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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.
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 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.
Having barrels of fun
At 12 Euros per person for the tour and 2 generous glasses of wine, this visit was a great deal.
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.
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.
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
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.
The Castillo de Ygay
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.)
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.
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.
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.