By LARRY HAMPTON
Spain’s newest ‘Denominación de Origen’ is the Ribera del Guadiana, created in the late 1990s.
It is the Extremadura area just south of Merida, centred on the city of Almendralejo. This is a very old wine producing area that made only fairly pedestrian white wines for many years.
However, about 40 years ago, there was a sea change in attitude and approach and production shifted to better reds, based on the Tempranillo and Graciano grapes, and cava.
Today the producers in the DO are making some very fine wine indeed. Interestingly, their vines are not trellised but grow on the ground. As Tempranillo ripens early and needs to be picked in late August, the picking is done throughout the cool of the night using spotlights.
The Algarve Wine Society (AWS) recently had a unique and interesting opportunity. We were invited by Cofradia, the wine society of the Ribera del Guadiana, to visit them for a joint weekend of good food and fine wine.
Cofradia was founded in 1980 (so it is much older than the AWS, which was founded in 1997) and although it has fewer members, many of them are in the business (producers, retailers, restaurants, and so on). This joint event with another wine society marked a first for the AWS.
Thirty-three AWS members left by coach Saturday morning, May 19, and, after a 360km drive, went directly to Bodegas Marcelino Diaz for lunch and a tasting of their superb whites, reds and cavas, sold mainly under the Puerta Palma label.
Mr. Diaz is a legend in the Extremadura area, having been one of the pioneers in the development and improvement of these wines (especially growing and production techniques to cope with extremely high summer temperatures) as well as a founder and President of Cofradia.
Later that evening, we had a joint, and very festive, special Spanish banquet with members of Cofradia at Nando’s Restaurant – purportedly the best restaurant in Almendralejo, where Nando himself prepared our meal. This was a memorable occasion indeed.
Sunday morning featured breakfast at Pampano Vinateria, whose owner, Piedad Fernández Paredes, is a Cofradia member and the co-organiser of this trip.
After breakfast we visited the National Wine Museum (Museu de las Ciencias del Vino) and the local museum to see the huge silver Theodosius’ Disc, a roman artifact discovered near Almendralejo.
Then it was on to Bodegas Martinez Payva for a tasting and lunch prepared by Chef Juan José Benitez Zoido.
The Algarve Wine Society’s spring calendar concludes with the annual summer party, to be held this year at Os Agostos in Sta Bárbara de Nexe on Sunday, June 24. After the summer break activities recommence on Wednesday, September 19, with a tasting of the Alentejo wines of Monte Novo e Figuerinho followed by dinner at the Dona Filipe Hotel.
Membership of The Algarve Wine Society is at its upper limit and there is a waiting list, but if you would like more information or would care to join the waiting list please contact the Secretary Larry Hampton on [email protected]