We’re in the midst of summer and for many, it is time to go on holiday, hit the beach and relax. For those who shy away from the sand or for wine lovers with alternative concerns, some wineries have planned wine activities with a twist —all of them beyond the standard tasting tour but keeping wine as a central fun element.
We list here some of the most interesting:
To get away from it all without giving up all the comforts of modern life and just half an hour away for a big city is no easy task, but the idea of Barraca entre vinyes to convert old stone huts in the Penedès vineyards into hotel rooms comes pretty close.
The old barracas where vineyard workers used to store their tools and find shelter are not luxurious. Electricity and running water are not available, but there are some lights to brighten up the barraca, a dry toilet and enough water for a light wash. Hammocks and a garden area are at hand to enjoy a glass of wine under the stars or a hearty breakfast with local produce brought over by the management the following morning. Access is through rural areas so clients are handed a bag containing a map with directions to the hut, a torch and a walkie talkie (mobile coverage is limited) for emergencies.
Morning activities are available —segway rides among the vines, BTT routes and hiking on the Penedès, wine tastings on the vineyard, ultralight aircraft flights and experiencing what it’s like to be a wine grower in the owners’ estate on Macizo del Garraf.
Price per night: €150 for two people (bed and breakfast plus a wine tasting at Vinseum’s bar in Vilafranca)
Information and bookings: +34 640 717095
A much lighter version of the sleeping on the vineyard experience is to go for a pleasant walk on the countryside, enjoying panoramic views of the DOCa Rioja spanning three regions: Rioja, Navarra and the Basque province of Álava.
Viña Real, the modern Rioja Alavesa winery which is part of Cvne, organizes walks around their eight hectares of vineyards located on Cerro de La Mesa, close to the winery. The promenade ends with a picnic with tapas and wine in a sleek wooden and metal shelter built among the vines. Visitors with mobility problems can be driven to the vineyards on an off-road vehicle.
Duration: 4 hours
Price: €50 (free up to 3 years old)
Information and bookings: +34 941 304 809
Although barrels are a ubiquitous element in most wineries, few wine tourism activities offer visitors a chance to taste straight from the barrel. As well as the standard visit, Emilio Moro, in Ribera del Duero, includes a barrel tasting so that wine lovers can learn the differences between American and French oak, the influence of barrels or vats with different capacities and the nuances brought by the type of toast of the wooden barrel. Once the talk is finished, visitors —maximum 10 people— can enjoy a glass of Emilio Moro.
Duration: 1h30min approx.
Information and bookings: +34 983 878 400
A sunken vessel in the Baltic sea was Borja Saracho’s inspiration to launch Crusoe Treasure in 2010, a winery that ages wines in the depths of the Cantábrico sea, in northern Spain. They work together with winemaker Antonio Palacios, who has selected a Rioja Tempranillo (Crusoe Treasure Classic, €180) and a single varietal Tinto Fino from Ribera del Duero (Crusoe Treasure Passion, €180) which has been aged in oak for six months. Constant pressure and temperature, absence of light and noise and the smooth continuous waves are factors that positively influence the wine aging process, according to Crusoe Treasure.
Both wines rest for a year at a depth of 20 meters in Plentzia Bay (Vizcaya), 20 km north-east from Bilbao. Visitors are welcome throughout the year, weather (and budget) permitting. The three-hour visit includes a sailing tour to the underwater cellar followed by a Crusoe Treasure wine and pintxo tasting (from €95 per person). People interested in just the tasting can do so at a cost of €22.
Diving fans in possession of an advanced qualification can opt for the Dive CT tour, which includes a guided dive down to the cellar where over 150 different species live. Given that the bottles lie on a small marine reserve, the tour, which takes three to four hours, is limited to a maximum of 20 people a year. The cost of this experience varies wildly but members of diving clubs can expect to pay around €200 per person. Anyone wanting to impress his or her partner should think about spending at least €1,000.
Information and bookings: +34 94 401 50 40
A similar experience can be enjoyed in the Mediterranean sea with underwater cellars Vina Maris. Sailing on a catamaran from Calpe, the two-hour tour (€59 per person) goes in search of the bottles resting at a depth of 30 metres in chests anchored to the seabed which are opened once back onboard. The wines are limited editions of two single varietal wines made by Bodegas Enrique Mendoza in Alicante. Between 1,000 and 2,000 bottles sealed with wax are submerged every three to four months: a red Monastrell (€80 if purchased on site) and a Chardonnay (€45).
As in Plentzia, visitors holding an advance qualification can dive with a guide to tour the underwater cellar and pick their own bottle which they can carry home with themselves. Additionally, first-time divers can hire equipment and descend between three to six metres accompanied by an instructor while passengers on board the boat watch the immersion on a TV screen connected to an underwater camera carried by the divers.
Information and bookings: +34 620 999 879
Rioja’s vineyards from the air: that’s the tour offered by Bodegas Muga on weekends and public holidays throughout the year.
Calm weather and a very early start are both needed; flights leave at sunrise to avoid thermal currents generated by the sun in the central hours of the day. The whole group gets involved in firing up the balloon, which takes about 20 minutes. The reward is a peaceful sailing over this scenic wine-growing region with breathtaking views of the Sierra Cantabria mountains, the Ebro river and the vineyards.
Back on the ground, a vehicle drives passengers back to base for something to eat and drink and a tour of the winery.
Price: €160 per person. Children between 5-12 years old: €110.
Balloon flights can be chartered for €650.
Information and bookings: +34 941 30 60 60
Pago de Tharsys along with OliOli oil mill and Utiel-Requena Wine Route organise wine tourism activities flying over Las Hoces del Cabriel Natural Park, one of Valencia’s most beautiful places. After a 40-minute flight, there is a guided visit to OliOli oil mill.
The day ends with a tour of Pago de Tharsys, one of the wineries that has contributed significantly to improve the image of Requena-produced Cavas in Valencia and which also makes still wines. At the end of the tour, visitors taste some wines and locally cured meats.
Price: €133.50 per person. With one-night accommodation and a tasting dinner at Hotel Rural Pago de Tharsys, the price is €215 per person.
Information and bookings: +34 962 303354
Another offer to enjoy an awesome view of the vineyards and the Mediterranean sea from the air comes from Alta Alella winery, in the province of Barcelona. From Granollers, a helicopter will fly you towards the Sierra Litoral and the mountains of the DO Alella. Once landed, participants —a maximum of five— are shown around the estate and vineyards on a 4x4 vehicle. Later at the winery they will taste three wines and cavas. The ride back to Granollers is done on helicopter.
Price: from €165 /person
Information and bookings: +34 93 5167044
Wine and food are so made for each other that it is hard to understand them separately, hence this experience run by the Jerez's Sherry and Brandy Route, is perfect for foodies and wine lovers. It starts with a tour and tasting of three wines at Bodegas Díaz Mérito in Jerez and continues at the local food market to buy local ingredients to prepare the lunch. Once in the kitchen, the chef will explain how the dishes are made; the fun comes next when they are paired with sherry wines.
Price: €65 per person
Information and bookings: +34 956 328780