As a Spanish proverb says: “A good wine revives the pilgrim”. Along the 800 kilometers of the French Way, from Saint Jean Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela, food and wine lovers will have the best opportunity to take a well deserved break and visit a winery or taste a good wine in any restaurant or bar on the Camino.
Here are some notes on the ‘wine milestones’ in each region along the Camino and our recommendation about what to drink and what winwhat to drink:
1. ST JEAN PIED DE PORT- IROULÉGUY WINE REGION: If you have a few days before starting the Camino, explore the French Pays Basques- Biarritz, the darling fishing village of St Jean de Luz, the picture postcard of Ainhoa, etc. St Jean Pied de Port itself is a lovely small town as is Roncevalles and St Etienne de Baigorry is in the heart of Irouleguy wine country.
2. PAMPLONA- NAVARRA WINE REGION: After crossing the Pyrenees, you will walk along Navarra for a while. In this region, must visit: Puente la Reina with its medieval bridge, 18th century Santa Eulalia de Merida church in Etxauri (14 km from Pamplona), the Ermita de Santa Maria de Eunate in Muruzabal, the monastery of Irache (also a winery) with its ‘fuente de vino’ (a highlight for walkers on the Camino with its free wine), the hamlet of Dicastillo, the magnificent fairy tale castle in Olite, the lovely Iglesia de Santa Maria in Tafalla, Ujue with its fortress and the medieval hamlet of Larraga.
What to drink: El Chaparral de Vega Sindoa (Nekeas), Esencia Monjardin, Alzania Seleccion, Ochoa Vino dulce de Moscatel, Calchatas, Guelbenzo Evo, Coleccion 125 Chardonnay fermentada en barrica (Chivite).
3. LAGUARDIA- LA RIOJA WINE REGION: Here you will find out medieval villages like Laguardia, in la Rioja Alavesa, Briones and Ábalos; Tapas (Calle Laurel) and some fine churches in Logroño; the hamlet of Navarrete; beautiful Torremontalbo; Nájera; the extremely important monasteries of San Millán de la Cogolla (birthplace of the Spanish language; and the Santo Domingo la Calzada is a major stop on the Camino de Santiago.
What to drink: Tempranillo is king here and Rioja has some amazing producers making both traditional and modern style wines. We love Benjamín Romeo´s Contador, Sierra Cantabria, Remirez de Ganuza, Roda,Hermanos Peciña, Muga, Artadi, Finca Valpiedra and Señorio de San Vicente.
Visit wineries (always by appointment): Darien, Baigorri, Muga, Lopez de Heredia, Juan Alcorta (Campo Viejo). Luxury wine tours in Rioja, see sample program here. Also learn more about Rioja alavesa wineries.
In this popular wine region, there is a key festivity, the “wine battle” of Haro in June, the medieval festival of Briones also in June, another lesser known wine “battle” in San Asensio and an array of harvest festivals.
4. BURGOS- RIBERA DEL DUERO WINE REGION: The magnificent cathedral of Burgos, the pretty historic center of Lerma, Peñafiel with its castle housing a wine museum, the pharmacy of Peñaranda (dating to 1635!) and the medieval village of Covarrubias.
What to drink: Tinto del Pais, otherwise known as Tempranillo is the main grape in this red wine producing region. Top wines include Dominio de Pingus, Vega Sicilia, Pesquera, Mauro, Dominio de Atauta, Alion, Emilio Moro, Arzuaga, Viña Mayor, Abadia Retuerta, Viña Pedrosa, Pago de los Capellanes and Pago de Carrovejas.
5. LEON- BIERZO WINE REGION: Here you have some suggestions in this region: Leon´s outstanding cathedral, Astorga, Ponferrada with its fairy tale castle, unique landscapes in Las Médulas, the abandoned castle of Corullón, the Cistercian monastery of Carracedo.
What to drink: The land of Mencia! Amazing value red wines here and top bets include Dominio de Tares Cepas Viejas, Paixar, Pétalos del Bierzo.
6. GALICIA (VALDEORRAS – RIBEIRA SACRA – RIBEIRO – SANTIAGO):
Valdeorras What to drink: Godello is the main grape here and our faves are Valdesil and As Sortes. Other good ones include Joaquin Rebolledo, Godeval and Guitian Fermentado en barrica (Bodegas la Tapada).
Ribeira Sacra What to drink: a host of white and red varietals are grown here including Albariño, Treixadura, Loureiro, Torrontés, etc. Uniquely a region known for reds and whites. We love love love Adega Alguiera, as well asTémera, and Dominio do Bibei.
Rias Baixas What to drink: Albariño, but of course! Considered the most elegant white wine in Spain, the Albariño grape flourishes in the vineyards of this area (Rias Baixas translates as “low rivers”, referring to the estuaries in southern Galicia). Top producers include: Fefiñanes, Pazo de Barrantes (owned by Rioja´s Marques de Murrieta), Pazo de Señoráns, Terras Gaudas, and Lagar de Fornelos. The Martin Codax brand is probably the most popular Albariño abroad, and one you are likely to find back home.
Santiago de Compostela What to drink: The tapas bars in Santiago serve Albariño in pretty ceramic cups and it is hard to find a bad house Albarino! The zippy white wine pairs perfectly with specialties like Pulpo a la Gallega (octopus drizzled in olive oil and smoked Spanish paprika).