Logroño Wineries: A Tale of Two Tours

First of all: A huge thanks to everyone who took my website survey. You provided invaluable feedback—muchas gracias!

Logroño wineries

A grapevine on display at Bodegas Franco-Españolas

The seeds for a trip to La Rioja were planted two years ago. However, due to a bus strike, the inevitable visit to Logroño wineries sat on the back burner for two years.  During that time, Andres noticed the growing stack of wine books and the geeky—endearing!–way I had started jotting down wine notes. When tossing around ideas for a weekend trip, Logroño was the natural choice.
 Logroño wineries

Waiting (very comfortably) for our tour at Marqués de Murrieta

When planning our trip to the region, Andres and I decided that visiting 2 wineries in 3 days would be the best for our pocket-books, schedule, and livers. But which Logroño wineries should we visit? Exploring the wineries, after all, was the whole point of the trip. After taking into account that we wouldn’t be renting a car, we settled on the following options:

  • Bodegas Franco-Españolas
  • Bodega Marqués de Murrieta

Although we enjoyed both tours, we had vastly different experiences at these two Logroño wineries. Here’s what we learned and what we enjoyed about each visit.

Bodegas Franco-Españolas

Logroño wineries

Bodegas Franco-Españolas sits right next to the Ebro River

Why we chose it

Visiting Bodegas Franco-Españolas came down to curiosity as well as practicality. Since most of the wineries are quite a hike from downtown Logroño, the central location of this winery was undeniably appealing. Because of this fact, it was the only bodega that we could squeeze into our first day in the city. We arrived in Logroño at 3 p.m., and by 4:30 p.m. we were being lead through the underground labyrinth of barrels and cellars.
Logroño wineries

Having barrels of fun

Cost

At 12 Euros per person for the tour and 2 generous glasses of wine, this visit was a great deal.

Logroño wineries

Comparing the old and the older at Bodegas Franco-Españolas

What we learned

One main takeaway from this tour was the link between Bordeaux and Logroño. When the Great French Wine Blight ravaged vineyards in France in the 19th century, enterprising Frenchmen brought their wine savvy and Bordeaux techniques to Logroño. It was fascinating to learn that it was cheaper for them to build up their empire in Spain and export wines to France. The overall impression from this tour was a respect for tradition, pride in La Rioja, as well as wine as a cross-cultural link.

Logroño wineries

Getting better with age

What we loved

Based on the no-frills website, we had expected our visit to Bodegas Franco-Españolas to be much more basic than what it was. Instead, the visit and tasting lasted nearly 2 hours. It included lots of practical information, which served as a foundation for our understanding of winemaking in La Rioja. In addition, the visit was unpretentious, laid back, and never sales-y. Our guide in particular was very approachable; he was happy to answer any questions we had on the tour. After the cata was over he poured all of us a third glass of wine while giving us suggestions about which pintxo bars to visit in Logroño.

Logroño wineries

Our tour guide explains how wines are controlled in the tanks

One small downside

We greatly enjoyed our visit; however, one downside to the bodega’s central location is that you are not able to see the actual vineyards. Because of this missing link, you don’t feel as close to the winemaking process as you might otherwise.

Marqués de Murrieta

Logroño wineries

Marqués de Murieta: putting stately” in the word “estate.”

Why we chose it

Let’s be honest, we chose it based on the awesome photos and impressive buildings that put “stately” in the word “estate.” Even from Marqués de Murrieta’s website, we could tell that this was the opulent option. Opulent to the tune of 20 million Euros, sí señor. We thought it would be fun to include this extensive visit, as the tour included the actual vineyard, grounds, cellar, and tasting room as well as a museum area with historical objects important to the winery.
Logroño wineries

The Castillo de Ygay

Cost

The 3-hour visit cost 30 Euros a person and included a guided tasting of 3 wines. In our case, we also had to factor in the cost of a taxi (an additional 17 Euros each-way from our hotel in central Logroño.)
Logroño wineries

As you can see behind me, there are still updates being made to the winery

What we learned

Our small group of eight received extensive information about the grounds, history of Marqués de Murrieta, and the future of vinification in Logroño. I enjoyed the way our guide would ask us questions to get us thinking about the winemaking process (“Here we have several windmills—why do you think wind is important for the grapes?”) I personally found the history of the founder to be a bit boring and cheesy because of the way it was conveyed; the video of his life felt better suited to kids than to groups of adults.

 

Even the cellared wines are beautifully displayed

The visit was methodical, concise, and planned down to the very tiniest detail. (Our guide wore a uniform, we were each given an elegant bottle of water at the beginning of the tour, the grounds were impeccably manicured, we had assigned seating during the tasting, etc.) This sense of exclusivity had its pros and cons; on one hand I felt pampered, but on the other hand I wished there had been a bit more of a human aspect to it. (Beware: asking questions was frowned upon.) Every sentence, step, and piece of information reinforced this idea: Marqués de Murrieta is a major player on the international wine scene and it aims to keep standards extremely high.  

The tasting room looked out onto this impressive area

What we loved

It was great to see the grounds and get closer to actual vineyards. The building and grounds were impressive; they gave a note of awe and reverence to the company’s story.

The guided wine tasting was also a highlight. First of all, the tasting took place around a huge wooden table in a room with dramatic lighting. One of the walls was entirely made of glass and allowed us to view the barrels as we sniffed and sipped. We were each given a folder with information on each wine, along with space for us to write our own tasting notes. Our tour guide took her time explaining different elements of the wine to us at an decent pace. By the end of the tasting I felt that I had learned a lot about both location-specific elements as well as the ageing process in Marqués de Murrieta’s wines.

Logroño wineries
We tried the following wines:
Pazo Barrantes Albariño (2014)
Marqués de Murrieta Reserva (2010)
Dalmau (2011)

One small downside

The visit was extremely well planned, thorough, and informative. However, a disappointing con for me was that one of the guests smoked several times during the tour of the grounds. To my disappointment I was seated next to her (and her nauseating hair) during the cata, which in turn made it impossible to fully enjoy these special wines. Considering how everything else on the visit had been impeccable, I was very surprised that the visitor was allowed to smoke on the grounds.

Conclusions from visiting two Logroño wineries 

While we enjoyed both of the Logroño wineries that we visited, we barely scratched the surface of offerings in the region. We enjoyed visiting both Bodegas Franco-Españolas and Marqués de Murrieta but think they may appeal to different people. If you are planning a trip to Logroño, I hope that these notes will help you make an informed decision about possible wineries to visit.
 Logroño wineries

La Rioja: wine country!

If you’ve been to La Rioja, please let me know which Logroño wineries you recommend!

*These tours were not sponsored and were paid for by yours truly.

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11 Comments

  1. I Loved (with a capital L) my visit to La Rioja in late 2012. Between the company and the wine, plus the beauty of the region, I’ve been wishing it were closer or easier to get up there! We rented a car (I got stuck driving most of the time) and we were able to see Marqués de Riscal, which was beautiful but not so intimate, and a self-guided , cheapy tour of another winery close to the city. We mostly did our own catas at the bars, but I love the appreciation for the product that most riojanos have.

    Just stopped in Valdepeñas for a few bottles – will report back!

    • Cassandra

      Renting a car sounds like the way to go when visiting the region–I hope we can do that next time. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for your Valdepeñas report!

  2. Fun! We visited Bodega David Moreno en La Rioja, because we got one of those gift packages with a two-night stay in a hotel and a visit to a bodega, so we just got what we got, basically. It was kind of formal but also informal; we asked to try some of the other wine and they opened a bottle and gave the whole thing to us! We also got top-quality chorizo to taste alongside it. I think I prefer an informal approach, as long as it’s still taken seriously.

    • Cassandra

      Bodega David Moreno is new to me–thanks for sharing your experience. It sounds like they treated your group really well!

      I also like to have a mix of formal/informal on these tours. The most important thing for me is the excitement for the craft to come across, because when any maker is passionate about their product they also want others to understand / engage with it as well.

  3. Great article, Cassandra! My husband and I visited Logrono last September and loved our stay there. We were really impressed by the wine selections and prices at bars and restaurants. What a beautiful place!

    • Cassandra

      Thanks for commenting, Wendy! We were also in awe of the hefty wine lists in Logroño. It would take someone months and months to make it through all of the wine offerings!

  4. Hola! Franco-Españolas guide over here! I remember you both. Thank you so much for the lovely comments, is always a pleasure to talk about Wine away with nice interested people like you. I also hope you had fun at Laurel street, I never get to know on my pintxo recommendations.. Which one you liked the most? The mushroom, the ibérico skewer or the one with pineapple and prawn? 😉 Hasta la vista, Gracias, saludos from La Rioja!

    • Cassandra

      Hola Diego! Thanks so much for commenting–Andres and I really enjoyed our visit to Franco-Españolas. Yesterday I saw a bottle of Bordón crianza in a restaurant in Madrid and thought of our trip to the bodega 🙂

      All of the pintxo recommendations were great, and our favorite was the pineapple and prawn skewer at Juan y Pinchame. Since we visited on a rainy weekend, I’d love to return to Logroño again during a warmer time to try more pintxos and wine.

      Thanks again for commenting, and for giving us such a warm welcome to Logroño!

  5. Dave Lindstrom

    Hey Cassandra, glad to hear that you liked Logroño. I’m a SoCal transplant who’s been living here for 20 years. Hope you visited calle San Juan, another fine place to taste wine.
    Like you noted, in Logroño there aren’t many wineries to visit, but if you have a car there are many possiblities. In many villages with several wineries, they will have a “Puertas Abiertas” weekend. The village of Abalos has one in September for example. This way you can visit several wineries at the same time. One winery I would recommend is Bodegas Lecea in San Asensio. In October they have a “Fiesta del Pisado de la Uva”. They have an exhibition of the old fashion grape stomping.

    • Cassandra

      Hi Dave, thanks for commenting! It’s always great to receive recs from those who live in the region. When I was researching which wineries to visit in Logroño, I only found one place that featured grape stomping–and it was an activity for kids. An entire Fiesta del Pisado de la Uva sounds great.

      Let’s see, we did visit a place on Calle San Juan called Tastavin where we had wine and delicious fried artichokes. Yum!

      I am going to file away your suggestions for Bodegas Lecea and the Puertas Abiertas. There is a lot to see in La Rioja, so we plan on returning in the not-too-distant future. Gracias!

  6. Great one, Cassandra! I visited Logrono last year and it was awesome 🙂

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