We are members of a group created for the worldwide whisky community, the #whiskyfabric. It is a group of special friends from around the world that are brought together with their passion for whisky. No matter where you are or what you need there is always someone in the fabric that will be there to provide advice, opinion and best of all make introductions. It’s fair to say that a lot of “weaving” happens in this part of our world.
Little did we know when we embarked on out Andalucian adventure 3 years ago that the same would be true of the wine community in Spain.
Pivotal to this was the Technical Specialists in the Generous Wines and Vinegars course run by the Consejo Regulador of D.O.P. Montilla-Moriles.
While attending, we met some of the most interesting and welcoming people. So much so that their enthusiasm for their own regional wines captured our interest.
One special friend, Piedad Fernández from Extramadura, extended an invitation to us to explore her home region. Of course we were delighted and were obviously keen to accept.
So in March this year we flew into Madrid for 2 nights, spending a wonderful evening with Andrew (read about it here), before driving to Badajoz. We had no idea what Piedad had planned but we knew it would be a memorable experience.
Piedad is a vibrant wine professional who runs an international sommelier school having worked previously in export sales for Extremaduran wines for 20 years. Her enthusiasm is truly infectious.
It is a long drive to Badajoz from Madrid but we took Piedad’s recommendation to stop in Trujillo. We had a lovely lunch and took time to explore the town. It’s something we should definitely do more of in future trips, discover more off the main routes we travel.
After checking into our hotel Piedad asked us to join her at 39siete where she was educating a group on the nuances of Cava. We were delighted to take part. Piedad certainly piqued our interest and Cava is definitely a sparkling wine that we have to discover more.
Afterwards we had a absolutely fantastic meal with the owner of 39siete, José Luis Joló and friends of Piedad.
If you ever visit Badajoz this is a must visit restaurant as the food, wine and ambience is second to none. Following our meal we were taken to the 11th floor of Badajoz’s tallest building, the Caja Badajoz for a panoramic view of the city with the Puente Real front and centre.
The next day, after a breakfast of traditional migas, Piedad took us to one of Extremadura’s newest wineries, Bodega Encina Blanca de Alburquerque.
We met Esther Gamero the Oneologist and Ramón Rivera who is the Bodeguero who took us to see something really special.
This vineyard was a living library of grape varieties grown in Extremadura including the “Grandmother” vine.
This vine is the oldest in Extremadura and has been estimated to be over 150 years old.
This project of salvaging and nurturing these special vines is something the owner of Encina Blanca José Rivero Sudón is very passionate about.
We had never seen the vines like this, all pruned and looking like something out of “Lord of the Rings”. It seemed at first lifeless but on closer inspection they were weeping. This was the start of their new seasonal cycle.
On the way back to the winery we stopped and saw a herd of breeding black Ibérico pigs. These are the famous pig responsible for producing the finest Jamon Ibérico.
We then returned to the winery where we were taken on a tour of the facilities. No expense has been spared and the modern wine making equipment takes center stage complete with solar panels and batteries which supply their electricity.
A favourite part of any visit to a winery is tasting their wines. It is fair to say that the welcome mat was well and truly laid out. They had provided an absolutely fantastic spread of food to accompany their fantastic wines including one made in the style of Port.
Once again the hospitality extended to us has been amazing. A huge thank you to Esther and Ramón for hosting us.. Finally to Piedad an excellent guide and good friend for organizing this visit.
When we returned to Badajoz we were endulged in an evening of bread, Jamon Ibérico and Portuguese wines from Reynolds. It was interesting to see the skill in how the Iberico ham is carved up and to taste the difference in each cuts fom different parts of the leg. Unfortunately we were unable to visit Reynolds but look forward to visiting them next year.
The next morning saw us exploring Badajoz, visiting the Plaza Alta, walking part of the walls of the Alcazaba and having churros for breakfast with Piedad.
We then stopped in Piedad’s hometown of Almendralejo where we were visited the bullring that used to house it’s own winery. Last stop before parting ways was the Museum of Wine Sciences, a fantastic place charting the history of wine in Extremadura back to the Roman times. Well worth a visit.
We can’t thank Piedad and everyone we met enough for making our visit so memorable during our time in Extremadura. It has been another adventure that proves if you go off the beaten track so to speak you can truly experience so much of what we call the “Real” Spain. A big hug to you all and needless to say we will definitely back next year for more.