I was crouched next to a vine bush with orange shears in one hand and a bunch of green grapes in the other. My blue tray still looked fairly empty considering I’ve been working this row for 20 minutes while my friends, Giulia and Teresa, who have been much more diligent than I, have already filled theirs. The excitement of being at the Campo Viejo vineyard and having the opportunity to help harvest the viura grapes was still such a thrill to me I still couldn’t believe I was standing on La Rioja soil. While the clouds were hanging low that morning our sprits within the vineyard were soaring high.
It’s late September in Rioja, which means it’s harvest season for the winemakers in northern Spain. At Campo Viejo, the harvest is already under way and I, along with three journalists and two fellow photographers/Instagrammers have been invited along on a press trip for a tour of the vineyard and an insider look at the winemaking process.
Campo Viejo, the literal translation meaning old fields, is one of the largest producers of wine in Rioja. While I’m familiar with their selection of reds I was intrigued to learn of their plans for introducing white wine to the roster. The winemaker has been experimenting with 9 white varieties in their nano winery which includes tempranillo blanco and viura grapes. Established in 2013, the nano winery is where the winemaking team work with different grapes in order to innovate and produce new varieties of wine in small batches, in order to test its viability for bigger productions. The Cata Cero, using tempranillo blanco grapes, is one such product that was introduced in 2014 in limited supply but with plans for wider distribution to the UK in 2016. I particularly favored this crisp white with pineappley notes especially with seafood such as razor clams and grilled octopus.
Another part of the winemaking process we had a hand in was the selection phase on the conveyor belt. I was surprised just how fast the belt moves and was certainly not fast enough in shearing off the mildewy bits in the bunches. It was much more fun watching the others do it and leaving it to the pros.
Architecture buffs would find Campo Viejo’s semi-buried facility particularly interesting. In order to minimize its impact on the surrounding landscape architect Ignacio Quemada designed most of the building below ground level in 2011. There’s a cavernous feel to the space with its high ceilings and minimalist design but with a welcome air due to the fact that daylight is able to stream into certain parts of the building.
Our day went full circle later in the evening when we returned to the Campo Viejo vineyard for a special BBQ cooked with the vine branches that we harvested from earlier in that morning! Maybe it’s the attachment I developed for the vines over the course of the day while working at the vineyard or maybe it’s the effect of drinking cava out of a porron but lamb chops have never tasted so worthy as what we ate that evening.
Thankfully my experience with Campo Viejo doesn’t end with the tour. I’ll be working with a few Spain inspired recipes in the next week to pair with some of my favorite Campo Viejo wines such as the Gran Reserva and a specially issued Winemaker’s Art Series and will share it on the blog soon.
A tour of the Campo Viejo winery is available for guests with advanced booking.
Note: I was a guest of Campo Viejo. All opinions are my own.