Doing a wine tour from San Sebastián
For those who aren’t yet familiar with this city, San Sebastián is known as one of the most beautiful cities in Spain. The city stretches out between the hills that face the Cantabrian Sea along the two bays of La Concha and Zurriola, both separated by the mouth of the Urumea river.
The bay of La Concha is “u”-shaped and is circled by villas and palaces that look towards the island of Santa Clara, which is located in the opening of the “u” and, apart from its beautiful location, is famous for the sculptures of Chillida. On the easternmost end of the bay is Monte Urgull, which is closer to the center of the city; on the west is the proud Monte Igeldo. The Zurriola bay is more open but less in longitude. In front of its beach is the famous Kursaal, the convention center that holds the prestigious San Sebastian Film Festival (Donostia Zinemaldia).
The unique setting of this city and its culinary reputation are attracting more and more tourists for cultural and gastronomic reasons. San Sebastián is the city with the most Michelin stars per capita in the world. Its historic quarter revolves around its claim to gastronomy: the “pintxo” – a kind of gourmet tapa that is usually served on a toothpick and a slice of bread.
The majority of tourists who visit San Sebastián also have the desire to get to know its surroundings and if many of them happen to be food lovers, at least a good percentage of them must also be wine lovers, right? This brings us to the question, “What if we do a wine tour near San Sebastian?”
It is an excellent idea and there are numerous options, which we will divide into 5 groups:
This strange name (pronounced Cha-koh-‘leeh) is given to the type of wine (usually white, although it can also be rosé or red) that is traditionally produced in the northwest of Basque Country and its surroundings. It is a young wine (current year) that is very fresh due to its high acidity and low alcohol content. The wineries that produce this type of wine are typically very small and family-owned. There are three txakoli-producing areas within Basque Country that are interesting options for a wine tour from San Sebastian: Getaria, Bizkaia, and Araba.
Getaria is a beautiful fishing village at just a 30-minute drive from San Sebastián making a trip worthwhile not just for the wine. There are other towns close to Getaria that also produce Txakoli de Getaria. Leaving San Sebastián and following the coast to the west are Orio, Zumaia, and Deba; all of which are nestled in beautiful natural landscapes of sea and mountain.
If we continue 15 minutes in the same direction from Getaria towards Bilbao, we enter the province of Vizcaya and we would be able to visit a winery of the Txakoli de Bizkaia DO. A good wine tour from San Sebastián in this area would also include the opportunity to visit San Juan de Gaztelugatxe or a stop in Bilbao to visit the old historic quarter and the spectacular riverside next to the Guggenheim Museum.
The Txakoli de Araba region is the furthest away from San Sebastián at approximately 1.5 hours by car. Wine is produced more inland than the other txakoli regions on the opposite side of the Basque Country to the west. The towns of Aiara, Amurrio, Artziniega, Laudio, and Okondo are where it is mainly produced.
D.O. Rioja is the most well-known of Spain’s wine regions. It has the largest number of wineries and is one of the oldest wine-producing regions of Spain. Its close proximity to Basque Country makes a wine tour from San Sebastian to Rioja very possible. Not only is La Rioja neighbor to the Basques, but part of DO Rioja is actually located inside the perimeters of the Basque Country. San Sebastián is just 1.5 hours by car from Haro, the capital of Rioja wine.
The Rioja Denominación de Origen was created in 1926 and produces still wines of high quality (red, white, and rosé) and even some cava. The main grape varieties used are tempranillo (the queen of grapes in Spain), garnacha, mazuelo (cariñena), and graciano. For white wines, viura (macabeo), malvasía, and garnacha blanca are used.
Among the cultural highlights of Rioja is its capital, Logroño, a beautiful and tranquil city on the Camino de Santiago and excellent for enjoying tapas (check out Calle Laurel). Between Logroño and Haro, the landscapes are beautiful, as are many of the medieval towns: Laguardia, Elciego, Sajazarra, Labastida, Villabuena de Álava, San Vicente de la Sonsierra, and Briones. The latter has one of the best wine museums in the world.
The competition between wineries has surpassed the wine and extended into new areas like architecture, marketing, hospitality, etc. For this reason, there is currently a strong focus on wine tourism in Rioja.
At little more than an hour southeast of San Sebastian is Pamplona, capital of the former Kingdom of Navarre and home of the world famous San Fermín festival. To the south of Pamplona is the wine-producing region D.O. Navarra, another good excuse to do a wine tour from San Sebastián. We are talking about a wine region of considerable size (some 28,500 acres) divided into 5 areas of production: Baja Montaña, Valdizarbe, Tierra Estella, Ribera Alta, and Ribera Baja. The main red grape varieties are tempranillo, garnacha, cabernet sauvignon, and merlot. Viura and chardonnay are the white grapes that are used. If you are interested in the Middle Ages, Navarre has some of its most impressive castles in the wine-producing area like those of Olite and Javier and the Monasterio de Leyre.
4.- Vins du Sud-Ouest
The proximity of San Sebastián to France offers another option for a wine tour from San Sebastian: a wine tour in French! We have the opportunity to get close to the wine regions located on the northern side of the Pyrenees: Pays Basque (Irouléguy at 1.5 hrs), Béarn (also 1.5 hrs), and a bit more north is the wine region of Chalosse. In addition, the famous wines of Bordeaux are just 2.5 hours away.
“Sagardo” means cider in the Basque language. The areas surrounding San Sebastián are one of the largest natural cider-producing areas in Spain. Although not technically wine (cider is produced from apples that are pressed and its juice then fermented), we chose to include this option because of the possibility to visit a cider house (there are over 50 in the area). The cider of Basque Country, just as that of Asturias, has many more similarities with white wine than with beer. Cider goes well with cheeses, seafood, fish, and even meat. The cider-producing region is located just minutes away from the city center in Astigarraga, Hernani, Urnieta, and Usúrbil.
We hope we have inspired you to do some wine tourism from San Sebastián, whether you decide to go with one of the options we mention or all five!
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