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Bodega El Fabulista, Touring a Wine Cellar

Shannon Essa (Shannon)

Bodega El Fabulista

Plaza de San Juan, Laguardia, Spain, tel: +34-945-621-192

A visit to an underground wine cellar in the medieval hill town of Laguardia, in the Rioja.

The medieval city of Laguardia is perched on a hill overlooking the vineyards and craggy mountains of Rioja Alavesa. Surrounded by a 15th century wall, inside you'll find wine shops with hundreds of local bottlings, a lively cafe scene, and a vibrant community.

Hundreds of years ago tunnels were dug into the hillside, under the city's structures, to keep the inhabitants safe from harm during battles. Over time, these tunnels were converted into wine cellars and wineries. While many people still have their private cellars in these tunnels, there are only two wineries that still produce wine in them, and one of these is Bodega El Fabulista. The winery offers tours in English and Spanish and the tour offers a wonderful look into the secret underground world of Laguardia, as well as an educational experience about winemaking.

The tour starts in a room at street level. During the grape harvest, the winery unloads the grapes into giant vats and then they press them down the old-fashioned way – with their feet. Two or three people, with rubber boots, stomp on the grapes for hours. After a look at these vats, the tour descends into the dark tunnels and three connecting vaults: one for making the wine, one for aging the wine, and one for tasting the wine. Since all my previous winery visits have been in thoroughly modern cellars, it was thrilling – and romantic - to wander through dark, moist passageways several hundred years old.

The best part of our tour, however, was our tour guide, Eus. She did not lead her tour halfheartedly. She explained, she encouraged us to see everything, and she asked questions about what we thought of the wines we tasted, and then listened thoughtfully to the answers. We tried three wines in the long tasting room in the depths of that ancient cellar: a white, a young red, and a more aged red. After each taste Eus would discuss the wine and ask for feedback. It was an education on the wines of the Rioja.

Once back on street level, Eus opened other wines for us to try, including some reserve wines. She could not have been nicer or more helpful. The tour was one of the highlights of our trip.

Bodega El Fabulista is open every day of the week, and you can make an advance reservation by email, or show up a few hours ahead and make a booking for the next available tour. If you can get Eus as your guide, go for it! And make sure to buy a bottle of wine when you leave!


www.bodegaelfabulista.com: Bodega El Fabulista

Shannon Essa is a traveler through life who resides in San Diego. She co-wrote the guidebook Chow! Venice about eating and drinking in Venice, Italy. Shannon also owns and operates GrapeHops, Small Group Wine & Beer Tours to Europe and Beyond. Read Shannon's blog Poptarticus and see her SlowTrav Member Page.

© Shannon Essa, 2007

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