Rioja. More than wine: Camino and Monasteries

Rioja. More than wine: Camino and Monasteries

Rioja is well known for its wines and wineries. Fewer people know that Rioja is home to the Monastery where Spanish language was first written.  Today there are 2 monasteries, Yuso and  Suso, and both of them have a lot of cultural value.  These monasteries are located not far from river Oja, which is supposed to be responsible for the region´s name (Rio-Oja) Rio meaning river in Spanish language.

Rioja church

Another not so well known fact about Rioja is that it is located in El Camino. Santo Domingo de la Calzada is a very important center for pilgrims that undertake El Camino every year.  Logroño, the Capital City at La Rioja, is also part of El Camino, though being a bigger city it may not hold the same charm as Santo Domingo does.

Every year many pilgrims decide to stop for a few days in Rioja and visit wineries and enjoy local food and wine. A walking wine tour in Rioja can be a great way to spend 2 or 3 days in this region of Northern Spain.  Santo Domingo de la Calzada is located in the area called as Rioja Baja. This part of the Rioja wine producing region is not as famous as Rioja Alta or Rioja Alavesa, but it offers also many interesting wineries and beautiful vineyard landscapes. A few kilometers north of Santo Domingo de la Calzada you will find Cuzcurrita and Sajazarra. These 2 villages are home to a good number of wineries, and offer interesting monuments, castles and good restaurants to enjoy Rioja food.

A bit further North, some 25 kilometers north of Santo Domingo you will find yourself in Haro, which is home to some of the most famous wineries in Rioja., like Muga, Lopez Heredia, Rioja Alta, Ramón Bilbao or Cvne.  Haro´s bodegas are located here for one very simple reason. Wine had to be transported North to the Harbour in Bilbao. From Bilbao the wine was shipped to Bordeaux and other important European harbours. Haro was a cross of roads, and the train Station at Haro became crucial in enabling the expansion of Rioja wines and wineries. You can learn more about the history of Rioja and wine in this post.

rioja winery Muga in Haro

Rioja has been one of those spots in Spain that has managed to remain authentic. The villages are quiet, the bells can still be heard, many local people enjoy easy lives, without the stress of large cities. The only exception is Logroño. Despite it is not a large City itself, it shows a deep contrast with the small villages that are spread all around the landscapes of Rioja and Rioja Alavesa.

As in the case of many other wine regions, a river is responsible for the fertile valley. The Ebro river is Spain´s second largest river. It dies at the Mediterranean sea, south of Barcelona, in the region of Tarragona. It´s delta is a natural park and an example of sustainable agriculture.

The Ebro river in Rioja divides the terriroty. North of the river we find Rioja Alavesa, that belongs to the Spanish Basque country. South of the Ebro river we encounter Rioja.  The river offers some of the best hikes in Rioja and at some of its villages it offers fantastic opportunities to enjoy kayaking.

Classification system of Rioja wines

We have to answer to this question very often during our winery tours in Rioja region. Wine is a highly regulated sector in the European Union and in the case of Spain the regulations are established at regional level by the “Consejos reguladores” or regulatory bodies. In the case of Rioja this is the Cnsejor Regulador del vino de Rioja, which establishes the regulation for Rioja wines on things like which varieties can be planted, maximum yield per acre permitted and so forth.

Original post: Wine Tours Spain

How to Wine Taste – a quick guide to wine tasting

I can’t think of a better way to begin this new blog than with a short wine tasting guide. It helped me a lot when I began to study this wonderful world of wine tasting.

Extract from: Wine Tasting: A Profesional Handbook. By Ronald S. Jackson. Elsevier 2002.

Each sample should be poured into identical, clear, tulip-shaped, wine glasses. They should each be filled (1/4 to 1/3 full) with the same volume of wine.


I. Appearance
1 – View each sample at a 30° to 45° angle against a bright, white background.
2 – Record separately the wine’s:clarity (absence of haze) color hue (shade or tint) and depth (intensity or amount of pigment) viscosity (resistance to flow) effervescence (notably sparkling wines)

II. Odor “in-glass”
1 – Sniff each sample at the mouth of the glass before swirling.
2 – Study and record the nature and intensity of the fragrancea (see Figs 1.3 and 1.4)
3 – Swirl the glass to promote the release of aromatic constituents from the wine.
4 – Smell the wine, initially at the mouth and then deeper in the bowl.
5 – Study and record the nature at intensity of the fragrance.
6 – Proceed to other samples.
7 – Progress to tasting the wines (III)

III. “In-mouth” sensations

(a) Taste and mouth-feel
1 – Take a small (6 to 10 ml) sample into the mouth.
2 – Move the wine in the mouth to coat all surfaces of the tongue, cheeks and palate.
3 – For the various taste sensations (sweet, acid, bitter) note where they are percieved, when first detected, how long they last, and how they change in perception and intensity.
4 – Concentrate on the tactile (mouth-feel) sensations of astringency, prickling, body, temperature, and “heat”.
5 – Record these perceptions and how they combine with one another.

(b) Odor
1 – Note the fragrance of the wine at the warmer temperatures of the mouth.
2 – Aspirate the wine by drawing air through the wine to enhance the release of its aromatic constituents.
3 – Concentrate on the nature, development and duration of the fragrance. Note and record any differences between the “in-mouth” and “in-glass” aspects of the fragrance

(c) Aftersmell
1 – Draw air into the lungs that has been aspirated through the wine for 15 to 30 s.
2 – Swallow the wine (or spit it into a cuspidor).
3 – Breath out the warmed vapors through the nose.
4 – Any odor detected in this manner is termed aftersmell; it is usually found only in the finest or most aromatic wines.

Although fragrance is technically divided into the aroma (derived from the grapes) and bouquet (derived from fermentation, processing and aging), descriptive terms are more informative.

IV. Finish

1 – Concentrate on the olfactory and gustatory sensations that linger in the mouth.
2 – Compare these sensations with those previously detected.
3 – Note their character and duration.

V. Repetition of assessment
1 – Reevaluate of the aromatic and sapid sensations of the wines, beginning at II.3—ideally several
times over a period of 30 min.
2 – Study the duration and development (change in intensity and quality) of each sample.

Finally, make an overall assessment of the pleasurableness, complexity, subtlety, elegance, power, balance, and memorableness of the wine. With experience, you can begin to make evaluations of its potential— the likelihood of the wine improving in its character with additional aging.

The most important part is the “repetition of assessment”!