteristics, tradition and culture.
At the time of publishing a travel program not all visits have been finalised. We are continuously working on improving the program. The domaines / wineries / châteaux that we visit on a tour may therefore sometimes differ from what was written in the original program. Contact us if you want more details, or if you have any special requests.
On meals: food and gastronomy
Wine and food are intimately linked. That is part of our wine travel philosophy; wine is an integral part of the gastronomy.
A wine tour with BKWine will therefore also be a gastronomic experience.
The meals that are included in a tour with BKWine are on a gourmet level and of very high standard.
Sometimes we will have a meal with a winemaker, perhaps in the wine cellar or at the winery, or even in their home. This is a unique experience that is generally not open to other visitors to wineries. It is an occasion to experience exciting combinations of food and wine while discussing with the people who made the wine.
Sometimes we will have a luxurious meal at a gourmet restaurant. At other times it may be not at a prestigious luxury address but at a local restaurant selected for its presentation of local gastronomic specialities, its atmosphere and its quality – a place where locals go. Or perhaps it will be a buffet lunch made at home by the winemaker and his wife. In all cases we want to show you local gastronomic specialities and the local food and wine pairings.
Do not expect a picnic with salad and sausage from the supermarket and wine in plastic mugs… Think instead of a wine-and-dine experience with specially composed menu with three or four courses and delicious wines.
A wine tour with BKWine is also a culinary experience both for the wine enthusiast and for the gourmet. A gourmet wine tour!
Why travel with BKWine?
We are experts and specialists in wine and food tours and wine tourism, but also in wine in a broader perspective.
No other tour operator has a comparable knowledge and experience of wine, wine regions, wine tours and gourmet travel as BKWine.
We have organised hundreds of wine and food tours. This is what we love to do, because it is fun and exciting. What we want more than anything is to share with you all these wonderful experiences.
It does not matter if you are “a total novice” on wine and food or if you have a life-long experience in the wine sector. We will give you a very special experience, in a way that no other tour operator can do.
We write in specialised wine magazines and one of our books has won the prize as best wine book in the world. We are regularly called on to be part of judging panels in wine competitions.
We personally visit some 300 vineyards every year. We have organised several hundreds of wine and food tours with an experience going back more than twenty years. We are invited as speakers at wine tourism and culinary touring conferences.
We choose our tour destinations and winery visits with great care. Not because a winery happens to be carrying a “famous name” but because they will give our guests — you! — a unique and special experience. You may be looking for a short wine week-end holiday or a longer wine vacation; in all cases you can be confident that you will get a top quality tour, an experience of a lifetime. Or at least one that will last you until the next time you come on a wine tour with BKWine. Many of our travellers are returning clients.
A wine and food tour with BKWine is always guided by a knowledgeable and experienced BKWine guide and tour manager, someone who knows the ins and outs of wine, of the local gastronomy, of the culture and who speaks the language.
Some accolades we at BKWine and our wine and food tours have received:
- “World’s Top Wine Tours” by Travel + Leisure Magazine, the world’s biggest travel magazine
- “Best wine tasting holidays”, AOL Travel’s list of top wine tours
- “Recommended Wine Tours” by Munskankarna, the world’s biggest wine tasting and wine appreciation association
- “World’s Best Wine Book for Professionals” as well as “Best Wine Book of the Year” in Sweden 2010 for the book The Creation of a Wine
- “Best wine book for Professionals” again in 2012 in Sweden, as well as silver, runner-up, as “World’s Best Educational Wine Book” for the book Wine and the Environment
- “Wine Personality of the Year” by Munskankarna, the world’s biggest wine tasting and wine appreciation association
- On the Wine Media Power List by Wine Business International Magazine (Britt, 2012)
Read more on why to choose BKWine for a wine and food tour.
Read more on what previous travellers have said about our tours.
Our groups are always small. The group size may vary, sometimes maximum 8, sometimes 20, but always of a modest size (we do not do “minimum 20, maximum 45”). Check the details in each program. This is important since it guarantees a quality experience and a personal welcome at the wineries we visit.
BKWine is a Swedish registered travel organiser. BKWine has a bonded travel guarantee deposit so that you can feel safe when booking with us. We fully comply with European and Swedish travel guarantee regulations. British travellers may be familiar with the ABTA (Association of British Travel Agents) protection scheme which is a similar model. BKWine follows the code of conduct and financial safeguards defined by the Swedish Consumer Agency and The Legal, Financial and Administrative Services Agency (“Kammarkollegiet”, with a history dating back to 1539). Read more about this in our Booking Terms and Conditions.
Read the BKWine Booking Terms and Conditions here. They are important to you!
You organise your travel independently to the destination for most of our tours but on location we take care of everything.
For more inspiration
Read our wine travel blog. And also:
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- There are thousands of pictures from previous trips on BKWine Photography
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We also do custom wine and food tours if you want to choose different dates or if you want something different than what we currently offer on our scheduled tours – for individuals, companies, professionals, wine tastings clubs etc.