Pachamama: Recharging the batteries on the wine paths of Rioja Alavesa

In the last episode of Orbea's Pachamama, gravel riding takes us to the wine region of Rioja Alavesa in Spain

This article was produced in association with Orbea. 

In the Southern Basque Country of Spain, nestled between the Sierra de Cantabria mountain range and the Ebro river, sits Rioja Alavesa – a Spanish comarcas alight with reds, ocres, clarents and purples. It’s a magical place with a long history drenched in some of the finest wines. 

While wine lovers from around the world have travelled to this rich part of Spain, fifth generation winemaker Javier San Pedro Ortega, who features in Orbea's latest Pachamama video, was born and raised amongst the rows of vineyards, carefully tending to the land to ensure perfectly ripened grapes each year. A passion that has been passed down from generation to generation, the juice from these fruits practically runs through his veins. 

Sunset in Rioja AlavesaAnd now alongside the rows of grape-bearing vines that stretch across the land are miles of beautiful paths perfect for gravel riding. A destination with long flats, steep slopes and undulating hillsides. Not only does Javier work for the land but he now rides these paths, flowing up, down and across the town.

People find cycling for different reasons. Someone may love the thrill of competition, others may want to seek adventure, and others may cycle to take their mind off other things. For Javier, it's the latter. He rides to take his mind off work. 

Man riding his bike between two rows of vinesHe works to make sure he continues his family’s legacy amongst the vineyards, but it is a demanding job. It requires determination, obstinacy, physical effort and patience throughout the year. It can also be particularly stressful during the harvest season, when the crop you harvest determines what you, and those who work for you, live on for the rest of the year. 

But when they day is done, Javier jumps on his bike and rides on the land that makes his living. Recharging his batteries and restoring its equilibrium. A job with no nine to five, often the only chance he gets to ride his Terra gravel bike is at night, once the sun has set. It is good then that Javier knows these paths like the back of his hand.

Over the years, however, the land has transformed. Winemaker's daughter, Blanca Mateo Gotzález, who features in the video, explains how Rioja Alavesa has always been 'vineyard land', but back then it didn't house many vineyards. Instead most of the land was cereal crop. It was only until the cereal crop stopped growing that farmers planted vineyards, and the rest was history. 

When Javier first took over his family winery, he hoped to make 10,000 bottles of wine a year to make sure he had a comfortable life. But times have changed and he has acquired more plots, meaning a different variety of grapes. He now makes 17 to 18 different wines. 

Rioja AlavesaRioja Alavesa was a hidden jewel that has been brought to life, not only through the hundreds of wines that the region now produces but also for the beauty of the area suited to gravel riding. Each year, riders gather for the Orbea Gravel Rioja Alavesa – treading their own path on the land that is steeped in history. 

Live the experience

To experience the beauty of cycling in this wine region of Spain, Pachamama are giving away two race entries for the next edition of the Orbea Gravel Rioja Alavesa, which will be held on October 28, 2023. To enter, all you have to do is register on the website. 

To learn more about Orbea's Pachamama, visit the website. 

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