Laguardia

Photography of Exopto Winery, Laguardia, Rioja Alavesa

Wednesday April 11th, 2012 12:09 PM

Bodegas Exopto Foto / Photo: James Sturcke Fotografia
When Tom Puyaubert asked me to photograph Bodegas Exopto, I wanted to show something of his passion for wine. Here is a man who swapped France for La Rioja and who loves it so much that he founded his own winery. Tom’s grapes come from one of the most picturesque parts of the region: The slopes around Ábalos. The scenery and the early morning light made for beautiful photos without need for much intervention by me.

But Tom’s winery is in a unit on an industrial estate in Laguardia. How could I show the soul of the enterprise and quality of the product in such a sterile place? The answer is through the clever use of light. In the above picture the backlighting gives a richness and purity to the grape juice. In the first photo below I wanted to cast Tom as a magician at his cauldron so I put a flash inside the vat. The white flash light turned purple when it bounced off the grapes and illuminated Tom’s face.

I also wanted to give a sense that wonderful wine can be made in the most unlikely of places and that is why I like the photo taken outside the open door showing just a hint of what goes on inside. The old wooden vats are wonderfully photogenic. I added to the warmth of the scene by using remote flashes covered in orange gel.

Light and composition are key to good photography but the value of thinking and planning shots beforehand should never be underestimated.

Bodegas Exopto, Laguardia, Alava. Foto / Photo: James Sturcke Fotografia

Bodegas Exopto, Laguardia, Alava. Foto / Photo: James Sturcke Fotografia

Bodegas Exopto, Laguardia, Alava. Foto / Photo: James Sturcke Fotografia

Bodegas Exopto, Laguardia, Alava. Foto / Photo: James Sturcke Fotografia

Bodegas Exopto, Laguardia, Alava. Foto / Photo: James Sturcke Fotografia

Bodegas Exopto, Laguardia, Alava. Foto / Photo: James Sturcke Fotografia

Bodegas Exopto, Laguardia, Alava. Foto / Photo: James Sturcke Fotografia

The Rioja Alavesa harvest, Laguardia, Álava, País Vasco

Thursday October 14th, 2010 07:47 PM

Vendimia de Rioja Alavesa

For people the world over the word Rioja is synonymous with great wines. But how many people outside Spain would be able to picture the landscape where the vines grow? La Rioja is an area that neither fits with the dry image of southern Spain nor the green of the north coast.

So harvest time seemed a good moment to revisit Casa Primicia winery where I’d been in April and was struck by the beauty of the setting. The bodega is in Laguardia, a medieval hilltop village in Álava, in the southern Basque Country, and part of Rioja Alavesa wine growing area.

There was a team of eight pickers – all Moroccans now living in northern Spain – who worked their way through the vineyards with impressive speed. I was lucky that the early morning light made the vines – with the leaves just turning red – all the better. In the top photo you can just make out the mountains of the Cordillera Cantábrica which lies to the north of the bodega and heavily influences the local microclimate.

Vendimia de Rioja Alavesa

Vendimia de Rioja Alavesa

Vendimia de Rioja Alavesa

Vendimia de Rioja Alavesa

Vendimia de Rioja Alavesa

Vendimia de Rioja Alavesa

Vendimia de Rioja Alavesa

Seven Rioja wineries in seven days

Thursday May 6th, 2010 09:32 AM

Fernando Domingo, enolgo, Casa Primicia, Laguardia, Rioja AlavesaThere couldn’t have been a more appropriate assignment for someone who has just moved to La Rioja: visit wineries and capture people at work, plus some portraits of the owners and directors. The British firm Laithwaites sent me to seven wineries – or bodegas – which produce Rioja wine and from which they buy much of their Spanish stock.

That “Rioja” is the most searched-for term on the firm’s internet site shows, I guess, how the mark has built over the years a reputation for sustained high quality and dependability. One of the bodegas said a third of its produce was destined for the UK, with Germany being the other huge European market.

At this time of year, the leaves are just beginning to show on the vines. Six of the wineries I visited were in a province called Álava, which lies to the north of the river Ebro and is technically in the Basque country. The grape plants here still tend to grow on small terraces, or viñas, and the resulting wine is called Rioja Alavesa. To the south of the river, back in La Rioja, the viñas are notably larger.

In the wineries themselves, the activity in April and early May could essentially be summed up as moving previous years’ produce to market and preparing for the new crop – there’s bottling, bottle labelling and barrel washing going on.

The seven bodegas, all located between Haro and Logroño, were: Valdemar, Casa Primicia, Muriel, Valpiedra, Labastida, Izadi and Luis Cañas.

The barrels, cellars and patterns made for lovely photos, some of which are in this gallery.

Mohammed Talbi, Casa Primicia, Laguardia, Rioja Alavesa, Spain

Sara Ugarte, Bodegas Muriel, Elciego, Alava, Rioja Alavesa, Spain

Julian y Javier Murua y Sara Ugarte, Muriel, Elciego, Rioja Alavesa, Spain

Carlos Martinez Bujanda, Finca Valpiedra, Fuenmayor, La Rioja, Spain

Juan Luis Canas, Bodegas Luis Canas, Villabuena de Alava, Spain

Aitor, Bodegas Luis Canas, Villabuena de Alava, Spain