The best way to understand the evolution of Rioja Wineries

Rioja has an ancient winegrowing tradition of more than 2,000 years, and we are fortunate to be able to visit many different styles of wineries that remain from the last 10 centuries, because … the history of wine is the history of Europe. We will plan the best route to visit Rioja wineries!

Stone Wine Press

Small grape branches are used to filter the Must in the stone wine press to prevent solid parts of the grapes and skins from falling into the vats.

The Phoenicians introduced wine to the Mediterranean coast of the Iberian Peninsula in the 11th Century B.C., the Romans later brought their vines and wine to Rioja through the Ebro valley in the 2nd Century B.C.

The actual origin of winemaking in Rioja are the Stone Wine Presses wineries, that are small man-made cavities hewn in the stone where they did the traditional grape pressing with their bare feet, using vine sticks as a natural filter and then the must, which is freshly pressed fruit juice that contains the skins, seeds and stems of the fruit, was stored in containers made out of animal skins that were later transported to their houses. This was done because it was easier to move the skins than the whole grapes from the vineyards to their houses.

We can include some of them when you visit Rioja wineries, and at harvest time we do the traditional treading of the grapes to obtain the first grape must of the year.

Underground Wineries

The owner of Valentin Pascual Winery decants the wine in the centennial wooden vats to taste its progress.

The technology for regulating temperature in the cellar or in the wine deposits did not exist in the Middle Ages, so the Rioja villages started to build underground wineries, that are caves with high humidity and a constant temperature of between 12 and 14 degrees Celsius during the whole year, ideal for making and aging wines. .

In our tours we will visit Rioja medieval villages where antique homes that preserve caves from the 15th Century still exist, a trip to the past that fascinates our guests, discovering secret underground passages that connected the different homes to hide during the most conflictive time of our region.

Later the underground wineries were built in the northern part of the villages where the temperature and humidity were better suited for preserving wines. More than half of the Rioja villages have a cellar district where hundreds of wineries were excavated and all you can see today is small masonry stone entry buildings.

In our tours we will see the “tuferas” that are ventilation shafts to help eliminate the CO2 produced in the winemaking process. Then we will enter the cellar where we will experience the traditional winemaking process that starts with the stepping of the grapes and fermenting in stone vats, and later we will go down the steep and narrow staircase to see the wineries and taste the wine directly from the centennial tanks.

This experience is unique to La Rioja, where only two wineries make wine in this artisanal way, so you must visit Rioja wineries like this when you plan your trip.

Centennial Wineries

Hundreds of historic bottles of wine rest at the Cvne wine cellar cemetery under perfect conditions of humidity and temperature.

In the middle of the 19th Century, when Phylloxera arrived from northern Europe, French winemakers started to look for wines from other regions to satisfy their demand and due to their proximity with France and the similar winemaking process, La Rioja benefited implementing the Bordeaux winemaking method and learning the technique of aging of wine that was later established in the whole region. This way new wineries started to be created with a mainly commercial objective and with quality as a reference, driven by the arrival of the rail system that transported wine from Rioja to France.

This is the reason why we include these centennial wineries when you visit Rioja wineries around the different train stations of the zone, like the famous Haro Station District where the largest number of centennial wineries in the world is concentrated, and also in other places like Cenicero, Fuenmayor and Logroño.

Modern Wineries

Torre de Oña Chateau lies surrounded by beautiful vines in the Rioja sunlight.

Starting in the 20th Century, the cellars adopted new ways of winemaking with the advancement of new technologies to continue elaborating high quality wines, building modern wineries that were comfortable and functional at the same time, combining new techniques with traditional practices, creating new spaces in the cellars such as the grape selection table, temperature controlled stainless steel fermentation vats, barrel room with climate and humidity control adequate for aging, and a bottle storage zone until their release to the market.

We will visit Rioja wineries with the most modern installations to do special tastings directly from barrels to distinguish between American and French oak and other types of wood, it’s the best way to learn how to differentiate between the flavours that provide the different kind of barrels.

We can also find château style wineries in Rioja, that enjoy the best spots of the region surrounded by their own vineyards. There are very few wineries of this type in the region but they are undoubtedly the most remarkable since we will start the visit at the vineyards where in the fall we can distinguish the different varieties of grapes by the colour of their leaves.

In this style of wineries, we usually have picnics with local produce, an exclusive experience where we can enjoy the vineyards, nature and the flavours of the land while sipping a glass of fine rioja wine.

Avant-Garde Wineries

The architect Iñaki Aspiazu designed a modern winery which uses gravity to move the wine from one level to another underneath this stunning building.

The latest trend for the 21st century are avant-garde wineries created by world renown architects. These wineries are a result of the wine tourism boom in Spain and they have created architectural masterpieces building an attractive destination for wine lovers while adding a totally different vision to the typical landscape of vineyards in the traditional Rioja.

You have to visit Rioja wineries being architectural jewels of La Rioja. We will personalize your tour with your favourite wineries, let us start planning your trip right now!