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The trip in question was to La Rioja, a region that Sunvil does not currently feature, but one I have no doubt we will be adding to our Spanish portfolio in the near future. Where is La Rioja? We have all, of course, heard of the wine, but I doubt many of us could place it on a map. It is Spain’s smallest region, but the diversity of its landscapes is quite remarkable, ranging from forested mountains to rolling hills and wide, fertile plains. The river Ebro flows through and marks Rioja’s boundary with the Basque country and Navarre to the east. The large region of Castile Y Leon is to the south. Simply everywhere you look, there are vines and olive trees.

 

Compared to the vastness of Spain, La Rioja is tiny - just over 5,000 square kilometres, or half the size of Yorkshire; you could almost drive through it and not realise. Yet, within these small confines, one can discover endless gastronomic delights. El Portal, set in the ultra modern 4-star hotel Echaurren, in picturesque Ezcaray, has 2 Michelin stars and is one of the finest restaurants in Spain, and the Venta de Moncalvillo, in Moncalvillo boasts one Michelin star. The legendary Calle Laurel, in La Rioja’s capital, Logrono, is one of the most famous gastronomic streets in Spain, with over 100 tapas bars, each with its own speciality. One eats very well indeed in la Rioja!

Venta de Moncalvillo restaurant Venta de Moncalvillo restaurant
Venta de Moncalvillo restaurant Venta de Moncalvillo restaurant

Beautiful towns and villages abound; Santo Domingo de la Calzada, on the Camino de Santiago (French route) as is Najera and Logrono, the capital of La Rioja. Ezcarat and Casalarreina are equally lovely, and the village of Briones is considered to be one of the prettiest in Spain. There is so much to see that one is spoilt for choice.

 

I love monasteries and castles, and have done since I was a child. Tales of knights in armour, Richard the Lionheart and chivalry (did it really exist other than in films?) have always fascinated me, and La Rioja delivered handsomely on this front. Most spectacular is the Monastery of Yuso, in San Millan de la Cogolla, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The building is magnificent, full of power and grace, and it was an overflow building from the primitive Monastery of Suso, a five-minute drive up the mountain, where San Millan lived. Here was the main scriptorium of Spain in the Middle Ages, with manuscripts dating back to the 7th and 8th centuries.

 

Monastery of Yuso, San Millan de la Cogolla Monastery of Yuso, San Millan de la Cogolla
Monastery of Yuso, San Millan de la Cogolla Monastery of Yuso, San Millan de la Cogolla

There is, of course, also the wine. All I know about Rioja wines is that I like the taste.. I am no wine buff, and have never stuck my nose in the wine glass or swirled the contents around the glass to allow air to mix with the wine - I leave all that to the real connoisseurs. But, for those who love anything about wine, on the outskirts of Briones, is undoubtedly the best wine museum in the world, created by the Vivanco wine family.

 

Haro Station Wine Experience Haro Station Wine Experience

Haro is the capital of Rioja wines, and all the main bodegas are located there. We were fortunate enough to visit during the very popular biennial Haro Station Wine Experience, which features all the famous bodegas. You can spend the whole day, late into the night, tasting wine and eating to your heart’s content, and the cost of the ticket includes your own personal wine goblet, complete with a carrying case to go around your neck, to ensure that you don’t lose your glass and can take it home with you!

 

Needless to say, there are some small hotels of character which no doubt we shall be featuring in due course. Even now, if you like the sound of La Rioja, do please give me a ring at the office!

 

Noel Josephides

Noel Josephides

By Noel Josephides

7th July 2022



Noel Josephides
Noel Josephides

Noel is Sunvil’s Chairman. Born in Cyprus in 1948, he joined John der Parthog at Sunvil in 1973. Before that and following university, he spent 3 years as a trainee buyer at C&A Modes and then worked for a large Cypriot builder and property developer for whom he set up a London Office buying electrical components for the Middle East and importing lemons from orchards in Cyprus. He still researches new destinations for Sunvil and is heavily involved in matters relating to the travel industry. He is a previous chairman of ABTA, a long standing director and previous chairman of The Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO) and the current chairman of The Travel Foundation - the travel industry’s sustainability charity.

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