A large band of crickets serenaded us as we tucked into our delicious starter of huge, tender, mussels in an olive oil and lemon sauce. Zephiros caressed our cheeks with a gentle, cool, breeze that turned the temperature of Greek summer sun to something just perfect. A couple of hundred yards away children splashed in the still blue sea.
5 Reasons Why Rioja is such a popular destination for a Wine-Tasting Holiday
Outside Muga Winery remains a relic of the past, one of the steam engines that regularly used to pull trainloads of wine to Bordeaux.
Rioja Wine Tours are popular with enthusiasts looking for a Wine-Tasting Holiday. Here’s why:
In part it’s down to Phylloxera – the vine plague that struck Europe in the 19th century. France was one of the first countries to be struck and many successful Bordeaux producers came and set up shop in Rioja. A little earlier, many Rioja producers had been going to Bordeaux to study the renowned French wine-making techniques. So from both directions the quality methods of top French producers were grafted onto the superb geological conditions for vine growing to be found in the Rioja region.
A sign on one of the wagons reminds us of the way Haro supplied wine to Bordeaux in the Phylloxera years 1877-1903.
The French connection became so strong that a railway was built to enable wine to be taken straight from Rioja to Bordeaux by train. In the village of Haro, for example, this early long-distance railway had a station within yards of the major wineries.
So there is a tradition of quality that draws wine-lovers to the area. Rioja wine, though famous the world over, particularly appeals to the English palate.
Another appeal of Rioja is its history. One can read about it, but it is quite different to see first-hand how such quality wines evolved in the region. Many of the wineries to be visited on a wine-tour are absolutely steeped in history.
A third reason is the sheer magnificence of the landscape – vast plains painted by intense light on a panoply of colour and walled by the majestic mountain ranges of the Basque Country. Drink giants like Ricard have large estates here, but for us it is generally the smaller producer that interests us; he is generally the producer that thrives on a passion for producing superb wines. Looking at acre after acre of fields and VAT after VAT of wine, one has to acknowledge that they are perhaps not that small, but small enough to be run as a family concern.