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Magnificent Seven Station District of Haro Wineries in Rioja

Posted: Monday, 10 October 2016 13:23


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Magnificent Seven Station District of Haro Wineries in Rioja

Oct 10: Haro is a small town in La Rioja region of Spain which claims the unique distinction of the highest concentration of hundred-year-old wineries in Spain, with all around railway station, making it a unique wine tourism destination for tasting top quality Rioja wines, writes Subhash Arora who visited the second edition of La Cata del Barrio de la Estación –Haro Station Wine Experience last month and visited all seven wineries

Click For Large ViewHaro Station District is considered the cradle of Rioja wines. It came into existence in the second half of the 19th century, during the Industrial Revolution, when horse-drawn carriages were replaced by railroad and hence its name. The seven wineries are located near the station, within walking distance. The architecture combines historical buildings from the 19th century with other cutting-edge construction, including the one designed by Eiffel (of Eiffel tower fame). Surrounded by historical vineyards, this is a unique wine-tourism destination, promoted by Asociación para el Desarrollo Turístico (ADT – Association for Tourism Development in the Station District). ADT is an association set up by the seven wineries in the Haro Station District to raise awareness of this area.

R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia was built in 1877 and was the first winery, followed by Compañia Vinícola del Norte de España-CVNE in 1879. Gómez Cruzado came up in 1886 followed in quick succession by La Rioja Alta, S.A. in 1890 and Bodegas Bilbaínas in 1901. Bodegas Muga was founded in 1932 at another location but moved to the District in 1970. Bodegas RODA is a relatively newcomer built less than 30 years ago in 1987 but the modern-look winery was constructed on top of an old cellar that makes it an interesting place to visit.

The Magnificent Seven are the global benchmark of the Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOC) Rioja (equivalent of DOCG in Italy). They stand out not only for their internationally famous and award-winning Rioja wines but also for their novel wine-tourism ideas. Open to public throughout the year without a break, the District wineries attracted over 120,000 visitors in 2015. The number may seemed dwarfed by Sula Vineyards in India attracting over 230,000 tourists a year, thanks to its proximity to Mumbai, but is very impressive when compared with the numbers attracted by the other wine destinations in Spain like for instance Cava bodegas (wineries ) in Catalonia.

Here is an overview of all the seven wineries I visited:

R. López de Heredia Viña Tondonia

Click For Large ViewThe winery was conceptualised by the founder Don Rafael López de Heredia y Landeta who was very knowledgeable in the art of wine making. French negociants were visiting the Rioja region to find alternative sources of quality grapes to produce wine after the phylloxera epidemic had ruined their vineyards completely. Don Rafael fell in love with the region and especially the area around Haro, the mythical capital of the Rioja Alta region.

Click For Large ViewRafael had observed that there was a magical combination of soil and climate that would offer the perfect environment for producing world class wine. He began the design and construction of the complex in 1877 and built the oldest winery in Haro. This is a very traditional winery built on two mottos-professionalism and ethics. But the family run winery is aware of the change desired by the consumer and tries to change its style of winemaking in tune with the market.  

Over the years, the generations of the López de Heredia family have committed to the purpose of creating exceptional wines. They have five labels: Viña Tondonia, Viña Bosconia, Viña Cubillo, Viña Gravonia and Vinos Históricos- Tondonia being the most famous and respected label.


Vinícola del Norte de España (CVNE) was established in Haro in 1879 by two brothers Raimundo and Eusebio Real de Asúa. After five generations, the family remains at the helm of the company and has its own wine village, combining history, tradition and innovation.

The winery is made up of different buildings and cellars, most of which date back to the 19th century, as a well as other winemaking, bottling and dispatching buildings that have been preserved to this day.  There is also an independent winery in the Nave Real de Asúa, called the Imperial cellar, which currently makes the renowned wine of the same name. It was chosen the best wine in the world in 2013 by Wine Spectator for the first time in the history of Spain.

CVNE also has its own bottle library and legend. In 1979, the descendants of the Real de Asúa brothers set aside a selection of their best wines from important vintages, bottles that are still hidden from visitors’ eyes behind a gate. Opposite the library, there is a canvas signed by them showing which wines are hidden there- their location, type and vintage. The legend goes that the key to this gate, which was locked in 1979, was Click For Large Viewthrown in the river never to be seen again.

One of the most important milestones of the winery, and still standing to this day, was when the studio that created the most famous Eiffel Tower in Paris designed a unique piece for CVNE between 1890 and 1909, termed as the Eiffel cellar. This building has no columns, the roof supported entirely by wall-to-wall steel trusses. This innovative, daring architectural feat allows for a large open space that revolutionised how barrels were managed at the winery and made racking, maintaining and monitoring them easier.

CVNE produces several brands including Monopole, Imperial, Cune, Viña Real, Contino and Real de Asúa, some of which have been in the market since the winery first opened.

Gómez Cruzado

Click For Large ViewGómez Cruzado is a hundred-year-old boutique winery in the Haro Station District that produces only around 250,000 bottles per year. Founded in 1886 by a Mexican nobleman Ángel Gómez de Arteche, it contributed to the history of Rioja in the 19th century, by helping with the railway.

Click For Large ViewIn 1916, Gómez Cruzado was bought by a man from Rioja, Ángel and Jesús Gómez Cruzado and the present name of the winery was christened by the new owner. At the turn of-the-century, the Baños family took over the winery.  It is run by David Gonzáles and Juan Antonio Leza, two young winemakers and enologists with extensive experience in vine cultivation and winemaking in different regions of Spain. They have also expanded the selection of labels.

The core line of wines produced by the Gómez Cruzado family ,remains true to the style of fine wines, passed down from the beginning. They produce traditional Rioja wines in seven labels - Gómez Cruzado Blanco Sobre Lías, Vendimia Seleccionada, Crianza, Reserva, Gran Reserva and Honorable. Their motto is to create wines reflecting the terroir and thus the truest expression of their identity. They also produce three more labels Pancrudo, Cerro Las Cuevas and Montes Obarenes, representing three towns of Rioja, including Haro.

The current President of the Association (ADT) is from this winery.

La Rioja Alta

Click For Large ViewFive passionate families founded a society- ‘Sociedad Vinícola de La Rioja Alta’ in 1890, based on five principles of Quality, Elegance, Innovation, Feeling and Evolution. Their descendants are still the majority shareholders and manage the winery with the same fervour and drive. The winery has always strived for excellence, combining the best of their enology tradition. This includes having their own cooperage where they make their own American oak barrels cooperage, artisanal racking, long ageing, etc. Using cutting-edge technology, they have gone in for artisanal racking. Their latest harvest employed sophisticated optical grape-selection system, a first for this region.

La Rioja Alta S.A. is a big winemaking group with three subsidiaries in Rioja Alavesa, Ribera del Duero and Rías Baixas. They own over 400 hectares of vineyards in the most exclusive areas of La Rioja. Their main plantings are of Tempranillo grapes although they also grow the other local varieties like Graciano, Carignan and Grenache, giving different character to different brands- Gran Reserva 890, Gran Reserva 904, Viña Ardanza, Viña Arana and Viña Alberdi.

La Rioja Alta, S.A. has extensive experience in wine tourism. It offers a unique experience in their facilities, tasting rooms, wine bar and private dining rooms. They also have Club de Cosecheros, the oldest such Club in Spain, which gives special attention to its members.  Incidentally, the company is also committed to social causes aid donated 0.7% of its annual profit to an NGO carrying out agricultural projects in developing countries since 2007.

Bodegas Bilbaínas

Click For Large ViewThis is the first winery to enter as soon as you walk out of the Haro station. The roots of the winery go back to 1859 when Savignon Frères & Cie. came to Haro from France to escape the phylloxera epidemic which had been decimating the French vineyards. In 1901, a group of businessmen from Bilbao purchased the winery and created Bodegas Bilbaínas, the oldest bottling firm in La Rioja., which has one of the largest hand-dug underground masonry cellars.

Bodegas Bilbaínas is the largest owner of vineyards in the town of Haro, with more than 250 ha, maintaining the ‘chateau’ concept with which it was originally established in order to ensure control over the grapes and harvest them more quickly, which significantly improves quality.

Click For Large ViewBodegas Bilbaínas was bought over in 1997 by the Raventos family (which has 605 members, says its CEO, Mar Raventos who tells me the family would meet in Haro the following Saturday for the annual shareholders’ meeting!). Grupo Codorniu is known for its famous cava producing bodega called Codorníu Raventos and now owns 10 wineries, eight of which are in Spain. The winery has since launched new wine labels characterised by their modern nature and expressiveness. The pioneering nature of this winery has been at the core for over a hundred years, with Viña Pomal being the leading and most famous brand.

Click For Large ViewVinos Singulares de Viña Pomal -a limited edition varietal label, was launched two years ago. It includes a Graciano, Grenache, white Tempranillo, white Maturana (Mourvedre) and one white Tempranillo Reserva. These grapes are all special and unique in the Rioja region. Also noteworthy are the limited editions of Viña Pomal Reserva, 106 Barricas and Alto de la Caseta 2012, the maximum expression of a Tempranillo grown in gravelly soil, in an area with high Atlantic exposure.

Being an established Cava producer with unprecedented experience in making the bubbly, it has recently introduced Viña Pomal Cava, which is the first 100% Grenache Blanc de Noirs sparkling wine made in La Rioja. Their latest product to be launched is another first from the stable- a Rose, made from traditional Rioja rose varieties- Grenache and Macabeo.

Bodegas Bilbaínas make some of the most prestigious Rioja wines, including Viña Pomal, La Vicalanda, Viña Zaco, Ederra, and Royal Carlton D.O. Cava.

Bodegas Muga
3Barrio de La Estación, s/n 26200 Haro (La Rioja)

Click For Large ViewBodegas Muga was founded by Isaac Muga Martínez in 1932 but the winery was shifted to the current location in 1972 Third generation of Muga family are currently running the business, Juan Muga one of the cousins I met, tells me.  Staying true to tradition and its artisanal winemaking processes, along with a clear vision of the future, have given the winery and wines a clearly defined personality of its own. All the wines are made from the estate grown grapes in the Alta Rioja region- a vast majority being Tempranillo, followed with other indigenous varieties.

Here also, all the cooperage is done in-house according to artisanal tradition.  The origin and quality of the French and American oak is carefully controlled before crafting their barrels and casks. Its fermentation and maceration in wooden casks, slow- decanting throughout the winter, traditional gravity racking, and egg-white fining set this winery apart.

Bodegas Muga set up Espacio Torre Muga in 2008 to promote tourism. This unique space features a large reception area and wine shop, where visitors can enjoy the wines in a bright tasting room and a multipurpose floor.  The winery receives over 25,000 visitors each year.

The Muga wines bring together tradition and modernity through nine different lines, including two Cavas: Muga Blanco, Rosado, Crianza, Reserva Selección Especial, Prado Enea Gran Reserva, Torre Muga, Aro, Cava Conde de Haro and Cava Conde de Haro Rosé.

Bodegas RODA

Click For Large ViewBodegas RODA is located on the banks of the Ebro River, on the outer edge of the Haro Station District and is the only winery which is not visible from the other six wineries in the Haro Station District. It has been built on top of a 19th century cellar that was once used to store the grapes harvested by winemakers in the region. These were later sent to Bordeaux by rail to minimise the damage due to phylloxera.  It was the latest winery to join the golden mile of Rioja wine, in 1987 and stands out for its many successes over its 30 years of history.  Their top level Cirsion which is produced only in the best years, has been judged as the Best Spanish Wine by top journalists of Spain several times.

RODA also uses only local varieties of red grapes-Tempranillo, Grenache and Graciano. Each vintage is given its due respect. The winery uses grapes from the old vines only. Sustainability of soil is another basic principle followed at RODA, ensuring sustainable growth at each location.

Click For Large ViewBeing relatively new, the winery has been designed to optimise winemaking. It allows all the processes done at the same facility, from the sorting of grapes at the sorting table to bottling and labelling. Bunches are selected by hand thus removing any small impurities they may bring in from the field. After de-stemming the grapes are fed into French oak casks where the fermentation takes place. The facility has been custom designed with 17 French oak casks-one for each vineyard selected.  A bio-climate room and two ageing storerooms dug directly into the rock, show the commitment of the bodega to innovation.

They produce four red wines: RODA- silky, elegant and fresh; RODA I- deep, complex and full-bodied; CIRSION, the fruit of a lucky natural rarity and full of unknown silkiness and surprisingly complex fruitiness; and Bodegas Roda SELA, a strong, young wine made from sustainable vineyards, which is aged less than its other wines but has a good shelf life.

Roda, Roda 1 and Sela are imported by The Wine Park which has not yet found the market for the iconic Cirsion, thanks to the high taxes for retail and outrageous profits by the hotels, making it virtually impossible to find the right price by consumers.

Each of the seven wineries at Haro station District has an interesting history and story to tell in every glass. Till the time they are represented in India, there is a great opportunity to visit all seven wineries - well connected with Bilbao (90 minutes by car) known for its Guggenheim Museum, San Sebastián (about 2 hours) where there are more Michelin Star and other high quality restaurants in terms of density. One can also take a fast train from Barcelona that brings you in around 4.5 hours, similar to the time taken by car (and under €30).

If you would like to have an exciting visit an attend the annual event, watch out for this space to find out the date of the next Haro Station District Experience. To be based on the success of the event that I visited, the dates are yet to be decided. The harvest time around the 2nd edition has raised a few eye-brows and there is a school of thought veering towards June which would be a better month for Indian wine lovers who are travelling increasingly to Spain, especially after the success and promotion of the Bollywood movie ‘Ye Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara’ and would look forward to a memorable experience visiting these wineries as well.

Subhash Arora

For earlier article please visit

Pedro-the Pied Piper mesmerizes at Haro Station Wine Experience

Haro Station Wine Experience Big Hit for Riojan Sub-region

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