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Raise a glass to Spain opening up again in its wine regions

Raise a glass to Spain opening up again in its wine regions

10 June 2020

Get a true taste of Spain by visiting its vineyards by train. With some stunning Spanish cycling routes adding to the country’s most beautiful bouquet.

Spain has one of the most varied wine cultures in the world with over 6,500km2 of vineyards and bodegas (cellars) dotted around the country. With many magnificent wine regions to explore, visitors can get a true taste of Spain through its world-renowned viticulture. From Rioja reds to Catalan cava, here are some of the best wine regions in Spain to visit by train. 

La Rioja

The most famous Spanish wine region, La Rioja is known for giving the world full bodied, oak-aged red wines made from local Tempranillo grapes, often blended with Garnacha or Graciano grapes too. Located in northern Spain below the Cantabrian Mountains, most of the region’s vineyards are dotted along the Río Ebro around the town of Haro, but there are others that stretch out into neighbouring Navarra and Álava. More than just offering world-class wines, however, La Rioja offers a wealth of historic villages to explore, like Eltziego and Laguardia and an excellent cycling route north of the Ebro River, between the region’s two main gateway towns, Logroño and Haro.



Penedès

West and southwest of Barcelona, the country opens up into the Penedès plains where cava is king. Spain’s answer to France’s Champagne, cava is a sparkling wine that has increasingly grown in popularity over the past few years. Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, 35km west of Barcelona, is Spain’s cava capital, while 12km further, the historic town of Vilafranca del Penedès is the centre of the Penedès Denominació d'Origen region which produces some very fine white and red wines. To get to the Penedès region, take a suburban Renfe train from Barcelona towards Sant Vicenç de Calders (bought locally), which goes directly to Sant Sadurní d’Anoia in around 45 mins. 

Ribera del Duero

Regarded almost as highly as Rioja wines are in Spain, Ribera del Duero vineyards produce complex, full bodied red wines made from Tempranillo grapes. Lining the banks of the Duero River through Castilian countryside, the Ribera del Duero region is also known for its ruined castles and picturesque towns like Lerma and El Burgo de Osma. Splicing through the Cañón del Río Lobos and the Hoz del Duratón canyons, the Duero River runs all the way from Spain through Porto in Portugal where the country’s famous port vineyards line the river’s banks. The cycling route between Pesquera, Roa and Peñafiel is particularly beautiful passing by vineyards and castles, with Peñafiel also offering a large wine museum. The gateway station for the region is Valladolid



Basque Txakoli

A lesser known wine region, Txakoli is a distinctive, slightly sparkling white wine produced in small areas of the Basque region, and is mostly enjoyed with pintxos (Basque tapas). Most Txakoli vineyards are located on the hills surrounding the town of Getaria on the western coast of San Sebastián. The region is superb for serious cycling, with rolling hills covered in vineyards offering views of the Atlantic Ocean. The route between San Sebastián and Getaria is wonderfully scenic, beginning with a climb up Monte Igueldo, then passing alongside the beach in Zarautz before rolling through the Getraria’s Txakoli vineyards. 



El Comtat

Considered by many to be the next big thing in wine, El Comtat is a wine region located between Alicante and Valencia on the edge of the Sierra de Aitana mountains and Mariola Natural Park. The main grape variety that thrives in the region is Monastrell, which is native to the area and produces complex, balanced red wines with bold tannins. The gateway city to the El Comtat wine region and the Mariola Natural Park is Alcoi. From here, cycle 30 mins to nearby Cocentaina to visit its medieval palace. Around Cocentaina, there is also a vast array of vineyards to explore, along with beautiful cycle trails through the Beniarres Reservoir and groves of cherry and almond trees. 

Jerez de la Frontera

Jerez, in Andalusia, is home to sherry, a fortified wine that has been made in this area for over 3,000 years. Predominantly made from Palomino and Manzanilla grapes, Jerez, along with Puerto de Santa María and Sanlúcar de Barrameda, are the only places in the world that authentic sherry can be produced. Sherry comes in a number of varieties, including Fino, which is the most common and Oloroso, which has more complex flavours thanks to increased oxidation. There is ample opportunity to sample some sherry in Jerez’s many tabancos (sherry taverns), a city that prides itself on Andalusian horse culture, flamenco, and its fabulous fortified wine. 



You might also enjoy reading our blog on the best places to visit in Spain by train.


Image credits top to bottom: Vineyards in La Rioja iStock ©jon chica parada, Douro River iStock ©PRG-Estudio, Vineyards in Getaria iStock ©poliki, Vineyard in Andalusia for sherry iStock ©barmalini

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