Stage 15 saw the Vuelta out of Spain entirely and into Andorra and France instead. Much better weather made for an easier mountain stage, grueling nonetheless and deservedly won, for his efforts, by French rider Geniez.
Now here’s a story…Some may think it’s strange that I decided to do a South African wine for Stage 15 – it wasn’t entirely intentional, so hear me out. I was very keen to find an Andorran wine and so after racking my brains and googling the hell out of it, I found this bottle on the internet and had to buy it just because…you know, it was funny to waste so much money in the name of getting someone down off their high horse. I don’t usually approve of naming-and-shaming but I can’t resist this time.
When, after two weeks, the bottle didn’t arrive I went into the shop and was told that the order had got lost and there was no trace of it. After having proved I had paid for it and once finally in possession of the bottle (albeit the wrong vintage) and having reminded them to refund the delivery charge, I went home and called them to tell them they had miss-sold me the bottle as it was advertised as Andorran and was in fact, South African…just to see what they would do about it.
They said sorry and told me that it was a great bottle of wine and I would really enjoy it anyway….thanks, very helpful. Sorry Hedonism, that’s the first and last time I buy anything from you – your staff may be knowledgeable about wine but you’ve still got work to do on your customer service.
Moving on and back into Spain and SPANISH wine for stage 16.
Today we entered that cycling-career defining mountain range of the Pyrenees and it was dramatic as anticipated. Riders suffering hypothermia, climbs of 15% gradient and generally miserable weather made for an extremely interesting stage. I mean, you couldn’t make this stuff up!
The wine for today’s stage is made by Tomas Cusine – a master of blending wines and a master of trendy labels. Based in the Catalan wine producing province of Costers Del Segre near the start of today’s stage, this is made from Tempranillo, or as the Catalonian’s call it, Ull de Llebre – hence the name of the wine. The rabbits in the picture were a little more of a mystery until I cracked it and found that they are not rabbits at all but in fact hares and hare in Spanish is Liebre. Very clever Tomas.
Having judged the book by its cover, I was expecting something a little more gutsy. The wine was a little thin BUT, it was rustic and swig-able so I very much enjoyed it. It’s up for sale in Sainsbury’s, the leader in the Spanish wine variety stakes of British supermarkets. I’d say it’s worth a go but probably won’t rush back for more myself. It was averagely exciting as, regrettably, I’m starting to find most Spanish wine….
Today was the last stage before the almighty Pyrenees and took us through the beautiful Catalonia. Barguil (previously unknown by the casual professional cycling spectator…inc. myself) stole an unexpected win a catapulted himself int the glorious limelight of cycling. Interesting cultural reference, the start of the stage was in the capital for human castles – a great Catalonian tradition – not to be attempted after wine. Under any circumstances.
We digress, onto the wine – This is a fortified wine made from the Muscat grape made by Pinord again – but hopefully less corked than yesterday’s offering. Now, some may say this is silly, but to me, Muscat always tastes overwhelmingly of grapes. This version tasted like stewed fruit. I would say stewed grapes but no one stews grapes…do they?! The wine is thick, rich and sweet. Perhaps lacking a bit of freshness but if served cold enough, it serves as a pretty good pre-dinner warm-up.
I was secretly hoping that this wine would be incredibly sophisticated and would make me feel like a 1920s feather-bower clad, cocktail sipping laaaady. But not really. Just quite good, slightly unusual to the British palate, interesting alternative which is definitely worth trying once…or twice.
Mountains tomorrow! WooooO!
Hmmm, I was looking forward to this wine being the first white that wasn’t Albariño. Still in Catalonia and delving into the famous Pinord winery I chose this Garnatxa Blanca for today’s stage. Now, Pinord are a bit of a dynasty. Their branding is set in most British wine drinkers unconscious without them even knowing. Take a look at the label and just see if no bells are ringing….
And that is where this review must end. The wine was corked. Musty, dank, repugnant moldy stench of corked wine. Bleugh……roll on tomorrow’s stage.
An apology to begin. Sorry for the delay in getting these posts up. I intended to do it stage by stage along with the riders. I just don’t have the stamina (or sufficient internet access opportunities) for this…. one of the few reasons I’ll probably never win a Grand Tour… *sob*.
After the rest day and having transferred up to the North East of Spain from Andalusia, I have opted for what I think may be the most typical Spanish wine in the whole wide world to accompany this little time trial. I opened it, poured the glass and took a sniff and very reassuringly it smelt like….well, Spanish wine.
So, I will endeavor to answer the question on everybody’s lips – what makes a Spanish wine Spanish? NB I’m talking red wine here…
My personal list of criteria is thus: Food friendly, Fruity – berries, plums, vanilla, tabacco (all fairly sweet flavours), Full bodied, Oaky, Intense ruby red colour. Massively generalised and fairly broad I know – but I’m a beginner when it comes to Spain and everyone (another generalisation) likes a simple check-list.
White tomorrow as we head for Catalonia!
Not that there haven’t been enough hills so far in the Vuelta – on stage 10, the hills became mountains and remained the talking point. Well, that and the searing heat. How do the riders do it?! For goodness sake, I would struggle to drive up some of these climbs let alone spin along on my bike! Horner derservedly got himself back in the red jersey with a stunning win.
What would a tour of Spain be without a jug of Sangria?! Nothing, that’s what. So here on the scorching Stage 10, the very spanish and very refreshing wine cocktail is exactly what I’m drinking. If I’m being honest, for me, the over riding smell of Sangria is the smell of a forthcoming hangover. I don’t think I’ve ever had a night on this wonderful red wine cocktail and not suffered miserably the day after. So, it is with trepidation I include it at this early point in La Vuelta.
I decided to do a home-made version (The Guardian’s Felicity Cloake’s recipe) vs a shop bought pre-mixed version (M&S Made in Germany). The home-made was good, really good. Tasted as good as a posh fruit salad in summer. The only fault I could find with it is that to purchase all the ingredients from scratch would half bankrupt most of us. Luckily I had some Marsala and Brandy in the back of the cupboard and there was an offer on wine in the supermarket. This is “special occasion” Sangria.
For the more general Sangria quaffing then the Made in Germany M&S version actually wasn’t horrendous. It was kind of rough, sharp and lacked the fullness of the home-made stuff but all-in-all I wouldn’t have said no to a second glass.
First rest day tomorrow! Adios.
I must begin with an apology for the delay in posting this. Lack of wifi (the horror)…better late than never!
A second stage win for Moreno today as he picks up the race leader jersey. The stage was in keeping with the theme of the Vuelta – pretty brutal. Another hill finish after having gone up and down, up and down all stage long.
The wine today is from the little area of Montilla-Moriles which the riders wizzed straight through. It’s a Pedro Ximenez which means it’s very sweet and very Spanish. The overbearing flavour of this wine is Sultanas. Sweet and cloying sultanas. I quite like a little glass of sweet wine now and again but this was waaaay too much for me. The lack of freshness let it down. If I was trying this again I wouldn’t mess around trying to chill it in the fridge – this requires the freezer to make it cool enough. Served a little colder the wine would be much better I’m sure.
So the reason this wine tastes like sultanas so much is because it’s made from grapes which have been laid out in the sun to dry – essentially raisins or sultanas. This is where it gets the sweetness from. Once the wine is made, it is aged in the solera process i.e. the sherry way. The resulting wine is brown colour despite being made from Pedro Ximenez, a white grape.
Maybe this wine would be a little more palatable if served with food. In fact, maybe it would be better if it was poured all over Christmas pudding. Afterall, if you can’t beat the sultana/raisin overkill you might as well knock yourself out with it.