Vivanco Museum of Wine Culture

Vivanco: a Spanish icon like no other
If you’re into wine, you would love and revere the Vivanco Museum of Wine Culture. If you’re not into wine, you would still admire this place.

For the Vivanco Museum is a place like no other. Set against the majestic backdrop of the Cantabria Mountains in La Rioja, Spain, and surrounded by an endless sea of vineyards, its’s arguably the largest museum on wine. And it’s the labor of love and dedication of a wine producing family, the Vivancos, who have made informing the world all about wine as its mission.

Designed by Rioja-born architect, Jesús Marino Pascual, and inaugurated by King Juan Carlos I in 2004, the museum has become a destination to learn all about the history and evolution of wine, winemaking techniques, wine research and wine’s cultural and artistic legacy. As you roam through five permanent exhibition halls, and a hall for temporary exhibitions in this sprawling 4000 square meters space, you will learn about wine-making processes throughout history and bottling methods since early times. You will see thousands of bottles, implements, presses and a host of tools used to make wine. You will learn the entire story of wine production from the planting of the vines to the transportation the finished product around the world. Those of you who might be interested in how to taste wines would find it here as well.

You will simply be awed by interactive displays of the transformation of a vineyard through four seasons, and actual films of fermentation taking place within a tank. No detail is spared into what goes into barrel and cork making that a wine enthusiast like me take for granted. It also has to be the only place on earth that displays close to 3500 pieces of corkscrew from all over world that show the evolution of this simple yet critical instrument in myriad shapes and forms.

A permanent art and archaeology exhibit contains collections and more than 2,000 wine-themed objects that the family has acquired over many years. These include a 13th century BC glass, a jug from the Western Zhou dynasty (China 1027 BC - 771 BC), sculptures and chalices from ancient Egypt and Rome, and paintings by renowned artists such as Joaquín Sorolla and Pablo Picasso. Indeed, it’s the story of how wine has played such an important role across cultures throughout history that makes a visit to Vivanco so absorbing.

Vivanco’s extraordinary passion for wine also shows in a garden just outside the museum’s premise. Named Jardin De Baco, the garden is a miniature vineyard showcasing more than 200 actual grape plants from all over the world. The varieties on display range from widely known Cabernet Sauvignon to relatively less known varietals such as Chasselus Blanc. Each display is presented with detailed profile of the plant including its product characteristics. To be able to see and learn about the much of the world’s vine species in a tiny slice of land of Rioja should be particularly fascinating experience for any wine enthusiast.

Visitors can recharge their energy at museum café over a great selection of tapas and wine. Or can have a full-fledged meal of Rioja cuisine at the glass paneled restaurant with a panoramic view of the vineyards.

The gift shop adds a nice dimension to the museum. Along with different varieties of wine, and wine related objects, it offers a wide range of educational materials and books that enhance and deepen our knowledge and understanding of wine.

Unlike grandiose Rioja wineries like Frank Gehry designed Marques de Riscal or Santiago Calatrava designed Ysios, minimalism is the architectural expression at Vivanco. A sculptural brick wall (shown above) framing the vineyards stretching to the horizon and the majestic Cantabria Mountain Range in the distance greets visitors to the museum.

The Vivanco bodega (winery), just across from the museum, is built underground in order to preserve the vineyard space and preserve the landscape. From a practical standpoint, an underground winery has provided Vivanco with the desired balance of temperature and humidity for preserving and ageing wine in oak barrels and vats. The blend of modern technology and timeworn winemaking skills passed down through generations over a century has earned Vivanco wines international fame. Vivanco wine bottles with their unique designs are a tribute to the 18th century glass blowers who used to craft each bottle by hand.

The Vivanco family’s passion to disseminate knowledge about wine even extends to bottle labeling. All its Crianza and Reserva (terms corresponding to aging) wine bottles include braille information on their back labels.

So if northern Spain is in your itinerary, make sure to visit Vivanco which is just 35 km from Logrono, the capital of La Rioja. You won’t be disappointed that you did.

IF YOU GO: Dinastia Vivanco is located at Carretera Nacional 232 Briones - La Rioja, Briones, 26330, Spain. Phone: +34 941 32 23 32
Visit http://vivancoculturadevino.es/en/ for tour details.
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The Vivanco museum is set in the Rioja valley against the backdrop of the Cantabria Mountains
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Among historical wine making tools at Vivanco is the Tyrol Bridge Press from Bolzano, Italy, 1808
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A sample of the more than 3000 corkscrews at the Museum’s collection
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More than 200 varieties of grape plants are on display at Vivanco’s Jardin de Baco (Garden of Bacchus)
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The gift shop has various wine themed books and objects including Vivanco produced wines
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The winery is built underground to minimize impact on the landscape and preserve vineyard space
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Carretera Nacional 232, 26330 Briones, La Rioja, Spain
+34 941 32 23 23
Sun, Tue - Fri 10am - 6pm
Sat 10am - 8pm