Enotourism in Spain
We are all familiar with the sight of the wide selection of Spanish wines gracing the shelves at our supermarkets and perhaps even buying a full flavoured Rioja to enjoy with dinner, or a Sherry as an aperitif. Wines from all corners of the planet can be enjoyed at your very own dinner table, but over the past few years, more and more tourists have been looking to visit the regions wine-producing regions and sampling wines.
Spain has seen a significant rise in Enotourism to the country. 2017 saw over 3 million tourists visiting bodegas, wine museums and other wine-related tourist spots, an increase of 18.23% from the previous year and it is estimated that the sector made nearly 70 million euros, increasing by 23.89% from 2016¹. The steady increase in wine tourism to Spain has inevitably led to the emergence of a number of specialised wine routes, wine hotels and museums; as such there has never been a better time for wine lovers to visit Spain.
The unique climates throughout Spain are responsible for the wide selection of grape varieties which can be found in the Spanish wine market. From the green hills of the north to the arid lands of the south, over 22 million acres of land² are dedicated to wine production. In addition to producing delicious wine, the collections of vineyards create beautiful landscapes and visitors are just as enamoured by the luscious scenery as the wine that’s produced. Bodega and vineyard visits are a staple in the country’s most prominent wine regions with an average cost of under 10€ per person for a winery tour and tasting.
The Wine Routes of Spain have been set up by associations of vineyards, tourist boards, wine vendors and wine experience attractions throughout Spain looking to promote regional wines and the beautiful areas that produce them. As you would expect, there are numerous wine routes around the La Rioja and Basque regions, but there are also a number of routes through Castilla y Leon, Galicia, Cataluña and Murcia.
As delicious as the well-known Rioja, Sherry or Cava is, it is always a pleasure to discover a new favourite by sampling the likes of the lesser known wines such as the rich and fruity Ribera Del Duero, the Albariño wine from the Rías Baixas in Galicia or the crisp, fresh Rueda white wines made from the Verdejo grape and found in Castilla y Leon. Look out for the ‘Denominacion de Origen’ mark found on bottles which indicate the wine’s classification as a quality Spanish regional product.
There are a number Paradors which are excellently located to allow you to combine a visit to Spain with a trip to the various vineyards spread throughout the country. The Parador de Santo Domingo de la Calzada is only 30 minutes’ drive from the town of Haro, the wine capital of La Rioja, where traditional white Riojas are aged in a barrel before bottling producing a distinctive rich, nutty and oxidised sensation and taste, working particularly well with seafood.
The Parador is also only 30 minutes from Eltziego, home of the famous Marques de Riscal vineyard with its stylish hotel and Michelin-starred restaurant. Visitors to the area cannot fail to spot the Marques de Riscal’s hotel with its outlandish twisted metal façade which was designed by architect Frank Gehry, the man behind the Bilbao’s Guggenheim museum. The wines are known for their excellent quality and are a desirable addition to your tasting list. Discover delicate, sensational flavours on your palate with the white and fruity bold notes with the red wines.
Toro wine, as the bovine name suggests, offers a heartier red wine from Zamora. This full bodied wine, produced from the Tempranillo grape, is a brazen beast not for the faint hearted with a longer ripening season than the typical Ribera Del Duero wines. The Parador de Zamora, an attractive 15th century renaissance palace, is the perfect place to stay as you visit the area.
South of Zamora near to Salamanca is the Hacienda Zorita Wine Hotel & Spa, a hotel we have worked numerous times. The estate dates back to the 14th century when a hospice used by the Dominican Order of monks stood on the site, today the estate is home to a grand hotel and vineyard with 40 rooms split across the main building and surrounding villas. The vineyard produces the well-regarded Marques de Concordia wine which is deep in notes of cherry with a hint of oak, and is an excellent accompaniment to red meat and game.
Galicia, in the north west of Spain, is also home to some excellent wines. The main wine-growing region is the Rías Baixas, the home of Spain’s Albariño wine production. ‘Albariño’ refers to the colour of the grapes with ‘alba’ being the Galician word for white. You can sample these wines, and visit several excellent Paradors in the area such as the 16th century renaissance palace of the Parador de Pontevedra in the heart of the Rías Baixas, or at the Parador de Cambados, a manor house in the centre of the town of Cambados. Cambados is known as the ‘the cradle of Albariño wine’and hosts a popular Albariño wine festival each August. Just south of Rías Baixas on the coast you will find the Parador de Baiona a manor house fortress with spectacular sea views.
Parador de Pontevedra
In Briones, located just 35km from La Rioja’s capital of Logroño, you will find the Vivanco wine museum which makes for an interesting visit, regardless of whether you consider yourself an avid wine enthusiast. With its five permanent exhibition halls and a hall for temporary exhibits spread over 4000 metres squared of space, you can learn all about wine, the process of making it and its history, and, of course, taste some delicious samples in the bodegas. Furthermore, the museum and winery, designed in a minimalist style, boasts breath-taking views of the Cantabria Mountains and magnificent vineyards. The Vivanco family created this place with the mission in mind of improving people’s knowledge of wine culture.
Catalonia is well known for its Cava, but in recent years the region has expanded beying its popular sparkling wine to create a number of enticing wine experiences. A truly unique concept are the wine cathedrals of the vineyards of southern Catalonia, El Pinell de Brai and Gandesa, which were constructed in rural areas to optimise the productivity and the quality of the wine and are veritable shrines to wine. You can organise a tour of the Catedral Del Vi at El Pinell de Brai with an audio guide available in 6 languages including English and end the tour with a wine and olive oil tasting. In addition to the wine tours and tastings, the Catedral de Vi offers seasonal dining, and its restaurant is under the guiding hand of Chef Fran López, who has Michelin starred restaurants elsewhere, at the Catedral Del Vi. The ‘cathedral’ was built under the instruction of Cèsar Martinell, a direct disciple of Gaudí, and the winery has 3 adjoining front facing naves and 2 cross naves at the rear of the building, creating the cathedral-like shape. The Parador de Tortosa, set in an imposing 10th century castle, is only a 30 minute drive south of the Catedral del Vi.
For lovers of wine or those simply looking for an interesting spin on a traditional touring holiday, a trip that navigates your route through wine country will certainly result in a delicious and beautiful journey.