The w(a)ines in Spain

There’s a lot to be said for Spanish wine – quite apart from the fact that there is a huge amount of it. Very usefully, especially for the established producers, one can very easily find mature wines in the shops – none of the raw young stuff that’s usually all you find in South African shops (and, even more problematically, in South African restaurants). Changing at Madrid airport last week, knowing I’d be arriving late and tired and thirsty in Granada, I bought a bottle of a good red Rioja – Vina Ardanza, from La Rioja Alta. The current vintage is 2001!
That was admittedly a bit older than most of the other bottles on the shelf, but not by all that much in many cases. It cost around 20 euros – about R200. And very good it proved to be.
Later in the week, to suitably prepare my palate for what looks likely to be a vinous feast in sherry country, I bought a bottle of that ubiquitous and famous fino sherry, Tio Pepe. A far from ignoble example of one of the world’s great wines. And at around six euros (R60-plus) there can’t be many better wine bargains in the world, I suspect.
Yesterday was my last day in Granada. A visit to the Alhambra proved abortive. After half an hour I decided that I’d rather not wander around one of the world’s great buildings if it meant doing so in the company of many thousands of other jostling tourists taking photographs of it and each other. One advantage of growing older for me is that I feel more serene taking such irrevocable decisions – it’s more than unlikely now that I shall ever see the Alhambra. Too bad!
More cheerfully, the next morning found me riding rather blissfully on a comfortable Spanish train, for a three-hour journey to Seville to change there for Jerez de la Frontera, heart of the sherry country. It should, I suppose, have been flamenco or Manuel de Falla on my headphones, but somehow Mahler seemed a fine accompaniment to endless vistas of millions more olive trees than seemed entirely plausible.
And now I’m in Jerez – my first visit to a place whose wines I have loved and admired for a long time, which has to be exciting. A demanding and exhilarating programme of tastings and visits starts in an hour or so. The occasion is that a small group of international wine writers had been invited by Jesús Barquín to participate in Vinoble, the sweet and fortified wine fair that has been held in Jerez for many years. But at the last minute, the mayor of Jerez cancelled the sponsorship, citing Spain’s economic problems. Jesús suggested we come anyway – so here a few of us are! Including Americans Peter Liem, who’s something of a sherry expert (I think he’s writing a book on it with Jesús), and Eric Asimov of the New York Times.
I am working inexpertly on my ipad, and if I can find some way of including photos, I will.
Hoping all the time that there are still afew readers braving the slowness and other problems on Grape.

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