Dine and Wine Among Vineyards Outside Madrid
Late September and early October are ideal months to visit Madrid. But leave the world famous Prado Museum for later. Instead, journey to picturesque hinterlands to wine and dine among the vines.
It is grape harvest time in Spain, a time when vineyards outside Madrid become a wine lover’s destination. Unlike the iconic Rioja wine region in northern Spain, these vineyards are a “diamond in the rough” on Madrid’s outskirts.
For the last three years, Gourmet Madrid has been organizing and leading tours during the harvest season, “la vendimia,” as it is called in Spanish. The wineries are less than an hour southeast of Madrid. During weekends in September and until mid-October, Gourmet Madrid promotes enotourism.
Gourmet Madrid is an ongoing project with Vintage Spain, a local travel agency specializing in wine and gastronomy tours, and Instintos, a firm that develops projects focusing on Madrid’s wine region. All three combined emphasize the capital city’s surrounding viticulture areas.
Wineries poised to receive guests for a half day of grape crushing, wine tasting and a typical Spanish lunch include Bodega El Regajal en Aranjuez; Bodega Fontana en Ucles; Bodega Jesus Diaz en Comenar de Oreja; Bodegas Solera en Colmenar de Oreja and Bodegas Andres Morate en Belmonte de Tajo.
Cristina Alonso and Jaime Baeza have dedicated themselves to ensuring that tourists learn about the newly emerging Denominacion de Origen (DO) de Vinos de Madrid. The vast wine region boasts more than 50 wineries.
“The wineries collaborating with us on these tours are outstanding in their diversity and quality of the wines. In this region we can find vineyards from 100 years old producing from Malvar, Airen and Tempranillo, to young vineyards that produce Syrah, Merlot, and Cabernet ,” said Alonso.
Judging from myriad wine aficionados who have taken the wine tours from Madrid, the day trip is well worth it. In fact, many have called the experience of participating in the wine harvest a unique adventure. Some have the stained feet and hands to prove it was truly a hands-on experience.
The excursions are by bus or autocar, as they say in Spain. If tourists prefer to drive their own vehicle to the wineries, the price of the visit is less expensive. Upcoming tours include a visit to Bodega El Regajal in Aranjuez on Sept. 30. A tour of Bodega Fontana is scheduled for Oct. 2. Bodega Jesus Diaz is set for Oct. 8 and Bodega Solera is on Oct. 15.
Baeza said the tours are unique because they are a hands-on experience for visitors to see exactly what happens from the moment the grapes are harvested to fermentation and bottling.
“The most important part of the tour is for participants to realize they will experience the whole process of wine production from start to finish. The tours focus on vineyards and wineries on both sides of the Tajo River,” Baeza said.
Alfonso and Baeza work with Rutas de Vino (Wine Routes) as well as Vintage Spain and Insistos. They agree that while Spain has experienced the worst drought in 50 years, the quality of the wines has not suffered.
The only disadvantage to winery owners this year is that while wine quality is superb, wine production is low due to rain scarcity. All the more reason to take advantage of weekend trips from Madrid to explore and experience winemaking firsthand.
“While the economic realities predispose us to pessimism and disappointment, this attitude is the contrary when it comes to viticulture, wineries and wine consumption. The 2012 harvest may not be abundant, but looks to be very high in quality wines,” said Alonso.
Depending on the day and time, wine tours cost anywhere from $55 euros, if a participant drives his own vehicle, to $69 euros if a participant takes the group tour by bus. Tours can cost up to $125 euros if it’s a half day tour at peak times.
Gourmet Madrid, Rutas de Vino and Vintage Spain work together to organize wine tours throughout Spain, including the Rioja wine region. Hotels and rural lodgings are included in any itinerary.
For half day tours from Madrid reservation information please go to: gourmetmadrid.com or try: info[at]gourmetmadrid.com
To learn more about GM’s partnerships go to: vintagespain.com and rutasdevino.com Have questions? Call Cristina Alonso or Jaime Baeza at 011-34-606-442-868.
Rosie Carbo is the Lifestyles Editor for Wandering Educators
Photos courtesy and copyright Gourmet Madrid