How I adore the Spanish capital: its extraordinary museums, efficient metro system, and sparkling lights of the Gran Vía.
My attraction to Madrid was instant, though it grew stronger as I sipped the Spanish sparkling wine, Cava, while looking out to the ivory façade of the Royal Palace. On that occasion, storm clouds encircled the Palace, though somehow the sun kept shining on the magenta flowers in the Plaza de Oriente, lighting them up like lanterns. As the clouds burst, everyone scurried into a nearby tapas bar. In the cozy bar, they yelled in Spanish across tables, ate olives and salty jamón ibérico, and poured table wine from a carafe.
This was when I knew I would be visiting Madrid time and time again.
Indeed, I have walked the glamorous streets of the upmarket barrio Salamanca countless times, and from Calle de Velázquez to Calle de Goya, I just love watching the madrileños, the people of Madrid, stroll the streets.
I love watching the men dressed in conservative slacks talking into their mobile phones as though they need to project their voice all the way to Rioja.
I admire the way the women coordinate their colourful outfits, and I try to join their ranks, walking beside them in bold-coloured ballet flats.
I have frequented the top floor of the El Corte Inglés department store at Plaza de Callao to gaze at the bottles of wine for sale; I’m not sure how many times I have sipped brut Cava at the roof-top bar of the Palacio de Cibeles while watching the sun set on the gold-encrusted dome of the Metropolis building; and I’ve feasted on the menú del día, menu of the day, with a carafe of table wine more times than I can admit.
After my typical menú del día—the cold tomato and bread soup called salmorejo followed by fresh white fish cooked with herbs, and then chocolate cake with raspberries for dessert—I would either walk through Retiro Park feeling grateful that I can eat so well for 10 euros, or I would lie in bed watching the Spanish TV serials, unable to move.
By eating Spanish cuisine and watching the addictive Spanish series about two wine-making families in Rioja, called ‘Gran Reserva’, I thought I was living the Spanish dream; but I did not know that just outside the city there were wineries I could visit.
When a waiter in barrio Salamanca poured me a glass of quality red wine from Madrid, everything changed. The waiter explained that Madrid has its own Denominación de Origen. And so I was enticed out of the city centre and along the Madrid Wine Routes.
Southwest of Madrid you can find the sub-zone of Arganda, a wine region with a buff-grey terrain scattered with flowers in shades of lavender and buttermilk.
At Bodegas Señorío de Val Azul in Chinchón, I was introduced to a handsome wine called Fabio, and I was smitten with its Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blend.
In Aranjuez, at Viñas El Regajal, I tasted the Selección Especial, which is a blend of the Spanish grape, Tempranillo, with Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. The gorgeous wine labels for El Regajal pay tribute to the butterfly, since the land is home to 77 species of butterfly.
Last, I visited Bodegas Jesús Díaz, which is located in part of the Franciscans’ Convent in Colmenar de Oreja. In the historical bodega, wine cellar, they still use traditional earthenware jars for wine making. At the end of an enjoyable day, I purchased a bottle of their Convento San Bernardino, a smooth Tempranillo with aromas of red fruits, vanilla and toast.
Next time I am in Madrid, I will be sure to spend more time exploring the Madrid Wine Routes. I found the people to be welcoming—in fact, I felt like a cousin of the family being shown around the winery—there are olive oils to try, bush vines to see, and the charming, historic town of Chinchón to explore.
There are so many good reasons to get out of the city centre for a day or two to visit the Madrid Wine Routes.
Feature photo: Viñas El Regajal
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