Every year, the Great Wine Capitals Network organizes a regional and an international awards program to recognize excellence in various categories related to wine tourism and the wine industry.
What is the Great Wine Capitals Global Network (GWC)?
GWC is an international organization that brings together major wine-producing regions from around the world. Bilbao-Rioja is one of these regions. The network aims to promote tourism, education, and business exchange among its member regions.
Great Wine Capitals Member Regions:
San Franciso-Napa Valley (United States)
Cape Town (South Africa)
Hawke’s Bay (New Zealand)
Valparaiso-Casablanca Valle (Chile)
Great Wine Capital Bilbao-Rioja Best of Award Winners 2024
The jury of the Best Of 2024 awards for Bilbao-Rioja met late September to name the winners in different categories. The jury included Lourdes Aedo (Jantour Food Journalist), Carmen Romo (Owner of Romotur), Alicia Estrada (Wine Tourism Journalist) and Lluís Tolosa (author and director of La Guía de Vinos). The winners were officially announced at the Best of 2024 award ceremony at Bodegas Solar de Samaniego On October 19, 2023.
BEST OF AWARD – ARCHITECTURE, PARKS AND GARDENS
ASOCIACION DEL BARRIO DE LA ESTACIÓN (Haro, La Rioja)
The jury valued the proposal of the “Barrio de la Estación Tours” for its joint promotion of the Barrio de la Estación as a unique tourist destination through two tours. Each tour includes 3 wineries. The tours run on Thursdays and Fridays to deseasonalize the weekend.
But these tours are much more than combined visits to the wineries. They are mainly visits to the Station District. It is an authentic journey through the history of Rioja wine. They cover a great repertoire of architecture, gardens and underground fretwork. Here centuries-old buildings, modernist influences, signatures of architects such as Gustave Eiffel and well-integrated modern buildings alternate. The result is a unique historical, architectural and urban ensemble
BEST OF AWARD – WINE TOURISM, ART AND CULTURE
WINERY HOTEL FyA (Navarrete, La Rioja)
FyA Hotel Winery receives this award for its magnificent Museum of Ceramics that highlights Navarrete’s long pottery tradition. Just 60 years ago, 70% of the population was engaged in pottery. Even today, Navarrete is the only active pottery centre in La Rioja.
The FyA Winery Hotel has integrated this pottery tradition into its wine tourism project. They display a permanent collection of 1,000 pieces of traditional Rioja pottery. This is the largest pottery collection in northern Spain. One of Spain’s leading experts, Dr. Enrique Martínez Glera, compiled and documented the collection. All the pieces are related to the world of wine. Also noteworthy is the audiovisual on the history of pottery and wine.
In addition, this winery hotel has brought the tradition of pottery to their winemaking processes. They age some of their wine in 40 jars of 1,000 liters made with Navarrete clay.
BEST OF – SUSTAINABLE PRACTICES IN WINE TOURISM AWARD
BODEGAS IZADI (Villabuena de Álava, Álava)
The jury praised Bodegas Izadi’s responsible commitment to sustainability. Especially its commitment to water and energy efficiency and its responsible waste management. This winery has also earned the highly prestigious certification of Wineries for Climate Protection (WfCP), through a number of actions that cover every aspect of the winery.
In addition, the jury valued the activity “Secrets of Villabuena on wheels.” The experience on electric bikes is not only environmentally sustainable. It goes beyond the winery and introduces the wine tourist to the history, landscape and heritage of a wine-growing village and its treasures. Some include: the old cave presses, the dolmen of El Montecillo, and a “Singular Vineyard”. There, the experience culminates with a wine tasting and a picnic at the small hermitage.
BEST OF AWARD – INNOVATIVE EXPERIENCES
BODEGAS VALDELANA (Elciego, Álava)
This award recognizes the project “The Garden of Varieties”. But is also recognizes the impulse of a new generation of the Valdelana Family. Its very young team is demonstrating great enthusiasm and innovation in wine tourism and oenology.
“The Garden of Varieties” is a unique, charming and very versatile natural space for wine tourism. One part of it is a “Singular Vineyard” from 1920. The second part is an 80-year-old vineyard. Finally, the third part is a newly planted experimental vineyard with more than a hundred varieties from all over the world.
For wine tourism, they have rehabilitated a cave press for the traditional treading of grapes and an old oil mill. They also have a spectacular viewpoint over the last navigable stretch of the Ebro River. Here they they have installed a gigantic, exciting and original swing to swing over the wide panoramic views of the Rioja landscape. In the same viewpoint they have set up different spaces for events, parties, concerts and their emblematic “Star Pairings” that they hold observing the stars.
BEST OF AWARD – WINE TOURISM SERVICES
GRUPO CRITERIA (Logroño, Rioja Alta)
The jury praised the long history of the Criteria Group in the management of wine tourism services in Rioja. Specifically, the award is for the original activity “Bubbles in the Old Town”, in collaboration with local institutions and associations.
“Bubbles in the Old Town” is a self-guided tour in small groups. It includes tastings of four DOCa Rioja sparkling wines in four historical and cultural spaces with DJs in Logroño’s old town of Logroño.
The jury has valued the fact that the activity opens the doors of lesser-known historical and cultural spaces in the old part of the city. The jury also appreciated the fact that the activity focuses on sparkling wines of DOCa Rioja. This is a new category that is still quite unknown to the general public. However, it has a strong Rioja identity and a great market potential.
BEST OF AWARD – RESTAURANTS
JUAN CARLOS FERRANDO (Logroño, La Rioja)
The jury praised the pairing between Rioja wines selected by Zuriñe Ortiz and the excellent gastronomy of chef Juan Carlos Ferrando. The sum of these two ingredients makes this restaurant a benchmark for food and wine in the city of Logroño.
Rioja, Basque, French and Argentinian influences come together both in the gastronomy and in the wine list. The wine list includes more than 270 references and is essential in this restaurant. Also noteworthy is the possibility of having 30 wines by the glass and its special section of natural wines. Finally, and above all, the section of the menu called “Private Winery” is magnificent. This includes unique and collector’s bottles, some difficult to find.
In the dining room other factors stand out. For example, the selection and continuous change of specific glasses for each wine. Also, Zuriñe’s direct and in-depth knowledge of each wine and her clear and simple explanations. Finally, her close, cordial and professional service. The jury also valued Ferrando’s commitment to a small place. With only five large tables and generous space between them, he creates a quiet, calm and welcoming atmosphere.
BEST OF AWARD – CATEGORY: ACCOMMODATIONS
CASA COSME PALACIO (Laguardia, Álava)
The jury valued the very high level of quality, comfort and elegance of Casa Cosme Palacio. Its magical spaces, concept of stay, and personalized services make guests feel like real guests.
The Cosme Palacio winery was founded in 1894 and was a winemaking center until 1970. The renovation of the original building is impeccable. The result is a charming place, with a rustic, warm and comfortable luxury. The nine rooms and four suites are built on the site of the old processing tanks. The dining room is in the old unloading room for carts with the vintages.
Beyond the beauty and comfort of the house, the concept of being the first “Invitation Only” accommodation in Spain stands out. This means that the house is open to any family, group or company, but you need to make an application first. The goal is to get to know the client’s profile, understand this style of stay and personalize each and every one of the details. From organized activities, to gastronomic menus or wellness services. Only then does the Casa Cosme Palacio send an invitation. Because only then can guests really be received as true guests.
The jury believes that this wine tourism accommodation proposal places Rioja in the highest segment of “Premium Wine Tourism.” For this reason, this was the jury’s choice to represent Bilbao-Rioja as a candidate for the international GWC award. This ceremony will be held in Lausanne, Switzerland in November.
BEST OF AWARD – SPECIAL MENTION
SPHERICAL – BODEGAS YSIOS (Laguardia, Álava)
The jury has valued the fact that “Esférica Rioja Alavesa” is a festival for an entire territory. For 4 days, 15 concerts take place, filling 8 emblematic stages (wineries, churches, monuments, squares, etc.), in 4 towns of Álava. The program combines music, art, gastronomy, wine tastings and other activities.