Spain Media Tour: Day One of Six (or Please Pass the Jamon & the Tempranillo!)

Spain.  A country I had somehow never visited, a hole in my travel experiences I was keen to fill. I had attended several great Spanish tastings earlier this year sponsored by Vibrant Rioja and  LaMancha Wines, and was looking forward to touring

numerous wine regions, and tasting through a wide range of wine styles and varietals.

The itinerary of this whirlwind 6 day tour can be found in Simple Hedonisms heads to Spain on a 6 Day Media Tour of Rioja, Priorat and Ribera del Duero;  Simple Hedonisms  will cover each day in a separate article.

About Grupo Freixenet (Or its not just Cava)

Freixenet is a large wine producer, the 9th largest in the world, with a total production capacity across its many brands of 230 million bottles, or 19.1 million cases of wine, per year. (In Europe they refer to production capacity in releases in bottles, not cases, like we do in the US.)

Cava, a Spanish sparkling wine, is what they are globally recognized for, and they produce 80% of all cava.  However they have wineries all over the world, some quite small, producing a wide range of wine varietals and styles. Indeed just for cava alone, there are many more variants produced that we unfortunately don’t see as they are exported. (We will tease you with some later.)

A few people who weren’t familiar with the breadth of wines in the Freixenet portfolio, wondered if my 6 day experience was limited mostly to the $10 black bottle, widely sold in the US. I knew it wouldn’t be, and was excited for an opportunity to help educate and enlighten my readers about a group of estate wineries known as the Heredad Collection.  Little did I know how much my eyes would be opened.

Day One – Madrid

After 14 hours of air transit time, I arrived in Madrid. I had a few hours to kill, resisted the urge to nap. (Something I would regret later when sleep would be a precious commodity.) But, I was glad to get to see a little of Madrid on foot.

My expectations for accommodations was modest have traveled through other regions, especially Italy, where even a Marriot in Milan can be a pair of hard twin beds pushed together.

This hotel, the Hotel Urban was gorgeous, comfortable, modern but very tasteful. The high class bar was set.

Dinner, The Pace is Set

At 845 we left for dinner, a jet lagged but enthusiastic group, most having also traveled all day. In addition to the writers noted, we were joined by 4 of Freixenet’s top sales managers, and Freixenet/Gloria Ferrer’s US newly appointed head of communications, Cindy Friedman.

The location was stunning, and first class, and a good preview of what we could expect the entire tour. The Restaurante el Teatro Real, located in the former Ballroom of Queen Isabel II, was a regal display, as we walked through 3 richly appointed foyers before reaching an expansive dining room.

The meal and wines were mouthwatering and perfectly paired. Unfortunately I

was too fatigued and a tad out of sorts coming down from an Ambien I used to sleep  a few hours on the plane) to take detailed tasting notes and food pics. Fortunately, we visited most of the wines again later over the next 5 days.

As we commenced with  an Albariño from the Rias Biaxas region , under the label Vionta, my eyes were immediately opened up to the experience I was about to embark on. I have been tasting quite a few Albarinos, especially domestic, and this was stunning. Bright, full of crisp stone fruit, great aromas, and wonderfully balanced mouth feel and weight.

Next we tasted Elyssian, a sparkling Pinot rose cava – an anomaly  as cava is traditionally made from the white wine grapes of Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel·lo 3 unique Spanish grapes, not the traditional Pinot Noir & Chardonnay many sparklings and champagne are made from. It was the first night, and we were already far off the ‘black bottle’ path.

Dinner was 6 courses all paired with a wine, over 3 hours. each it seemed better than the last. Unlike how we eat in the US, each was appropriately sized.  This became the norm for the entire trip.

Apologies to readers in my jetlag I didn’t capture more, however I promised to share articles in a summary post from other writer.

Without a doubt, the course that blew everyone away, and for most was never bested, was Iberian pork. The pig is fed a diet of acorns, a rich nut, and the impact on the meat was incredible. The cut was like a pork loin, sliced into strips, but the texture and flavor was unlike any pork dish I ever had, or any meat for that matter.  Rich in texture, but not fatty, it melted in your mouth.

Photo Journal

I will post larger album of pictures for each days events and activities. Day One can be found here.

The Next Five Days – Follow Adventure, Learn, Enjoy

We will break out each day’s experiences along with photos. Simple Hedonisms is all about helping it’s readers broaden their horizons, shatter myths, and expand your wine palate. In each article there will be one or more educational topics I think will be new information for many readers.  I hope you will follow along, enjoy, and learn.

Without giving too much away in the first of these six articles, this was one of the best multiday wine experiences  I have had.  The hospitality , openness and welcome of the Spanish people was unparalleled. Americans and Europeans alike have much it could learn from this country.

The food and entertainment experiences remarkable. The wines were of exceptional quality and value,  produced by passionate people,  often eye opening  and a treat each day to taste; something I can’t always say as a wine writer.

Additionally, my travel companions, both the Freixenet team, and the journalists, proved to be great companions. The environment, while fun, was one of working, paired with limited sleep (often self imposed) and a fast pace. Its was one where a married couple, well acquainted, could have easily bickered  and irritated each other. Yet we worked together, supported each other,  and learned from each others unique experiences. I consider myself fortunate to have met each and every one, something I wouldn’t say easily. I was one of the wine ‘geekier’ of the wine writers (although I can’t hold a candle to Charlie) and I hope I provided back value, and not annoyance, myself.

Thanks for reading, and enjoy the adventure over the next two weeks as it unfolds here.  Salud!

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