NB Photos will be added soon!
ENOTURISMO – WINE TOURISM
When I first emigrated, August 1997, I spent a couple of weeks acclimatising, finishing off the house (well, ‘the nice man’ did that part!), sorting the bank account etc – you’ve been there, I’m sure!
Then I decided to start to learn a little more about my adoptive country. An ideal way, it seemed to me, was to take a day trip or two, visiting other nearby areas with an English speaking guide. One such advertised trip included a bodega visit – clearly it was a sign!
The places we visited were interesting; the bodega visit, catalogued here some time ago, was an unmitigated disaster!
As wines were my thing and I was learning rudimentary Spanish, extra to wine-label-Spanish at which I was becoming quite adept, it seemed to me that I could develop an embryonic sector of the day trip business. It’s not true to say that it was me who started Spanish Wine Tourism, Enoturismo, but I was in the vanguard of a nascent movement which was about to become a vital, integral part of most bodegas’ revenue.
Over the intervening years I’ve visited many bodegas all over Spain, initially alone, as part of my research (if you’re going to start a business you have to do it professionally), and subsequently with groups ranging in number, from an exclusive five or six clients to a full coach load of 55. I’ve loved every minute of it!
And so have the bodegas! In the early days the idea was novel. Most bodegas hadn’t considered it at all. Some changes needed to be made – toilets were essential! A bespoke tasting room; decent, clean glasses; some bread, maybe some tapas; temperature control of the wines and the tasting room; etc. All crucial to wine tourists and, fortunately, hardly needing much investment at all.
Circumstances have dictated that, though I still take such trips, including Short Breaks of 3-5 days (if you join my e-mail list you’ll receive details via my regular, unobtrusive newsletters – details at the end of this article), I now organise far fewer than in those first halcyon days.
Things have moved on. The bodegas, seeing the potential of revenue from charging a per-person fee, as well as further income from post-visit sales, have developed their Enoturismo beyond recognition. You can taste aboard a river boat; above the vineyards in a hot-air balloon; on-board a horse drawn carriage; on a small gauge train; even in a boat on the Med, wines previously left on the seabed in sealed containers where the cool temperatures and gently rolling swell have (supposedly!) helped the evolution of the wine; and more.
Plus there is also the travel market with which to engage. Whilst there were none, that I can remember, 18 years ago, there are now bodegas which also have small, boutique hotels, Casas Rurales, charmingly built (new build and redevelopment projects) in the middle of the vineyards that surround the winery. (Indeed, there are some major, large (and expensive!) hotels owned by bodegas, usually in the more famous areas of production, like Rioja, Ribera del Duero and Cataluña).
Well, I’ve recently discovered (as regular readers . . . . will know from last week’s article) a Casa Rural inland from Valencia in the DO Utiel-Requena region.
Pago de Tharsys, featured recently in this column, has a charming boutique hotel built alongside the old (early 19th century) finca, a sympathetic new build and redevelopment mixture, where we had the great pleasure of staying recently, as part of that ‘research’ mentioned above.
There are four double bedrooms with en-suite facilities plus a studio apartment, the whole accommodating up to 10 people. Rooms are well appointed, with views of the lake and its ducks and swans. There’s also a lounge area for all which has basic cooking facilities as well as a cava and wine stocked fridge from which clients can help themselves for a small sum. Here you’ll also find books and even a pool table!
It’s a great spot for a weekend or short break, either individually or with a group of friends and of course it’s ideal as a ‘base camp’ for further exploring – the ancient bodega (perhaps the oldest in Spain, dating back over 2,300 years); as well as, of course, other wineries in the area – don’t forget DO Utiel-Requena makes some seriously good wines at reasonable prices too!
To add to the list of Enoturismo activities above, Pago de Tharsys also offers a unique Night Harvesting Event, la Vendimia Nocturna, in September where clients can experience the romance of assisting in the harvest during the cool of the night (which is also beneficial for the grapes and ultimately the wines). There follows a feast, eaten in the vineyard with plenty of wine, claro!
Those who book first (be warned, it’s very popular, with some places reserved a year in advance!) have the option of staying overnight too, which is a great advantage considering the hour, the wine and the Guadia! I believe this event is fully booked for the 2015 vendimia, but it may be something you might want to consider for next year?
There are also varied wine tasting events, seminars etc held at the finca and in the bodega’s oldest buildings, making for a very atmospheric link with the past. It’s a super place, and of course the cavas and wines are very good too.
Last week I dealt with most of the cava that we tasted on our recent visit – this week, I’ll start with the one remaining cava a very pretty rosado, then the still wines.
Millésime Rosé has the colour of poached salmon, a dish with which it would pair perfectly. Slightly darker hued than a Provencal rosé (see my controversial blog on Provencal Rosé at www.colinharknessonwine.com click Blog) it nevertheless capitalises on the current world wine demand for pale coloured rosado wines. In the glass it’s a delight.
It’s a Brut Reserva mage with Garnacha and has 24 months en rima, on its lees before disgorgement, giving the wine sufficient body and substance to accompany a range of foods, whilst retaining that joie de vivre, essential to all sparkling wines.
Unusually for this part of the Spanish wine map Pago de Tharsys also grows Albariño and Godello for its white wines. This wine is one of the results of the Vendimia Nocturna, it’s as fresh as you’d expect considering its cool harvest, with lovely white flower and stoned fruit aromas. In the mouth apricot and white peach come to the fore with a lovely finish. Fish and shellfish, of course, but also pair this wine with salads and chicken.
Pago de Tharsys Merlot 2010 has had 12 months in barrel. It costs about 13€ and will reward you with some delightful fig and damson flavours if you buy some to taste now, plus it also has a year or more to develop in bottle in your cellar.
Nuestro Bobal is actually a blend, albeit that 85% is Bobal (the other 15% is Cabernet Franc). There’s a vegetal note to the wine, with some lovely black and red cherry flavours as well as a certain peppery sensation. There’s a slight toffee element from the oak and you’ll en joy the long, full, finish of this quite sensual wine.
Finally – a real rarity. So far this year, the best dessert wine I’ve tasted is the distinctive Pago de Tharsys Dulce Bronx white wine! It is so unique, with some citric orange peel on the nose as well as toffee apple notes with a passing candy floss aroma and taste. Hold it in your mouth and you’ll discern too some canned mixed fruit cocktail with exotic mango, papaya and lychee and a tinned peach finish. Remarkable wine made from the little known Bronx variety, originally Greek/Phoenician, but brought back to life in the labs of New York!
Contact Colin: email@example.com and through his wine services website www.colinharknessonwine.com , where you can also subscribe to his newsletter (free of charge, of course) and therefore have first-hand and early news of the various wine events he organises, most of which are sold out very quickly! Colin is also on Facebook; Plus you can follow him on Twitter @colinonwine for the latest on the Spanish Wine scene!