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Spain & Portugal

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Spain & Portugal 2008 - October 2009

Iberian Report - May 2012 - Manana, Manana
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Unfortunately, after my trip at the end of June last year, accompanied by Mr Higgs, the production of a report was rather over taken by events. However, as we have a number of Iberian new vintages and releases which certainly merit a mention, I have unearthed the original bones of my report and annotated it where relevant with updated information which I hope will prove useful. I have kept the original introduction, as a reminder of our summer trip which was dominated by the distances and the heat.

June 2011
Our Iberian marathon this year created an early fixation with the car temperature gauge and a strong appreciation of the air conditioning system. Madrid airport is sometimes a bit of a shock to the senses, when emerging for the first time from the cool interior into the stark, bright light and intense heat in the heart of land-locked, central Spain. An hour or so south brought us to the arid intensity of the La Mancha plateau and exclamations of “que calor!” from the Barreda family whilst heading for any available shade. A further 4 hour drive the same day, due west and we reached the outskirts of Cáceres, 2 hours from the Portuguese border. We were just in time to catch the graceful silhouettes of a vast number of storks against the sunset, as they flew in to perch on their nests atop giant poles dotted around the grounds surrounding our hotel. At 10pm it was still too hot and humid to sit outside for supper. Due west again the next morning we reached Portalegre in the north east of the Alentejo, just across the border in Portugal and later the same day, another 4 hour drive took us north and slightly east to Pinhão in the Douro Valley. Here, we discovered that the heat over the last couple of days had reached 50 degrees, scorching some of the thinner skinned grape varieties; a serious loss of crops for some growers was later reported.

The Douro currently seems to be all about the roads or rather the building of new ones. Maybe the very limited options for working on new routes, in this narrow, steep sided valley is a factor, but the close proximity to the construction work and the serious lack of any safety barriers, made for a harrowing journey north and east out of the Douro and across the mountains to the Arribes in Spain. En route we were rewarded with impressive views of gorge and dam at Bemposta where the road crosses over the Douro into Spain, followed by a short stretch through the Arribes del Duero National Park to reach Fermoselle. At this point the journey became slightly less intense, as did the heat, waking up to a crisp 10 degrees the next morning and a more civilised couple of hours to the tiny village of La Seca set on its own plateau south of the village of Rueda. Our final stop was a pleasant tasting in lovely, mild afternoon temperatures, on the lawn at Bodegas Amezola de la Mora, with the wonderful vistas of the Sierras de Cantabria, topped with billowing clouds, a clear indication of the barrier they form, holding back the wet weather from rolling in. We celebrated our last evening with a tour of some of Haro’s very traditional tapas bars with Cristina as our guide. An hour or so to Bilbao airport the following morning completed our 4 day, 2000km trip.

Karen Jenkins

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