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Aug 26, 2014 12:08 PM

Driving to/from Wineries in Rioja, Spain?


When visiting wineries, how did you get around Rioja? I am staying at Elciego, but have a rental car and plan to visit Haro (Lopez & La Rioja Alta).

If driving, did you have any concern of using a car even when sober due to Spain's strict DUI laws? Their blood alcohol level rules are essentially zero tolerance versus .08 in the US, where you can have a glass and still be able to drive.

Curious to hear only people with experience driving in Rioja. I'm not looking for a discussion on drunk driving, so please don't misinterpret my question or take this thread in that direction.


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  1. We always have a designated driver as we live in a country with a similar 0.5 limit. You are usually OK with one or two but it's tight. I also found in Rioja the distances between wineries is quite big so a lot of driving to cover a good spread, and no doubt as a result the chauffeured tours will be quite expensive. The roads around the area are pretty good, not too twisty, so OK for a nervous driver (my wife doesn't like Europe for this reason).

    1. My wife was pregnant during our recent trip, so I was fortunate to have a designated driver (and double tastings if I wanted!). But one thing to consider: I found I drank less at most of the places we visited in Rioja than in other countries. Tastings are usually preceded by a tour of at least an hour, and when you finish, you usually only taste a couple of wines. Compare that to the U.S. experience (which we've also had in other countries) where you taste four or five wines at each place and cruise from tasting room to tasting room without long tours, and it's a good bit less drinking in a day.

      1. The Drink driving laws are not "essentially zero tolerance" here in Spain.
        Here is an image of what you can drink and still pass a test.
        So one an a half glasses of wine. so a few sips will be ok I feel.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Lugosur

          But it is very easy to underestimate how much you consume when tasting and thus easy to go other. Do they have Random Breath Tests in Spain? We have them here in Australia and they are quite common on the way out of wine regions like the Barossa. I was actually quite surprised (and worried) about the volume of wine tasted in the Napa by drivers, no doubt driven in part by the the need to get their monies worth in paid tastings (I.e. Is $X for 5 tastes). In my experience in Spain it's not paid for so less pressure to try more than you should.

          1. re: PhilD

            Yes there are stops for controls, called control de alcoholemia.
            When you visit the Rioja you have to pay an entrance fees too. Anything between 4 and 10 € each. Quite a lot compared with other wine areas in Spain.
            Edit. I should also state I am not suggesting that anyone should drink and driving I was saying that we have more than zero tolerance to Drink-driving as suggested.

            1. re: Lugosur

              I was reading on a thread with a report back that some of the small towns have multiple cellar doors. So maybe the best strategy is to stay in one, ithen drive to a couple of outlying wineries before lunch, drive back to town, enjoy lunch and then tour the local ones on foot.

              1. re: Lugosur

                Excellent, thank you for the insight on the rules! Very much appreciated. Good to know for our 2 week trip, and we will likely just splurge in Rioja for the 120 euro round trip car fee and not be afraid to taste everything we want.

                1. re: projectbennett

                  You might be surprised how little a local taxi costs. Your hotel should be able to hook you up with someone. Even very small towns have one or two guys who provide taxi services and you can often negotiate a great rate (we do this sometimes to get picked up on long one-way hikes and it works well, provided we plan ahead just a bit).

          2. I just did it last month with much discretion! We went to three wineries and took hour long tours at each and then did a tasting at each. I just had small "tastes" of each wine and only one glass of wine at an hour and a half long lunch. It is tough when they put 3 bottles on your table to enjoy with lunch. As long as you use discretion it should not be a problem

            1. If you get a chance, spend a night in Logrono. A Pintxos tour of Laurel Street one night is a must do!

              1 Reply
              1. re: Homesteadmem

                Do you know if most places are open on Monday nights? The website for Laurel Street says that there are bars open every day of the week and I am sure there are some. But I heard reports that most or almost all are closed on Monday. Is this the case?