Our first full day in Rioja saw the temperature gauge rise to 38 degrees so we were grateful to spend most of the day inside cool cellars. Our first stop was to the historic Bodegas Riojanas in the town of Cenicero. This bodega was founded in 1890 and they have developed the most impressive underground facility, exquisitely maintained and exceptionally elegant. We were hosted by Esti and Mia as well as Pablo – one of the winemakers. After a highly informative walk round we embarked on a truly extraordinary tasting. Kicking off with a barrel fermented white, a Crianza and Reserva we then moved onto the Gran Reservas. We tasted the 2009, 2005, 2004, 2001, 1998 and 1978 – all showing extremely well and illustrating the different stages of development given their respective ages. All the wines had been aged for 36 months in oak and all were 100% Tempranillo.
This was a magnificent start to our tour!
From Cenicero, it was a 40 minute drive to the village of Bargota and the bodega Biurko Gorri. Owner Ramon hosted our visit and we headed straight downstairs to the traditional dining room which was lovely and cool despite the roaring fire near the kitchen.
Ramon took us through a fascinating tasting of four wines reflecting the diversity of style and including a rare 100% Graciano Rioja and a delicious Sauvignon Blanc. Then it was time to eat. A superb lunch ensued with tomato salad, fresh asparagus and asparagus cooked in a pepper sauce, a delicious bean soup, barbequed lamb and a local flan that was a heavenly mix of the traditional crema catalan with extra cream and custard and a sweet cake at the bottom. Utterly divine.
This was a fabulous contrast to our visit in the morning and our voyage of discovery in Rioja is just beginning …