I love red wine. It’s my number one alcoholic beverage of choice (closely followed by gin and prosecco, respectively), and unlike most people I know, I’ll even drink it happily in summer time.
But despite this well-documented love of red wine, I had never actually been to a vineyard before my trip to La Rioja earlier this month. And now I feel like I’ve been missing out on all the fun!
So I was super excited when they invited me along to celebrate the beginning of the harvest season, alongside an international group of bloggers, journalists, photographers and artists. We had people arrive from all over the world (including China and India!) and spent a lovely two days at their vineyard and experimental winery in Logroño.
The vineyard is actually open for public tours, so I thought I’d give you a little look at what we got up to – in case you wanted to book a visit to the Campo Viejo winery yourself!
HARVESTING THE GRAPES
First step in making wine: picking the grapes!
Rioja wines are covered by a Designation of Origin certificate. This means that only wines grown in the Rioja wine region can call themselves true Rioja wines. Winemakers have to stick to very specific regulations, including what grape varieties they use, where they’re grown, and how long they age the wine for.
Campo Viejo have several different varieties of grapes growing for their commercial wines, but they also have what they call their “experimental” vineyard. This is where they grow all kinds of new grapes that they may want to use in the future, and where we got to try out our grape picking skills!
We grabbed buckets and secateurs, and armed with safety vests, goggles, and gloves, we set to work. The pro pickers were around to give us a hand if we needed it, but I think we did a pretty solid job on our own… until we got distracted by the wine and snacks!
SORTING THE GRAPES
Once you have your grapes in a bucket, the next step in the process is sorting them. Every single grape that goes into Campo Viejo wine passes through this conveyor belt. The team then spend hours sorting and removing any grapes that are too small, too dry, or that have burst in transit.
The grapes that pass the test are stored in the adjoining refrigerator rooms, before going through the juicer. This juice is stored in the silver tanks you can see below, to start the process of fermentation. We tried a few sips of the wine that has only just started to ferment, and it’s very sweet and moreish.
Next it passes into huuuuge tanks, to continue the fermentation process, until it’s ready to decant into oak barrels and be stored in the giant underground cellar…
THE WINE CELLARS
Campo Viejo’s wine cellars are, in a word, impressive. They were built underground to preserve the beauty of the countryside, and it means they’ve been able to create these huge, cool, dimly lit spaces that are the perfect environment for creating quality wine.
The barrels are made from a mix of French and American oak, and the Campo Viejo wine will be stored in a barrel for anything from 4 months to 2 years. Then it’s bottled and sent to the cellar, where it sits alongside six million (!!!) other bottles, until it’s aged enough and is ready to sell.
It kind of blows my mind a bit that one (or several) of the bottles I took a photo of might one day end up in my kitchen wine rack!
CAMPO VIEJO COLOUR LAB
I really loved this bit!
Campo Viejo’s Colour Lab was a scientific experiment that took place in 2014. Campo Viejo teamed up with a Professor at Oxford University to explore the way our environment affects our tastebuds – and the results are fascinating!
They have a mini lab in their underground winery, where you can have a go at the tests yourself. Everyone is slightly different obviously, but I found that the same glass of wine tasted so differently depending on what was going on around me.
When I tried red sunglasses on, the wine was sweeter and fruitier. When I wore green glasses, the same wine tasted sharper and (personally) I didn’t like it as much.
We tried sniffing different scents and listening to different types of music, and now I know exactly what I need to surround myself with to make my Campo Viejo wine taste even better!
Our final surprise of the day was James. He’s an artist from Florida who built the crazy-looking machine you can see above. It’s a mechanised spiraliser of sorts, and he uses it to create these incredibly beautiful pieces of mathematical art. (He did try explaining it to me properly but I don’t think I quite got it!)
Campo Viejo had flown him in to create his art using their Reserva rioja wine. My ridiculous surprised face that you can see in the photo above is me finding out that they’d added a bit of ink pigment to the wine, and then used that to create a base for the different pieces!
We were each allowed to choose our favourite pen colours for the top layers of our image – and you’ll have to check back for tomorrow’s Harvest Celebration post to see what my final painting looks like! ;)
Some of these photos were kindly sent to me by the Campo Viejo team.
*I was a guest of Campo Viejo for this visit.
My Instagram images were sponsored, but this blog post is just for fun!