Rueda Spanish White Wine

 

If you’re partial to Spain and white wine which one should you choose? Think of Sauvignon Blanc but Spanish and what do you get? Rueda! DO Rueda is in Castile and Leon, Spain’s largest region in the north-west. An area where over 6 million sq. feet of land is dedicated to vineyards and DO Rueda is just one of the DOs found in this wild, high place.

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Leaving Madrid and heading north-west Castile and Leon spreads almost to the Portuguese border. Wine making almost certainly began here with the Romans but it was in the 11th century with the Catholic monks and priests that it really took off. These days it has the widest variety of wines from Rueda’s cool and pleasing to whites to the hefty reds of DO Toro.

Rueda town is south of Valladolid and next-door heading west to Toro  which is known for its tempranillo grape red wines and heading east to Ribera del Duero all three  are on the edge of the River Duero which winds its way through Portugal to the Atlantic.

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DO Rueda make red, rose and sparkling wines but the real shiners and my favourites are the whites based on the Verdejo grape which have been grown in the Rueda region for centuries and it’s thought to be endemic to the area. It’s a fruity and floral grape making a refreshing and light wine great for pairing with aperitifs, fish and chicken.

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It was only in the 1970s that the wines from the Verdejo grape became popular and in 1980 that it became an official Rueda D.O. For a white wine to be classified as a ‘Rueda’ it must be at least 50% Verdejo grape and to be a Rueda Verdejo it has to be at least 85% Verdejo.

Many of their wines are actually labelled ‘Verdejo’ so you’ll know exactly what you are getting. But Rueda or Verdejo they are easy to drink, refreshing to the taste and light on the pocket, yet not so light on the alcohol content as they are usually around 13% per cent alcohol.

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Five Fine Spanish White Rueda Wines
These five fruity white Ruedas are available in my local Spanish supermarkets and are not expensive but definitely worth checking out of you can find them.

Nave Sur Verdejo – 2015  A floral, lemony and refreshing organic wine.
Vega de la Reina Rueda Verdejo – 2015 A citrusy with a touch of spice.
Carrasvinas Rueda Verdejo – 2015  Tropically fruity with pineapple and spice.
Verdeo Verdejo – 2015 My favourite – bright and acidy with fruity tones.
Marques de Caceres Verdejo – 2015  The name does it for me, silky citrus with tropcial tones.

The Best Extra Virgin Olive Oils – Oro Bailen

Oro Bailen produce some of the best award-winning extra virgin olive oils with both national and international accolades under their belt. I visited the olive oil mill on the only grey, drizzly day we’d had for months but that didn’t dull the premises or enthusiasm and pride of the Oro Bailen team.

My GPS sent me around the edge olive groves, which at the time I didn’t realise belonged to Oro Bailen. The quality of their oils is precisely for that reason, they own and manage the olive trees and each stage of growth is cared for by their own team. The olives are harvested at the precise moment they choose and are taken from the olive groves to the mill and through the process to produce the incredibly rich ‘juice’ or liquid gold as it’s often referred to – gold is oro in Spanish.

Oro Bailen Olive Oill Mill, Jaen

When approaching from the front, the road from Bailen, the mill is quite imposing. Black railings with gold-coloured tips sets the standard I saw from arrival to departure and throughout the processing plant to the attractive shop where you can buy the products at source. This is slow food. Grown, produced and sold directly.

I was welcomed by Irene who speaks Spanish, English, French and German so you can choose whichever language you’d like to have your tour in. Taking about 1.5 hours it starts at the front of the factory where the tractors tip the freshly harvested olives into two large ground-level hoppers.

Olives Ripening

From the beginning of harvesting to the fruit arriving, being examined and the whole process of extracting the ‘juice’ begins is around 2 hours, minimising damage to the fruit and oxidation. The juice then rests for around 15 days before being filtered and stored ready for bottling.

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From extraction to storage to bottling to shop the mill is clean and efficient, the whole ethos of excellence permeates every part of Oro Bailen – a gold star at every turn.

Oro Bailen Olive Oil Mill Shop

The shop holds a stylish array of black, green and gold bottles, tins and jars. Not only do they produce oils in bottle form but also in capsules, little pearls of explosive delight on the palate which also give a dish a distinctive look and a burst of flavour.

Oro Bailen Olive Oil Pearl Capsules

And then there’s the extra virgin olive oil marmalades made from the Picual and Aberquina olive creating a creamy, slightly sweet yet bitter spread for cheese, pastries or on fresh crusty bread. A blend of 50% olive oil and unlike most marmalades only 25% sugar.

Oro Bailen Olive Oil Marmalade

A tasting session proves the colour of the juice or oil to be more green than gold and the aromas of fresh cut grass or very green apples, sometimes ripe bananas waft around.

Oro Bailen Olive Oil Mill Visit & Tasting

Oro Bailen Arbequina Olive Oil

My palate preferred the Arbequina oil, and visions of chewing the end of a fresh stalk of grass as a child came to mind with added hints of heat and bitterness.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil tasting Oro Bailen

I think I’m going to enjoy tasting olive oils as much as I enjoy wine tastings. Each was distinctive, each one very good indeed. Which one of the 300 plus mills should I visit next I wonder.

What did I go home with? A bottle of each.

My thanks to The Artisan Olive Oil Company who sell fabulous olive oils online and Oro Bailen for my visit.

Mallorca’s Ten Michelin Star Restaurants

Mallorca, one of Spain’s Balearic Islands, keeps its 10 Michelin Stars. The ninth annual Michelin Star Awards were held in Tenerife, one of the Canaray Islands and another fabulous ‘foodie’ destination.

Mercat l'Olivar

Mallorca has been experiencing a food revolution in the recent years with some great new restaurants  opening. The fine-dining ‘Vandal’ and the ‘You Buy We Cook’ restaurant in the Mercat de l’Olivar. It also has a new gastro market recently opened in its capital Palma and with the growing trend of  gastro markets the new Mercat 1930 is the place to go to sample many different dishes in one setting.

Mercat d'Olivar

Mallorca Michelin Star Restaurants 

The restaurants which kept their Michelin Stars are:

Simply Fosh, Mark Fosh’s restaurant is in the lively  heart of Palma in a 17th century mansion. Simply Fosh offers traditional Spanish cuisine with a modern twist and the award is for its emphasis on seasonal ingredients and ‘clean flavours’.

Another Palma based restaurant is Restaurant Adrian Quetglas, named after the creator and head chef which has retained its star for its outstanding menu offering a combination of natural products, traditional flavours, and avant-garde techniques.

Restaurant Zaranda,  a more rural setting in the luxury hotel Castell de Son Claret in the Tramuntana Mountain range and headed by Fernando P. Arellano maintained its two Michelin Stars. The award is for its impeccable fusion of flavour, aroma and texture.

Head Chef Alvaro Salazar who won San Pellegrino Young Chef’s award in 2016 and is a finalist for Best Chef of 2018 heads Restaurant Argos in Port de Pollença. Argos describes itself as ‘free cuisine’ – traditionally prepared dishes using seasonal and local product whilst tapping into creative gastronomy.

Marc Fosh Restaurant

Located within the traditional Mallorcan Finca Predi de Son Jaumell in Capdepera, now a luxury hotel is the Restaurant Andreu Genestra, named after the head chef. Genestra goes to great lengths to make the cuisine innovative yet traditional, often picking products from his own garden.

To the south of Capdepera, Es Molí d’En Bou in Sa Coma boasts a ‘unique sensory journey’ showcasing new techniques but also rooted in the island’s culinary traditions. Led by Tomey Caldentey, it is the 15th consecutive year that the restaurant has been awarded a Michelin Star.

Es Racó d’Es Teix in Deiá offers the best ingredients combined with the highest culinary art. Complemented with stunning views of the mountains alongside elegant cooking from Chef Josef Sauerschell, this is a gastro gem.

Palmanova restaurant Es Fum within the grand luxury hotel St Regis Mardavall – is often described as a ‘culinary pearl’. Head Chef Miguel Navarro, who started his culinary journey aged 16, offers delicate combinations and an ‘epicurean experience’ while gazing over the Mediterranean Sea.

Tomato, pomegranate & feta salad

The fare in Jardín in Port d’Alcudia blends flavours from the sea, fields, mountains and forests of Mallorca and tends to use ingredients “forgotten in our busy modern world”. Run by siblings Maca and Dani de Castro it has held its Michelin Star since 2012.

For more information on what to see and do in the Balearic Islands visit www.illesbalears.travel

Unique, Handmade Spanish Leather Bags

Fernando Garcia of FG Bags designs, makes and sells unique 100% leather handbags, satchels and purses in his shop in Grazalema near Ubrique in the south of Spain. Ubrique is a small mountain town in Cadiz province which has a long tradition of making leather goods.

Handmade does mean exactly that. Fernando doesn’t use any machines all his bags are stitched by hand and every item is a one-off gorgeous bag that he produces, each piece begins its life when he chooses a piece of leather. The  top-quality leather, its thickness, its uniqueness is what inspires him.

When Fernando abandoned his stressful job in Madrid and came to the area he brought with him his uncle´s leather-working tools. He´d chosen to live in a place ‘famous’ for its leather-working traditions and so had full and easy access to tools and top-quality animal hides. He started small, selling from home and craft fairs around the provinces. Then he obtained the shop in Grazalema and now he runs a very successful business which supports his family.

“ I never do the same thing! I never repeat a design for a bag. I go down to Ubrique to buy the hides….. I look at them, smell them, feel and handle them. Then the ideas are sown. Every hide is different so every piece which comes from that hide is different.  All my bags are unique….. When I´ve used a pattern to cut out a bag I throw the paper away”

 

Fernanado Garcia Bags

Fernando left his stressful job in Madrid and went to the area around Ubrique with his uncle’s leather-working tools. He’d chosen to live in a place which was famous for its leather-working traditions and top-quality animal hides.

 

FG Bags also has an ‘organic’ range with leathers that are made from natural vegetable tanned cowhide which influences the form, texture, thickness and natural colour of the material.

From starting small, selling at craft fairs and from home around the provinces, he now has a shop in Grazalema, the town next to Ubrique,  and  runs a very successful one-man business.

For gorgeous, individual bags you must check out Fernando Garcia. His unique and bespoke designs can be bought directly from his shop and they can also be ordered online from FG Bags.

 

 

Winery – Bodegas Tradicion in Jerez

Bodegas Tradicion

Although Bodegas Tradicion is a fairly new winery it is the successor of the oldest one in the Jerez wine producing area.

The original winery was Bodega CZ, J.M. Rivero which  dated back to 1650 and was the supplier of the Royal Houses of Spain and Portugal winning many different international rewards.

Art Gallery Bodega Tradicion

Opening in the late 1990s by a descendant of the oldest sherry house the bodegas are open for viewing as well as wine and brandy tastings while viewing the considerable private art collection. It is reported to be one of the best  collections of Spanish paintings  in Andalusia and contains over 300 paintings, some of the works are by Grand Masters Goya and Velazquez  amongst many others 15th – 20th century  artists.

 

There are two types of unique and limited production Tradicion Brandies and six fabulous wines:

Fino
Palo Cortado VORS
Amontillado
Oloroso VORS
Cream VOS
Pedro Ximenez VOS

A trip to this winery will have you taking away a great choice of fine wines and brandy – if there’s any remaining.

For more information or to book visits go to the Bodega Tradicion website.

Eight Historical Paradors in Andalusia

Ranging from mansions to palaces and situated in 16th century plazas, to possessing fabulous sea views or sitting on a hill-top, visit the eight out of 16 paradors of Andalucia which are in gorgeous historical buildings.

Carmona Parador

Carmona Parador

What better way to tour five out of the eight provinces in Andalusia than to become royalty for the night in the 14th century Moorish fortess of Carmona with Mudejar fountain, landscaped gardens and sweeping views over the hot dusty plains. Located between Cordoba and Sevilla, Carmona itself is a lovely town with plenty to explore so several nights stay here would be ideal.

Granada Parador

 

Granada Parador

Or what about the 15th century convent San Francisco in the Alhambra Palace grounds with views of the Generalife Gardens and a magical Christian/Moorish blend of architecture. An ideal place to stay while visiting the UNESCO and must-visit Alhambra.

Jaen Parador
Jaen Parador

Next it’s ‘on top of the world’ at the 13th century Parador de Santa Catalina, an Arabic fortress overlooking Jaen city and its sea of surrounding olive groves. Its small pretty flower-filled patios, thick walls, solid wooden doors, topped by a 20 metre high drawing room ceiling make it one of my favourites.

Arcos de la Frontera Parador

Arcos de la Frontera Parador

The historical palace of Casa del Corregidor in one of The White Villages of Arcos de la Frontera in Cadiz province sits on an enormous limestone ridge with far-reaching views. The town was declared a national historic-artistic monument in 1962 and is charming although driving in the town itself and parking is difficult. But don’t let that put you off, both the town, the Parador and the views warrant the inconvenience.

Just as Arcos de la Frontera has to be the most spectacularly sited town in Cadiz province so is Ronda Parador in the province of Malaga. The 100m deep Tajo Gorge on which the town sits provides head-spinning views from the balconies along the ridge and from the Parador, a former Town Hall, close to its edge.

Malaga Parador

Malaga Gibralfaro Parador
Another Parador with a view is Malaga Gibralfaro. Once a castle, founded by Greek colonists, part of its name ‘faro’ means lighthouse being a beacon on the Gibralfaro hill for ships heading for Malaga’s port. It’s opposite the Alcazaba a delightful Moorish fortress like a mini Alhambra Palace, with a Roman Amphitheatre at it’s base.

Ubeda Parador

Ubeda Parador

Lastly heading from the Mediterranean Sea to the green sea of olive trees in Jaen province and on the edge of Cazorla, Spain’s largest natural park, is the splendid Ubeda Parador Condestable Davalos a 16th century Renaissance Palace, set in an incredible huge plaza filled with superb sandstone monuments of the same period.

Covering covering centuries of history these paradors are just part of a great Andalusian travel experience waiting for you in Southern Spain.

See the Paradors on Booking dot com, this link is for the Granada Parador.

All photos courtesy of Paradors.es except the Ubeda one which is mine.

See other Parador posts –

Parador Hotel Routes Around Spain

A Parador Tour Around Andalucia.

Writer’s Retreats & Writing Courses in Spain

I live in Spain, work in Spain and write in Spain so my first choice for a Writing Retreat is in the Spanish countyside of which there is plenty. A recent yearning for another writer’s holiday had me researching possibilities and so I’ve compiled a list of the courses I fancy attending, they are in alphabetical order and not the order I’d like to do them.

Casa Ana

Chalk in the Sun

Get Away to Write

Write Away Europe

Write-it-Down

Writer at Work

What is it about courses for writers that appeals to me?
 
I think the opportunity to get away from work, home, life, family for a short time is very important. It’s an opportunity to just be. To be you or in some cases find yourself. You get moments when all you have to do is the writing exercise with no interruptions, no I must just do this…

Depending on what type of course it is, for me I prefer all women groups, it’s a chance to share. A meeting of new people and experiences which very often creates an atmosphere of trust meaning a new level of opening up and depth in your writing. Again it depends on the type of course or workshop you do.

The list above ranges from courses on journaling to planning and preparing a non-fiction book. The course I went on in Barcelona with Pink Pangea was a travel writer’s course, the range is as huge as are the genres of writing.

There is of course another option which for some poeple is far more preferable and that is to rent somewhere to be alone and write – here’s one option to rent a writer’s retreat in the depths of Andalucia for that.