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.
Bodegas Muga S.L.
Barrio de la Estación s/n 26200 Haro (La Rioja)
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.