A winery which is causing quite a stir in Rioja is Bedegas y Vinedos Artadi as they have publicly announced leaving the appellation and will no longer use the Rioja name. Juan Carlos Lopez de Lacalle is the owner and winemaker, a man of bountiful energy in his 80s. Full of ideas and drive, as we walk towards the winery upon our arrival, we could see him walking around the vineyards emphatically waving his hands, engaged in some serious debates in full hot blooded Spanish style.
What I didn’t realise was the number of wines Artadi makes and the common thread amongst their house marketing strategy. They only make a single varietal Tempranillo in Laguardia in Rioja Alavesa, old vine Garnacha in the village of Santa Cruz in Navarra and Monastrell in Alicante. The focus of this winery is fruit driven wines and very much characterised by the terroir of individual vineyards which Juan Carlos had meticulously categorised. The labels of the bottles are quite understated, I can’t help but notice the colour scheme bears a striking resemblance to the painting in the center of his modern winery.
The crown jewel of the Bodegas is the El Pison vineyards. A short drive from the winery in their iconic cream coloured London Cab imported from London painted marked with Artadi’s logo, we arrived in the 2 hectares vineyard which is rather enclosed on its own like a Burgundian Clos. The vines were planted by Juan Carlos’ grandfather, who understood the potential of the vines years ago. He worked in the vineyard everyday during retirement and spent his last days tending for the vines. The owner bought El Pison as a way to commemorate his grandfather and decided to craft a single vineyard wine to showcase the it’s high potential.
R. Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia has a very special place in my heart as it is when I tried their aged white wine for the first time, it made me realise a very different taste and texture profile I had never associated with a white wine. It also made me appreciate the true meaning of tradition in the wine world and the power of winemaking in creating a specific styles of wine.

For those who are visiting Haro, I strongly urge you to visit this Bodega. It’s a bit like reading the classics like Charles Dickens before you move on to other books. This is the oldest bodega in Haro and one of the first 3 in Rioja (the other two being Marques de Murrieta and Marques de Riscal). We are told special techniques are “passed down” by family tradition which includes special way of filtering the wines, crafting of oak barrels in its own cooperage and many more.

The stand here was developed by the Founder Don Rafael to showcase his wines in the Brussels World Expo in 1910. In a view to restore and display the former glory of this stand, the winery cooperated with Zaha Hadid to create an external structure to house the stand. Though the external structure is modern in style, it resembles the aesthetics of a bottle of wine and embodies the colour scheme and essence of the Bodegas. The structure stands tall above a tasting room, cellars and conference room directly underground.
Marques de Riscal was founded in Elciego in 1858, one of the first 3 oldest bodega in Haro. There are many Firsts with this winery – the first non-French wine to win the Diploma of Honour of the Bordeaux Exhibition; the force behind the creation of the Rueda DO after it had been making white wines there with Verdejo; introduced the first sorting table in Rioja; established the City of Wine in 2000 designed by Frank Gehry; it is one of the world’s 10 most admired brands and it held an auction in Beijing of its 100 vintages from 1863 to 2005.
The sheer scale of the winery is impressive, so is the level of wine tourism ranging from the spacious wine store, videos showing the winemaking process which were running on an hourly basis perfectly synchronised with the number of wine tours with large groups of tourists and wine lovers crisscrossing across the different footpaths of its grounds. The winery is a perfect example of how an iconic and traditional wine business transformed itself into a powerful brand inkeeping with modern times, multi-cultural touch across 110 countries which it exports around 65% of its production of 15 wines in its portfolio.
Haro is a charming town which almost makes you think it has stood still in time since the turn of the century. Families gather in the town square in early evening to socialise, children play footballs, toddlers practice taking their first steps walks, it just has a timeless quality to it. Later in the night as you stroll along the streets, you can’t help but notice the electric lights. At one point this was the first town in Spain to have electric street lighting and the branch of a national bank given it is the home of many great bodegas in Rioja. There is almost a sense of nostalgia and old world charm here, until you walk into a wine shop or a restaurant where you are reminded of its wine origin. Case in point is the cover photo for this blog, a large wooden carving mounted ont he wall of the local favorite Beethoven which had served authentic local fare for decades.

And this tradition could also be observed in Bilbao. Kate Zaharra is a favourite, especially convenient for travellers who want to savour the last bit of Spanish fare before they bid farewell to the country. The best part of the three course meal is the first encounter in it’s wine cellar where you are surrounded by bottles, anything and everything related to wine.