Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Spirit of the Vine: First Impressions of Spain

At the end of May, I had an opportunity to visit Spain for the very first time and spend time in the wineries associated with the Osborne family. The Osbornes have been involved in the wine trade in Spain since the 18th century, and today their properties extend from Rioja in the north to Andalusia in the south. In one blissful, action-packed week I had a chance to see and savor some of the best that Spain has to offer.

I fell totally in love with the country, the people, the food, and the wine, as this sampling of pictures shows.



I've traveled to a lot of different places, and lived in a few European cities for months and even years. But I never felt homesick for a place after only spending 5 days there--until now.

So what was it about Spain that hooked me? First and foremost it was the spirit of the land and the people. The word that I associate most with Spain now that I've been there is "genuine" and that forthright genuineness came through in every chilled glass of Fino sherry, every slice of Spanish jamon or ham, and every conversation with a winemaker or a vineyard manager that I had during my brief stay.

I know that last year was the "Spain" year and this year is "Italy" year, but over the next several months I want to share my new passion for Spanish sherry with you, and give you detailed tasting notes from my side-by-side tasting of several rare Osborne sherries. They may well be the best value holiday wines you are likely to find anywhere, and I'll tell you why later this fall. I was amazed during my trip by the range of flavors that you can find in Tempranillo. I had the opportunity to talk to a legendary winemaker, Maria Martinez-Sierra about her passion for this grape and how she makes superb wines from Tempranillo grown in the Rioja Alta region. I watched a master cooper make wine barrels, and saw the traditional being passed down to a new generation of craftsmen. Near Toledo, I also saw first-hand how cutting-edge science is being used to help manage a vineyard so vast that there were grapes as far as the eye could see. In Malpica de Tajo, the Osborne family is growing international varieties as well as Spanish favorites like Tempranillo. They are also experimenting with other Spanish and Mediterranean grapes to determine which do best in the region, gathering data on the life cycle of each grapevine and cluster of fruit.

I took hundreds of pictures while in Spain, but to give you an overview of what I saw I put together this slideshow of some of the most memorable images from my week. You'll be seeing some of these pictures again in upcoming posts, and depending on your browser you may have to click over to Flickr and watch the show over there. Until then, I hope this virtual sight-seeing tour whets your appetite for more on Spanish wine and food.

9 comments:

Ryan said...

Glad to hear you enjoyed our adopted home so much! We find too that when people visit they really do fall in love with Sherry, and regret not being able to find the fresh stuff back at home. We hope you have better success! Looking forward to hearing your stories!

Gabriella Opaz said...

Clearly I agree with Ryan, but I also wanted to congratulate you on your photos. You've got some wonderful shots here!

MonkuWino said...

Wow, what a nice trip and those are great pictures! You were truly fortunate!

noble pig said...

I too have a love affair with Spain's wine and people. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.

Jon Webster said...

The four days I spent in Spain 2 years ago were far more memorable than the next eight I spent in France. This is no knock on the wonderful people and culture of France, It's just that the Spanish people have a magic and vitality all their own. If I could go back tomorrow, I wouldn't think twice about it.

Pat B said...

Deb,

Beautiful photos; really gorgeous! I'm looking forward to reading more about your adventure.

PatB

Dr. Debs said...

Thanks to everybody for their comments. Glad that you like them--because there's more where they came from!

Tish said...

I was in Spain four years ago; still haunted (in a good way) by the jabugo ham (way better than serrano - like buttah!) and the food and people everywhere. Curious as to your visit to the Solaz winery in Malpica.... I have come to prefer the Tempranillo-Shiraz to the Tempranillo-Cabernet. What did you think, and are they making more of these blends in qty that will get to the U.S. market?

Dr. Debs said...

Hi, Tish! Sorry it took me so long to get back to you--I was tied up with WBW. Jabugo haunts my dreams, too, along with loma and artichokes with garlic. I loved my visit to Solaz in Malpica, and also prefer the Temp-Shiraz, although I think the Domaine Malpica Cabernet is a terrific wine and a steal for the price. More details to follow. It is my understanding that production has increased and that more will find their way to the US, including a Rose.