Haro – Laguardia – Logrono
Haro claims to be the capital of the Rioja country. Certainly it has plenty of bordegas (wine makers) and vinotechs (wine sellers) but isn’t very large nor impressive. A typical town atop a hillock with impossibly narrow streets – which our GPS had us drive the complete rig through; fortunately at lunch time.
It sits nearly at the foot of the mountains so, despite the river Ebro offering a limited river valley, there is little flat land and the vinyards claim any terrace they can find or have made.
The vines are not the short tidy affairs that the French sport. These are much taller and more lush in foliage. They are also much scruffier to look at. The reason is, of course, that the concept of machine harvesting is viewed as a quick way to destroy ancient vines and to ruin a good wine. These vines are picked by hand.
There is even a hierarchy amongst the bodegas. Some will accept the grapes in trailer or even lorry loads. Many prefer the use of plastic punnet boxes
whilst others insist on the use of open wooden barrels which, they say, only take that weight of fruit that will ensure that the bottom berries don’t get damaged.
There are many very high tech bodegas but there are just as many who do things the traditional way. This involves the grapes being pressed in larger wooden barrels
before starting their maturation in yet more barrels. This time of American Oak.
This process ensures the continuity of employment of the cooper! Note their tools against the wall…
A bottle of the humblest Rioja could be had for €1.75 and wasn’t that bad! A crianza 2005 (a good year) was on sale in Simply for €2.50.
Going up the scale, a Reserva which has 2 years in oak rather than the basic 1 for the Crianza would be between €3 and €9. The best, the Gran Reserva will have been in the cask for anything up to 4 years and then in the bottle for anything up to 12 years. This could be bought for as little as €20 but then there were plenty to sale at €70+ It was made very clear that the age did not always make a better wine. We were surprised to find that they make a series of white Riojas, although we didn’t like the ones we tasted.
One of the more picturesque towns in the Northern Rioja area is Laguardia. This was a delight with its narrow streets and heavy doored hallways of the street.
Behind this door would be a hallway, sometimes of considerable size, from which would be the access to two or more dwellings. The doors are often to be found open but the hallways are pitch black. However, with a flash on your camera it is possible to come home with some surprising pictures of places you have visited but never seen!!!
Towards the top of the town, near the church is a small park with two tables in the middle…
Which, on closer inspection, turn out to be a sculpture in steel…
Now how was that concept sold to the town burgers…?
We enjoyed a very good lunch in Laguardia in a restaurant which we are fairly sure is owned by one of the local bodegas. The wine that came with the meal was of a far higher quality than any “house” wine we ever sampled and included free in a three course meal costing just €11 a head.
The waiter even insisted in halving his tip saying it was too much!