Bodegas de La Rioja: Part 1

La Rioja, Spain is a wine lover’s paradise that provides never-ending wine entertainment year round. In the northwestern part of La Rioja, Spain’s smallest region, is the small city of Haro. Haro is home to more than a dozen world-class ‘bodegas’ (meaning winery in Spanish). I recently visited the Bodegas Muga in Haro and experienced traditional wine making first-hand. La Rioja is almost entirely covered in vines with tiny villages scattered throughout the mountain tops. There are countless bodegas that offer tours throughout the year and even more small family owned bodegas in this region. I chose to visit Muga because it is one of, if not the only, large bodegas producing Rioja wine with traditional methods.

To visit Bodegas Muga you must call ahead and schedule an appointment for a tour. This is true not only at Muga, but at just about every bodega in La Rioja. The reason for this, I learned, is because depending on the season, they may be physically opening the doors and turning the lights on to show you around the winery.

For 6 euros per person, Bodegas Muga did just that: We showed up 10 minutes early and they were opening the door for us to prepare for our tour. The women who showed us around was very knowledgeable and more than enthusiastic to share with us the process of wine making at this particular bodega. As I mentioned earlier, Muga is known for being traditional in their wine making. The entire aging process is done in wooden casks in a dark cellar. It was truly amazing to see the age and size of some of these wooden casks. As the tour went on we learned that they also make the wine barrels at an in house wood shop. Some of the tools that they used looked like something out of a carpentry museum. It was truly amazing how “old-school” or traditional this winery’s methods were. I couldn’t believe that they produce more than 1 million bottles of wine annually–until I saw the room that was filled with 14,000 oak barrels.

The amount of work (and wine tasted) throughout the process must be astronomical. Another traditional wine making method that truly was mind blowing to see was the hand separation of egg whites, which are used to reduce sediment. At the end of the hour-long tour we were taken into a tasting room, where they opened up three bottles of wine for us to taste: blanco (or white), Crianza (or a red wine aged for 6 months in oak barrels), and Torre Muga (a red wine aged 18 months in oak barrels and another year in bottle). All of the wines were delicious and the tour was fascinating. Muga is a definite must see when touring this famous Spanish wine region.

[slideshow]

Bodegas Muga S.L.
www.bodegasmuga.com
Barrio de la Estación s/n 26200 Haro (La Rioja)
Teléfono: 941.311.825
Fax: 941.312.867

About the author: Eric Landon is a 24 year old Journalism graduate from Portland, Oregon. He is currently living in Spain and working as a freelance journalist.  Eric is a frequent contributor to WAFT through their social media pages on Twitter and Facebook. He spends his free time traveling, writing, drinking wine, eating great food, and taking photographs.

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3 Comments
  1. Hi Eric, love this article on Muga! My husband and I are also travel writers with a focus on wine, mainly in the US but our travels are bringing us to Spain next week. We are spending a few days in Madrid before heading to the La Rioja region. Can you offer us any tips for inexpensive places to stay and wineries to visit in the area? We just love what you are doing and look forward to reading more of your work!
    Cheers,
    Katie

  2. Hi Katie,

    There is so much to do and see in La Rioja. It’s the secret tourist destination with not many tourists. Do you speak any Spanish at all? How many days are you staying there?

    My recommendation for a place to stay if you do not mind being 20 minute walk from the center (or 6 euro taxi) is the Hotel NH, it is very nice and reasonably priced (50-70 euros a night), but if you want something really cheap I can recommend a place for 20 euros a night that is basically someones apt where they rent out rooms and you share a bathroom. Also you can stay right in the center at a nice hotel called Marques de Vallejo that is right in the center. It is about 70 euros a night and you cannot go wrong with this area. As for bodegas there are so many (100+) that you can visit and it really depends on how you plan to get to the bodegas. Muga is great but you may have trouble getting an english guide but even with a spanish guide its worth seeing the old style of wine making that they use here.

    A couple must sees are the Museum at Dinastio Vivanco (http://www.dinastiavivanco.com/museo/museo.asp), and the bodega/hotel at Marques de Riscal (http://www.marquesderiscal.com/). If you are into architecture at all you can visit bodegas like Riscal that are not only amazing winerys but have some of the best architecture in the world. Here is a video for some of what you can see in this small region http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/fast_track/9405979.stm.

    It really depends on what you are looking for in a wine tour and what kind of transportation you have. Let me know if you plan to take buses or have a car and I can better recommend some places to visit and how to get there. I have lived here for nearly a year and hate to be leaving in June.

    If you love food and don’t mind crowds you must visit the old town around 930 (Calle Laurel) for some of the best pinxos (tapas) you can imagine. Depending on when you are going to be in the area I can take you out for pinxos and show you some of the best places and good wines too.

    Glad to hear you are visiting the area and I am happy to provide as much info as I have for you.

    -Eric Landon

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