Rioja Cycling Guide - Visiting the Wineries

This is the second of three parts in our Complete Guide to Cycling Rioja. Follow the links below for Part 1 and Part 3.

The wineries and vineyards of Rioja are the main attraction for most visitors, and they are very densely populated in the region, making them ideal to explore by bike. Red wine is the main industry here, with the Tempranillo grape and French oak dominating. But there are also some decent whites which have been growing in the past few years. Rioja red wine has four categories: Joven (the youngest and cheapest), Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva (the longest aged and most expensive).

On the map we have highlighted some of our favourite wineries, which are centred around several different towns. This wine-cycling tour visits some of the most renowned vineyards, utilising quiet routes throughout.

The Wineries

Muga Wine Tasting

Probably the most important town for wineries is Haro. Here you can do tours and tastings of some of the most important wine producers in Spain, including the likes of Muga, CUNE, Lopez de Herencia Viña Tondonia and Roda. And they are all situated right next to each other, on the banks of the Ebro River. Muga is our favourite place for the wine tour, as they control the entire process themselves.

The tour therefore includes a fascinating section about how they make their barrels (from going to France to choose the best oak trees - to getting the right amount of toasting on the finished barrel).

Museums & Smaller Vineyards

From Haro, heading east, the most important wineries are situated to the north of the Ebro (however, one important stop - the regional Museum of Wine Culture - is actually situated in the town of Briones on the south bank of the river). Lopez de Haro is situated just outside the town of San Vicente, while the small villages of Samaniego (Bodegas Ostatu and Baigorri) and Baños de Ebro are worth visiting. But the next two major centres are Laguardia and Eltziego.

Laguardia & Eltziego

Eguren Ugarte Winery

Laguardia is home to two of the most architecturally impressive buildings in Rioja - the Santiago Calatrava designed Bodegas Ysios, and also the newer and idiosyncratic Eguren Ugarte. A little further south in Eltziego is probably the most famous winery in Spain - Marques de Riscal. Housed in a stylish building designed by Frank Gehry, the Marques de Riscal winery also houses a Michelin star restaurant and very expensive hotel. The hotel at Marques de Riscal, in our opinion, is very overpriced compared with some other excellent ones in the area (for example, Los Agustinos in Haro, Parador in Santo Domingo and Hospederia de los Parajes in Laguardia, offer fantastic accommodation at a fraction of the cost). The wine tour and tasting, however, is excellent and you can also go on an independent tour of the building.

Cenciero & Logroño

Further south, the towns of Cenicero is another major wine centre, with Marques de Caceres and Bodegas Riojanas among the biggest names. One unique place worth a visit in Cenicero is the Valentín Pascual bodegas. Here is one of the only places remaining in Rioja where wine is produced in the 'traditional' way (i.e. by crushing the grapes with feet rather than machinery). You can participate in the crushing and get a feel for how wine production was in the region over 100 years ago.

Finally, on the outskirts of the capital Logroño are some of the biggest wineries - at least in terms of quantity, if not perhaps quality. These include Campo Viejo and Franco Españolas and have some of the most extensive organized tours. In Logroño, however, we would recommend visiting the bars and restaurants in the lively city centre, where you can sample glasses of wine from all across the region.

Exploring Other Options

In addition to these major centres and well known vineyards, there are also hundreds of smaller independent wineries dotted around the region. Some of these organize independent tours and tastings, and most would be happy to have a chat (perhaps except in the middle of the harvest season!) if you see something interesting as you cycle past. It is indeed the quantity of these small wineries (often owning just a single vineyard) and village co-operatives, that make Rioja such a charming and unique wine region.

Visiting the Wineries

Most of the wineries listed organise daily tastings and visits to the bodega throughout the year. If you plan on visiting numerous wineries, you probably won't want to do the tour at each one, as it can get a bit repetitive. Every single one has something unique and interesting, so you can't really go wrong whichever you choose. However, if you want to really narrow it down, then we recommend Muga (for the detailed information about the barrel making) and Eguren Ugarte (for the really cool network of tunnels) for doing the full tour.

Rioja Wine Tasting

Marques de Riscal is another very popular tour because you can also tour around the spectacular Frank Gehry designed building. And Valentin Pascual is a quirky choice if you want to (quite literally) get your hands dirty and participate in making wine the traditional way.

Most wineries run the full tours in English, although sometimes not as frequently as in Spanish, and the tours last between an hour and hour and a half. The tours generally cost between €10 and €20, depending on where you go and how many different wines you wish to taste at the end.

In addition to doing the full tour, you can also pop in to the wineries for a tasting. You can have a quick chat explaining what you are looking for and see what they recommend. Most wineries will also sell the wine directly to you if you are a fan and wish to buy a few bottles.

One important thing to remember, particularly if you plan to cycle between the wineries, is that you must not exceed the drink-drive alcohol limit in Spain. The limit is 0.5mg per litre of alcohol in the blood and 0.25mg per liter in breath. This equates to around one normal sized glass of wine - although of course it is rare to drink a full size glass when tasting. In any case, if you plan to visit several wineries it is probably a good idea to spit and taste, rather than guzzling down every last drop. The police are extremely unlikely to pull you over on a bicycle and test you (although it does happen occasionally), but for your own safety it pays to be cautious. You can sample plenty more glasses in the local bars and bodegas at the end of the day after all!

Wineries Cycling Route

Laguardia Old Town

This multi day cycling route visits many of the top wineries in the Rioja region. It is around 120km (80 miles) long, and begins in the town of Haro and finishes in Logroño. We would recommend spending three or four days, perhaps more if you wish to stop at all of the vineyards along the route! There is plenty of accommodation, including at some of the vineyards themselves - such as Eguren Ugarte and Marques de Riscal. Towns such as Haro, Cenicero, Eskuernaga, Laguardia, Logroño and Eltziego also all have several quality hotels.

The vast majority of this route is paved, with just some short unpaved but well maintained sections, and large parts of the route have been tried and tested on our cycle holiday in the region.

Please note that all of the suggestions and routes on this page are for information purposes only and are to be used at your own risk. In particular remember not to cycle after consuming over the legal limit of alcohol!!

Below is a link to the route on Ride With GPS so you can download the track and see the distances and altitude profile in more detail.

In addition to our route around the wineries of Rioja, you may also be interested in our
  • route and information about the history of Rioja.