The ‘guardaviñas’ -an informal noun which could be translated as “keeper of the vineyards”- are small stone huts used by farmers as a shelter when they looked after the crops. Although there are several types, most of them are simple constructions with circular ground plans, that narrow on the top by the method known as “false dome” in architecture. This method of construction consisted in laying concentric circles of stones, wider in the base and increasingly narrow, until there was only a small hole left in the top which could be covered with a single stone. To give greater consistency to the hut some kind of mortar could be used, but basically it was a kind of dry construction.
Their appeal, therefore, it’s not artistic but ethnographic and scenic. The vineyards of la Rioja Alta and la Rioja Alavesa are dotted with these guardaviñas, and they are so characteristic of the landscape that many have been restored. The oldest preserved ones date from the last third of the nineteenth century, and generally are no longer used in farming.
Some can be seen from main roads as the A-124 Vitoria-Logroño, but it is advisable to take small county roads that run between vineyards in order to see them better. There are also some signposted hiking trails that lead to guardaviñas, for example in San Asensio.
Some municipalities have made an inventory of their huts, which have been given names by the inhabitants. Abalos is the case, as well as Briones, San Asensio and San Vicente de la Sonsierra, which has one of the most unique huts, Las Espinillas, equipped with a fireplace and a second floor used as a bedroom.