One fine day at Bodega Campo Viejo

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.

Bodega_Campo_Viejo_vineyard photo

The Campo Viejo facility was built in 2001. You can’t tell from this photo just how big the building is since the winery is extended underground where their barrels and fermentation tanks are held.

Campo Viejo winery shop photo

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.

Giulia Mule (Mondomulia) harvesting grapes at Campo Viejo vineyard

Some of us worked harder than others when it came to harvesting. Giulia was hard at work while I was tripping over myself with my camera.

Campo Viejo vineyard wine harvest photo

Don’t let the small tray fool you, the bundles of grapes are actually pretty heavy.

Campo Viejo wine harvest tapas break photo

Grape harvesting is hard work, it’s best to take a break in between and freshen your spirits up with a drink of wine and a nibble of tortilla and jamon.

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.

Tempranillo wine at the vineyard photo

Wine seems to taste better when drunk at the vineyard.

Campo Viejo vineyard harvest photo

The real pro at work

Tempranillo grapes Campo Viejo vineyard photo

Tempranillo grapes buying its time to be harvested

Campo Viejo vineyard selecting grapes

Viura grapes undergoing quality control at the selection phase of winemaking

Campo Viejo vineyard selecting grapes for harvest photo

Viura grapes undergoing quality control at the selection phase of winemaking

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.

Campo Viejo vineyard selecting grapes overhead photo

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.

Campo Viejo's wine barrels cellar photo

Campo Viejo’s underground cellar contains 70,000 wine barrels primarily made of American and French oaks. Wines are aged in the barrels between 18 months to 3 years.

Campo Viejo undergound facility

Even though most of the winery’s facility is submerged underground it’s designed in such a way that you never truly feel like you’re completely underground. Natural light streams in from different points.

Campo Viejo bottle library photo

I love libraries of all kinds especially a bottle library full of wine. Campo Viejo’s bottle library can hold up to six million bottles of wine.

Campo Viejo dessert photo

Campo Viejo BBQ

BBQ lamb chops in the making at Campo Viejo

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.

Campo Viejo cava brut rose photo

Whetting our whistle before our BBQ dinner. It was at this time where my friend, Teresa, and I wondered out loud, how much jamon is too much?

Campo_Viejo_vineyard_BBQ_dinner photo

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.

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