Chapter 2: Yarra and the red valley of Rioja

If you’re like us, you’ve spent at least a little time studying the labels of wine bottles in the supermarket, imagining what these exotically-named vineyards actually look like. Chateaux, grape vines, the walls of rugged castles. But what does it feel like to actually walk among the fields? Who are the people who actually make all of the vino we get through? Because our journeys are always inspired by our We Are Human beliefs, we wanted to connect with the people who truly bring their cultures to life.

And so, we travelled to the fragrant vineyards of Rioja to peer behind the label of one of Spain’s most famous wines, and to meet Yarra – our local guide, whose entire life has been spent among the grapes and the wineries. It’s a culture that she knows like nobody else.

Naturally, we wanted to see for ourselves what really goes into a bottle. Could one field of grapes, and the people who tend them, tell us an intimate story about the culture of the Iberian peninsula? Yarra walked us through the lustrous Seven Valleys which are home to the native Tempranillo grape – the fruit that, she explained, is pressed and fermented right at the source, before ending up on those laden supermarket shelves the world over; in the bottles we clutch on our way to parties, and uncork on chilly winter nights.

It’s easy to forget that this heady red juice comes from real soil, and is picked by real human hands. As Yarra explained, the region’s wineries – and the people who work and run them – are closely connected, bringing different personalities and people together in a shared love for this world-famous bottle. Every three years, the wineries come together in a celebration of their shared passion, and their community cooperation bubbles to the surface. While the eventual bottles may be faceless, the people behind them are truly part of a living, passionate, and dedicated society. To spend time with Yarra, we got to taste just a sample of this life.

Here’s to many more.

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