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A trip to Rioja to learn about wine

We pride ourselves on the knowledge that our team of Event Designers, Sales team and company wine experts have between them. Last month we sent Amy, Kelly, Cassie, Katy, Kim, Frans and Craig to our partner, Alliance Wines’, vineyards in Rioja to broaden their knowledge on wine and learn how to pair the perfect wine to our clients’ menus.

The team spent the first evening experiencing the delicious delicacies of Bilbao before an early start the following day to Bodegas Manzanos where they toured the vineyards in a hummer, before tasting Finca Manzanos & Voché. DOCa Rioja wines followed by a delicious lunch in the winery. The next day the team visited Drive to Bodegas Manzanos Campanas to do the Navarra wine tour and tasting before experiencing a private tour of Olite Castle.

This trip was an amazing opportunity for our team; here are some of their favourite moments and top tips they brought home with them…

Tell us about your highlights from the trip?

Craig: Getting to learn the History from the Winery and also the history if Rioja – was pretty outstanding, the passion from the producers was amazing. It really is a fantastic place and full of passion, history and culture. The Bottling plant was AMAZING! So much money been invested into bottling the wine quickly and professionally to ensure the quality was kept. Driving around the vineyards in a hummer was great and also the tasting were awesome.

Kim: Vineyard tour in a Hummer. Lunch in Barrel Balcony at Manzanos Vinyard

Amy:  Visiting the vineyard in an authentic Hummer was a memorable and unique experience. We saw some of the oldest vines in Rioja at 80 years old which is mind blowing. It was fascinating to see the bottling of the wine and the speed in which the empty bottles were transferred into a pallet full of boxes of wine. I loved to see the whole wine making process, from the vines to every stage of production. The food we tried throughout the trip was incredible and one of the highlights. Freya took such amazing care of us throughout, every detail was planned and the hospitality we received throughout the trip was 5 star.


What was the most interesting thing you learnt?

Craig: The history of Rioja and how they harvest the grapes and the legislation & regulations of producing wine from Rioja and Navara.

Kim: Manzano Winery was started in 1890 by the Manzano family and they are now on their 5th generation in charge of the business which consists of two brothers, the eldest is only 29 and has been running it for 9 years now. They now call it Manzano enterprises as they now sell other brands such as Porsche cars and their own bottled water as well as wine.

Amy: That almost all vines in Europe are grafted from American vines because in the 19th century almost all vineyards in Europe were destroyed by a parasite which devastated wine making in Europe. It was also interesting to taste the difference between Rioja and Navarra wines, given that the regions are so close together but due to variations in the climate and terrain, the wines taste different.

Kelly: It was interesting to learn about the different appellations in both Rioja and Navarra; the significance of the use of French oak barrels to age or ferment the wine and the difference that makes to the taste and character of the wine; and the history of the Bodegas Marzano’s company and how they have built their wine business to be so successful over the years through being innovative whilst keeping the history and tradition of the wine making.

Katy: Our host was brilliant – explaining the history of the Marzano’s family and how the 5th generation have built on its success and created exceptional growth. One key point that sticks in my mind is that when the young team took over, the company were delivering to a few countries and now 8 years on they are delivering to more than 60 countries around the world!


How can you use all of your new wine knowledge to enhance our clients’ experience and menus?

Craig: It’s much easier to sell and recommend wine when you can relate back to the history and the passion of the wine producer. Just learning and listening to them speak made me want to stock all their wines. It was great to try such a vast range and be able to compare the characteristics of different styles.

Kim: I now understand the importance of the barrels which the wines are aged in. From where the barrels are from (American, French or Romania) and how long you age the wine in the barrels which totally determines the quality of the wine.

Amy: Seeing the manufacturing process in action really helped to put the knowledge we’ve gained during our monthly wine training into perspective. I developed a deeper understanding of the wine making processes and the influences that impact the taste of the wine, which in turn has given me the confidence to explain to clients the flavours of the wine and how this is achieved. It was interesting to learn how long the wine making process is and tasting the difference between wines that are young compared to older, barrel aged wine. I was amazed to taste the difference between an American oak barrel aged wine compared to the French oak barrel wine, it’s not something I would’ve ever considered before our trip.  

Kelly:  It’s great to see the “behind the scenes” of wine - from the soil it’s grown in, to how the grapes are picked and how the style of bottles are chosen - as there is meticulous planning and decision making in each stage and to go to these wineries and see this allows us to then share the passion of the wine makers with our clients.  It also allows us to help clients choose good quality wines that are suited to what they are looking for at their event, whether that be led by food pairing, budget or the wine making process itself.


Final words of wisdom from our team…

Cassie & Kim: Top Tip – 2019 has been the best harvest yet for vine and grape quality. Look out for 2019 wines form the Rioja region in the future J

Amy: Don’t stick to one grape variety or region, there’s so much variety and factors that influence the taste of wine so try new wines and you might be surprised by what you enjoy.

Katy: Ageing of wines presents a very different flavour and texture. The maturity of older wines can be less bitter and can add to the culinary experience.