On 19th July last year, a dozen of our staff from the 3 different Caminos headed to Spain’s most famous wine region, hosted by Arthur Voulgaris from González Byass from whom we buy the fabulous and super-popular Beronia wines from their bodega in the tiny village of Ollauri in Rioja Alta, one of the three zones that make Rioja wines.
Rioja wines produce an astonishing variety of quality wines at every budget – mostly famously red of course, but white, rosé, dessert and even sparkling, which is made using the same traditional method as champagne with the second fermentation in the bottle.
At the upper echelons the wines compare with the best wines from anywhere, the only difference being the extraordinary value you get in Spain. We encourage you to take full advantage – see more on this at the end.
Escaping England’s record 40-degree heat, we made do with a mere 35, pretty much normal here for that time of year. The main focus was to see the stunning state-of-the-art new bodega from Beronia where all the reserva wines are now made, as well as learn more about the process.
They really had gone to town with this project. It has been built to the highest possible sustainability standards with minimal climatic impact in mind and is in fact Europe’s most environmentally friendly winery. It even won a Gold Medal at LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design. It is also a stunning architectural work, blending into the hillside with a stunning swooping roof on the southern face.
First up was Bodega tour – this was conducted by Raquel who was charming and informative and gave us an impressive insight into the processes involved to produce such high quality vino.
Tasting time – we then ‘worked’ our way through most of the range of Riojas Beronia produce. All were excellent and made perfect accompaniments to the delicious dishes – thank you chefs!
Then back to the Haro and our gorgeously ancient Hotel Los Agustinos which was built in 1373. It has a fascinating history, having at various times served as a convent, a military garrison, a jail, and a hospital before becoming a magnificent 4-star hotel in 1989.
Haro in La Rioja is a charmingly attractive town and the wine capital of the region. It’s also famous for its Wine Festival and the wine fight, the Batalla de Vino which looks like huge fun, and we’d love to get involved in that one day. You have to wear white clothes, which are guaranteed ending up pink…
At Camino we love to throw a party and practise what we preach. So we showed our curiosity and enthusiasm by getting to know some of the pintxo bars around the main square then ventured further out to the surrounding streets.
The next day we drove to Bilbao through the spectacular Basque Countryside of rolling hills and valleys, covered in verdant vegetation and dotted with the huge, distinctive and powerfully built farmhouses the region is so well known for. Before heading to the airport, we stopped off at to Ereaga on the estuary of the Nervión River just outside the city and had a superb slap-up lunch at La Ola Getxo looking out across the beach.
Thanks so much to Arthur Voulgaris and all at Beronia and González Byass for treating us so well and generously.
We learned loads more about Rioja, Beronia, its winemaking and following this superb trip gained a real insight, and of course are now more impressed with this beautiful region than ever.
So much so in fact that we have now brought forward from the back burner an idea we’ve had for a number of years – to open a dedicated Rioja bar.
We have just launched Bar Rioja in the courtyard at Camino King’s Cross. It is a small place but with a big heart and features a range of 43 wines, from easy-drinking characterful young unaged examples to the most sublime conversation-stoppers, and all of them available by the glass. Take a look here.