The next morning, we woke up to a day filled with fun wine-related plans – starting with a firm favourite of mine – a trip to a vineyard. There’s just something about vineyards I just love… not quite sure what that ‘something’ is but the chance to ‘taste’ the wine also adds considerably to my love of visiting vineyards.

The Campo Viejo vineyard is like 5 -10 minutes drive outside of the city centre and anyone can visit it for the day to have the full rioja wine experience!

We started off with a cava – something I had no clue Campo Viejo even did as you never really see it in the U.K. – and I remember saying to someone how fun (and I guess, funny) it was that I was having wine at like 10am in the morning. In truth, I’ve been known to indulge in a fair few glasses of bubbly in the airport lounge with friends before heading off on holidays (don’t worry, I totally owned up to this almost immediately). 🙂

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We learned a bit about the wine and the vineyards (turns out, there are vineyards all over La Rioja – which is so much bigger than I thought, part of which also lie within the Spanish Basque country) and we also found out that Rioja is the most popular wine produced in Spain by volume of which Campo Viejo is the most popular producer of Rioja in Spain!

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Personally, I’d always like Rioja (along with Malbec, a really good Pinot Grigio – I stress the ‘really good’ as this is a taste acquired from my Uni days 😀 and my guilty indulgence, some Liebfraumilch) but even with my fascination with Rioja, I’d no clue how big a deal this was back in Spain. But I digress…

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We carried on our tour through the winery, where we were amazed by the sheer capacity of this place – though every time we were constantly reminded that quantity without quality means nothing when it comes to Spanish wines.

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Afternoons In Spanish Vineyards In La Rioja... And Evening In Bilbao In The Spanish Basque Country (12)

Still though, you can’t help but be impressed when you see what 6 million bottles looks like! (Impressed and slightly jealous that you don’t own it all…)

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After our tour of the winery, we carried on to my favourite part of the day (after drinking the wine, of course) – making our own wine!

There are 3 types of grapes/wine that go into a Rioja – Mazuelo, Tempranillo and Graciano. Our task was to figure out what blend of all 3 was our favourite and hence would be our signature wines.

Mazuelo is a lot fruitier and smoother, Tempranillo has slightly more of an edge to it (making it the perfectly ‘general blender’ in my opinion) and Graciano is a lot more complex (the best way I can describe it is that the taste lasts longer and makes you think more about what you’ve just drank – unlike Mazuelo where the flavor disappears very quickly).

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Of course, you can’t drink just Graciano as it would be a tad too sharp (Tempranillo would be too sharp too) and Mazuelo is just a bit too generic so you find the blend that works best for you.

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I thought my default blend would be like more of the fruitier Mazuelo with less of the Graciano but after several taste tests (strictly for research, of course 😉 ) I realised that I much preferred it with 70% Graciano, 25% Mazuelo and 5% Tempranillo. (I tried them in 70/20/10 as my penultimate test and even that was just too sharp).

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With that, I created my special blend, bottled it up myself (complete with corking and labelling) and headed back up for lunch with even more bottles of Campo Viejo. 🙂

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Lunch over and done with, vineyards explored to the fullest, we grabbed our stuff and headed off to the Basque Country – more specifically, to Bilbao.

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In Bilbao, we checked in very quickly into the hotel and headed out almost immediately for a boat tour down the river…

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…which was quite the nice and relaxed way to spend the evening; as well as to see parts of the city we’d missed when we visited earlier in the year.

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By the time the boat got back to the harbour, it was time for dinner and for that we headed straight to the city centre where we had a restaurant booked and promptly proceeded to see to several helping of croquettes, jamons, salads, seafood and beef steaks.

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When we were done with dinner, literally everyone (except perhaps the staff) had left the restaurant – it was that late in Bilbao (bear in mind that Basque folk eat dinner quite late too!)

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Turns out, everyone had pretty much deserted the streets too – making it the perfect time for some wine-addled night time photography and a slow wander through the city. 🙂

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