This tour is the battle of the Spanish wines. However, it will be a hard choice as both Rioja and Ribera offer excellent wines. We will explore the differences that altitude, location and vinifi cation make while enjoying some of the local gastronomic specialities as well as the heritage woven into this beautiful area. Visiting some of the most famous vineyards, we will explore generations of the wine-making technique that has created the famous wines of these two regions. This four-day tour off ers real insight into the culture and traditional aspects of the Basque Country, making this one of the best wine-focused Spanish tours.
Peñafiel’s historical importance is evident in its fortification and magnificent castle perched on the hilltop, which houses a wine museum. The walls and turrets provide an enchanting backdrop to a spot of afternoon strolling – the perfect way to enjoy its sights.
Pintxos is this area’s answer to tapas. The key difference between the two is that a toothpick is used to stop the delicious toppings from falling off the bread. The choice and variety of pintxos is vast; local cheese with figs, ham with fried green peppers, cod croquettes and pieces of Spanish omelette.
Tempranillo has been the cornerstone of Spain’s most famous wine region, Rioja, for centuries. Often blended with local grapes, the Rioja red has been Spain’s most iconic wine for almost 200 years. But recently, wine-lovers have learnt that Tempranillo is the grape of another great Spanish wine region – Ribera del Duero.
After our flight from London to Bilbao this morning, we will have a little free time in the city before travelling to Rioja – more specifically to the town of Haro. We check in to our hotel, Los Agostinos, before enjoying an evening visit to Marqués de Cáceres for a tasting. This leading Rioja producer Marqués de Cáceres in Cenicero was established by Enrique Former, following a career in Bordeaux. As a style this house has a reputation for consistently high quality wines that are amongst the best of the region and are well balanced between fruit and wood.
Our day begins with a visit to a family run bodega, Luis Cañas, where we take a tour and taste their sumptuous wines. Lunch today is at Contino, a little bodega in Rioja Alavesa, which used to be the family home of the Real de Asua family who own the CVNE. Contino was one of the first ‘single estate producers’ in Rioja and to this day is one of the few estates whose vineyards are actually around the bodega ‘château-style’. We return to Haro in the late afternoon and an independent evening awaits us.
This morning after breakfast, we check out of our hotel and journey to Bodegas Muga, a well-established family firm and one of the most respected names in Rioja. We will taste their well-known reds, as well as the possibility to try their stunning barrel-aged whites. We have some free time over lunch in Burgos, a city founded in 884 and steeped in historical heritage, such as the extraordinary Gothic cathedral, its restaurants and pretty streetscapes. There is even a whiff of legend about the place, as beneath the majestic spire of the cathedral lies the tomb of Burgos’ favourite and most roguish son, El Cid. This afternoon, we check in to our hotel before a group tasting and dinner at Abadía Retuerta.
Today begins with a visit to Aalto, a winery found in Rioja, at which we will try its spicy, dark fruit wines considered to be both fine and supremely elegant. We continue on to another producer for lunch, Condado de Haza, where the style of wines is fairly concentrated and rich. We sample wines from all four of his bodegas, including the Alenza, whose smoothness has converted many A&C clients away from even the Pesquera! Returning to the hotel this afternoon, there is some free time in Peñafiel, best known for its castle and medieval square named ‘el Coso’, which is famously used for bullfights.
Leaving our hotel, we transfer to Toro for our first visit of the day, Bodegas Farina. The Toro denomination is on the edges of the Douro Valley in Castilla y Leon to the southeast of Zamora. The main variety of the DO is Tinta de Toro (aka Tempranillo) for the reds, but there are also some interesting whites here made from Malvasia. We dine at the bodega for lunch before checking into our final hotel and enjoying a free afternoon and evening.
This morning we give you the option of a guided walking tour of Segovia, or to just explore at your leisure. Segovia is possibly the most charming of the towns in Castilla y León, and was recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage site in 1985. Segovia has many beautiful features, including the fairytale Alcázar (the inspiration for the Walt Disney castle) and where Queen Isabel promised Columbus the financial backing he needed to discover America. It has the highest concentration of Romanesque churches in Europe, with narrow alleyways and pedestrian streets. The city is surrounded by a medieval wall bordered by two rivers. The most dominating aspect of the town is the impressive Roman aqueduct, which still functions today. We meet for an early lunch together at the town’s oldest restaurant before travelling to Madrid airport for our flight to London.
Miquel Hudin is a wine writer based in Catalonia, Spain. He received the Fortnum & Mason Best Drinks Writer Award in 2017 and the Geoffrey Roberts Award for 2016. In addition to being a Certified Sommelier with Court of Master Sommeliers, he is also a Certified Educator in both Cava and Sherry. In addition to being a regular judge at the Decanter World Wine Awards, he also writes for the magazine as well as World of Fine Wine and Harpers. He publishes wineonsix. com and has also written several award-winning books on the regions of DOQ Priorat, DO Montsant, and the Republic of
Georgia. Miquel has been leading Arblaster & Clarke tours now since 2016.