Wine tours by Bonito Norte Viajes – our philosophy and favorites
When we launched our first Explore Rioja Wine Tour in 2011 we tried hard to take a step away from the regular mainstream Wine Tours some of our competitors were offering. We wanted to create “off the beaten path” tours and really do something different with winemakers, looking at tradition and modernity in a hands-on kind of way, and do it our way.
And, how do we do this? Well, first, we could never have done it without first meeting some of the best, more interesting and inspiring people. The key on our Wine Tours is to work with micro-wineries or very small family owned bodegas: wineries where they tell us their stories and where our travelers meet the people working the land and making the wine. It is just as easy as that. It is usually a son or a daughter taking over land from their fathers and taking the step to make quality wine out of old vines, applying new techniques and new technology. The father, in most cases a wine farmer with a lot of undocumented knowledge of the grapes and how-to-take-good-care of them, is usually summing up his wine career and looking forward to a retirement after years of heavy work in the vineyards. The cooperatives used to be the employer/client to that generation, always pushing for quantity giving as a result; heavy fertilizing, no thorough quality deselecting and extreme wine pressing extracting more than the heart of the wine. How many times haven´t we heard the story of generational clashes when sons and daughters start to prune heavily to get low quality yields or pressing just barely to get only the best wine from the grapes.
It is in these bodegas and with this people, we try to learn how to prune and get a solid explanation in the vineyards, do barrel tastings to understand malolactic fermentations, grapestomping and pressing in ancient carved stone pools. For us, these are ways to get under the skin of real winemaking. Each travel becomes unique and with the right people it is fun, learning, a life long memory for our travelers, and as far you can get from an industrial winery guided visit.
This is really about tasting and understanding the conditions and surroundings. so we combine our visits with nature walks in the vineyards or in surrounding mountains where you get views of the landscape, understand microclimates and get a feel of the terruño (terroir or soil). You experience the smells and see the limiting trees, bushes and spices, and understand the flavours of the wine. The soil is very much on winemakers minds today trying to make a difference. A thorough work is taking place in many D.O.´s in trying to find every plots peculiar difference. This is indeed a common denominator in winemaking in Spain today.
In RIOJA our favorite wineries for their great wines, down to earth spirit and helpful ways, are Bodega Monge Garbati or Viña Ane, Bodegas Agrícola Labastida Tierra, Bodegas Miguel Merino… These visits combined give us a “coupage” of understanding real life behind the romantic Falcon Crest wine dreams one sometimes can get at the big traditional wineries.
What about other appellations? In small ARRIBES DEL DUERO La Setera and Alma Roja are incredible stories of foreigners settling down in small villages aiming to fulfill their winemaking dreams and working with old vines. In TORO, Valdigal – the smallest winery we have ever worked with, is a story of true wine enthusiasts, and in RIBERA DEL DUERO – we discovered terruño obsessed Baden Numen and Bodegas Alonso del Yerro, new Bonito Norte bodegas. In PRIORAT, Cataluña our favorite winemaker is Joan Sangenis and his Celler Cal Pla. Joan a former Alvaro Palacios apprentice, seventh generation farmer who has taken the step to start making quality estate bottled wine.
There are dozens of great young, up-n-coming winemakers who will continue to lead the way of New Spain in the wine business, relying on old vines, quality thinking all the way, eco & logical agriculture (as Rodrigo of Tierra will express it), new technique and fruit over the over oaked traditional wines. The fresh air of New Spain will keep the country on the top three stage for decades. That is at least our hope.
But New Spain is not only wine, it is also food. Wine from Spain, is almost always combined with food. In our opinion this goes especially for Spain where people oftenly have a very laid back relation to tastings and wine. The wine is to drink with tapas/pintxos, traditional food or in fine dining moments. The fine dining in Spain is as you know something else. The Basque and Catalan chefs started this revolution some 20 years ago, adapting a french attitude of putting more detail into presentation and cooking, combining almost science and art to the kitchen but with the difference of not applying the cream the French used for sauces. The Spanish fine dining wanted to be healthier and more Mediterranean. Today in Spain it is not necessary to go to Arzak in San Sebastián to enjoy top quality fine dining. In many restaurants a great dinner below 50€ per person is a reality.
So try one of our Wine Tours in 2016… Try wine stomping in Rioja in october, go for a small group Spring Tour in Priorat, enjoy what we call New Spain in wines in our Castilla y León wine, walk and ham tour or get some friends together and sign up for a Ribera del Duero deluxe tour.
Some of our favorites:
Bodega Monge Garbati or Viña Ane
D.O. RIBERA DEL DUERO
D.O. ARRIBES DEL DUERO