After two years studying towards my WSET diploma I was lucky enough to be offered a scholarship to Spain with the company CodornÃu.
There were three scholars altogether on the trip and we were accompanied by a wonderful lady called Jo from CodornÃu. Before this trip I didn’t know much about the company and so was very excited for the opportunity to learn more about the company and the wine regions they had wineries in. CodornÃu is not only a Cava producer as many people think. They have wineries all over Spain and so our trip was to include a stop-over in most of the wine regions between Madrid and Barcelona.
We arrived in the baking heat of Madrid and were welcomed by Luis, our driver for the entire week. We were whisked off to Ribera del Duero, 2 hours directly north of Madrid. D.O Ribera del Duero is at 600-800 m above sea level on the northern most point of Spain’s central plateau. The region typically produces intense, long-lived red wines from the Tempranillo grape. Conditions are extreme – in summer temperatures can soar up to 40 degrees and there are only 185 frost free days a year! Despite these difficulties, wine is of an excellent quality mainly because of the high diurnal range. This means ripening is slowed down and more flavours can develop in the grapes.
Legaris winery is one of the youngest wineries in Spain, constructed in 1999, and uses the most up to date wine technology. The emphasis is on minimal intervention in winemaking and sustainable vineyard management. Techniques such as satellite imaging and GPS mapping are used to map out the vigour of vines. This enables the winery to assess the vineyard and assign the appropriate cropping methods, the appropriate irrigation levels etc.
Their Verdejo 2009 was impressive – peachy, fresh and fruity. Their basic red Roble 2009 was spicy with blackcurrant and berry fruits. We followed our tour of the winery with a vertical tasting of Crianzas and Reservas with the head winemaker Jorge BombÃn. Highlights for me were the 2005 (mineral, spicy, chocolaty, complex) and the 2007 (liquorice, berried fruit, velvety) Crianzas, as well as the 2004 (silky, intense and long) and the 2006 (elegant, mineral, silky, red fruits) Reservas.
Another long journey followed and we ended up at the Los Agustinos Hotel in Haro, Rioja. This hotel dates back to the 14th century when it was a convent. As a result the central restaurant area has a wonderful courtyard, perfect to enjoy a glass of Rioja!
As a sideline, if you are at all interested in seeing a stork’s nest, go to Haro! There are stork’s nests on most roof tops and telephone poles. As you can imagine they are pretty big and I was fascinated by the one opposite our hotel!