This year we return to Spain’s most famous wine region in May – the loveliest of months to visit. Rioja is familiar to everyone who enjoys wine, but the scale of change in what most assume to be a deeply traditional region is really striking.
Our tour aims to bring you right up date with all that Rioja offers now – from top quality examples of the traditional styles of Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva, to more recent trends, including single varietal wines, single vineyard wines, the new white Riojas and the newly approved grape varieties.
Wherever possible we like to visit independent, family-run bodegas and this year’s itinerary really does include some Rioja Stars both long –standing and new.
During the tour, we will be staying in an elegant 4-star hotel in the bustling town of Logroño for 3 nights. Over our 4 days we will be visiting a diverse collection of bodegas to show you the exciting range of styles and trends that the region now offers.
The tour will start and finish at Bilbao International Airport, the nearest to the Rioja region. We have chosen the timings to connect with direct flights from and to the UK operated by British Airways and Vueling, as follows:-
Thursday16th May – British Airways departing Gatwick at 06h.40 and arriving Bilbao at 09h.40;
Sunday 19th May – Vueling departing Bilbao at 18h.25 and arriving at Gatwick at 19h.10;
(if you’re considering extending your visit to the Basque Country, do look at our attached guide to Bilbao and San Sebastian )
Thursday 16th May
Assemble at Bilbao Airport for a 10h.30 departure by executive coach for the Rioja region. The journey takes us through the mountains of the Basque Country, through the Sierra Cantabria and down the valley of the river Ebro to the town of Briones.
Our first visit of the tour is to the great modern bodega of Dinastia Vivanco, where we will have a tour of the winery and a tasting before lunch (cost included).
Dinastia Vivanco is family owned and Rafael Vivanco their gifted and passionate winemaker. Here we will get the chance to sample wines made from recently approved red grape varieties, and Rafael’s lovely, fresh Rosado and aged white.
Over lunch in their excellent restaurant we’ll enjoy some white and Red Crianza.
After lunch there will be time for a post prandial stroll thought the wine museum – the Art Gallery is fantastic.
We then drive on to Logrono and check in to a 4-star hotel in the centre of the town, our base for the next three nights.
After a welcome drink together, the rest of your evening is free. Why not join the locals in the tapas bars in the narrow streets of the old town, just a five-minute walk from the door of the hotel?
Friday 17th May – Logrono Day
After a leisurely breakfast we will leave at 9.45 for 2 visits to the C.U.N.E stable of wineries –Vina Real and Contino.
Vina Real has a very striking new Bodega on top of a hill just outside Logrono. Contino is C.U.N.E.’s jewel – a single estate Rioja beautifully situated on a meander of the Ebro River close to Vina Real. It is one of the most picturesque vineyards in Rioja and theirs are some of the finest wines in Rioja.
We will spend the morning enjoying tastings at the 2 bodegas and have lunch at one of them.
After lunch the coach will take us up to the Basque hill-top town of Laguardia where there will be time to savour the wonderful views from the town walls, enjoy a stroll and perhaps a coffee – or even a restorative G&T – before we head back to Logrono.
Your evening will be free. Another night in the tapas bars or something more sedate? There are a plenty of good restaurants within walking distance of the hotel. We will provide you with a list of our favourites.
Saturday 18th May – Haro Day
We will make an earlier start today leaving at 9.am
As far as bodegas go, Haro and its immediate surrounding enjoy the highest concentration of top -notch bodegas in Rioja.
We’ll be visiting 3 bodegas today:
First we will climb up into the Sierra Cantabrica north of Briones to visit Bodegas Artuke. Arturo is one of Rioja’s best new-wave modern winemakers of the moment. His approach and wines are refreshingly different.
We‘ll leave at 11.00 to go Bodegas Tobelos in the little town of Brinas. Another strikingly modern bodega with a small range of beautifully crafted wines from winemaker Adriana Laucirica. Here we’ll get a chance to see some vineyards – the location is quite special, giving extensive views around the region – and we will also visit the bodega.
We will leave Tobelos at 1.45 to head into Haro for lunch at the Hotel Agustinos at 2pm.
At 4pm we will leave for the short journey to Lopez Heredia
Our last visit of the day will be to Lopez de Heredia in Haro. Tondonia, as they are affectionately known by their many fans, are recognised as the best exponents of the classical style of Rioja – so in contrast to the modernity of the morning’s visits we will enjoy some of the finest examples of the traditional style of Rioja here – in Zahar Hadid’s extraordinary tasting room.
We will leave at 6pm and return to Logrono in the early evening. Time for a bit of shopping before a final round of the tapas bars?
Sunday 19th May
After breakfast, we check out of our hotel 10.00am, leave at 10.15 and travel north to the west of the Rioja Alta region and the bodega of one of our favourite family producers – Bodegas Urbina located in the little town of Cuzcurrita at Rioja’s most westerly point.
This family owned bodega is now in the hands of Pedro Benito Urbina. It has a wide range of wines many of which released after long ageing. The wines are delightful and great value.
After our tasting, we will have lunch at La Vieja Bodega Restaurant, a short drive away, leaving us perfectly located to head up the motorway to Bilbao afterwards in time for evening flights home.
Our tour ends at Bilbao airport.
Changes to the itinerary: Please note that, on rare occasions, we may have to make changes to the itinerary for reasons beyond our control.
£875 per person sharing a double room
A supplement of £125 will be payable for single occupancy of a double room, but there are normally plenty of congenial people looking for someone to share a twin-bedded room. If this option is of interest, just let us know.
• Air travel to and from Bilbao
• Telephone calls, drinks and other items of personal expenditure charged to your hotel account.
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