RAISE A GLASS TO THE HARVEST
La Rioja’s capital makes a great holiday for wine-lovers, says Sam Wylie-harris
Whether you want to sample the latest vintage or take a tour, the famous Spanish wine region of Rioja has always been a wine-lovers’ hotspot.
A highlight, if you can make it, is the region’s annual harvest wine festival, a weeklong carnival that kicks off on September 15.
Harvesters set their sights on Rioja’s the lush, green vineyards, which are home to the tempranillo grape, and bush vines that blanket the landscape uphill towards the Sierra de Cantabria mountains.
Along with great value reds and mature riojas, for a true taste of the province, the harvest also makes for a great excuse to wield a pair of secateurs and join the army of pickers (if you have the back for it).
Otherwise, it’s party time in the narrow, medieval streets of the city of Logrono where you can meet winemakers and drink in freshly crushed grapes.
“When you think of the north of Spain, many will imagine San Sebastian, but there’s another hidden gem less than a two hour drive away - Logrono.
The vibrant capital city of the Rioja region is renowned for making some of the best wines in Spain,” says Elena Adell, chief winemaker, Campo Viejo.
“Travellers will find some of the most authentic Spanish food and wine experiences here, and it’s also where our Campo Viejo winery lives.”
To help you explore this colourful town, here’s what to do when you get there...
Visit between August and October
Consistent with the rest of Europe, the end of August to October is the best time to see the vines, when the fruit is ripe, juicy and ready to harvest. If you’re passionate about wine, visit the Campo Viejo vineyard, an 90 minutes from Bilbao Airport, and make time for the winery tour and tastings.
Enjoy the view
Only 50 kilometres from the town of Logrono is the breathtaking Parque Natural Sierra de Cebollera. Here you can take in a landscape of high mountains and large natural wild pine, beech and oak forests. Although, if you’re driving, a wine-fuelled picnic will have to wait.
Embrace the history
For the casual drinker who wants to enjoy other forms of art other than winemaking, Monasterio de Yuso is not far from Logrono and one of the oldest monasteries in Spain. Built by Benedictine monks, the beautiful 18th-century frescoes still maintain their rich colours, and visitors can also discover the history of the Spanish language.
Check out Laguardia
To keep you adventuring through the region’s scenery, the wonderful walled town of Laguardia is steeped in history and will make you feel like you’ve been transported back to a classic Spanish medieval settlement. Below the cobbled streets, the town has an extensive underground wine cellar with tunnels running under most of the town’s homes.
Wine and dine in style, or simply snack
Enjoy the best of Bilbao and Basque country by discovering their gourmet food and wine pairings, and famous pintxos (local tapas served on rounds of bread). The town is packed with Michelin star restaurants, but if you’re on a budget, then Plaza Nueva in the heart of the old town has loads of wine bars and is buzzing at the weekend.
Be entertained alfresco
Eating outside is a must in Logrono, and Bar Sebas is the perfect place to scoff a traditional Spanish omelette with a glass of red.
Bring the wine experience home
Here’s where to find two of Campo Viejo’s award-winning wines...
Campo Viejo Tempranillo 2016, Rioja (£7, Sainsbury’s) is a young and vibrant wine with ripe red cherry fruits, sweet spice and vanilla notes.
While Campo Viejo Reserva 2013, Rioja (£9.50, Sainsbury’s) is a blend of tempranillo, graciano and mazuelo. The wine spends 18 months in oak and brim with rich black fruits with notes of cinnamon, cigar box, clove and vanilla.
The Campo Viejo winery, Monasterio de Yuso, Rioja and narrow streets of Laguardia