So I’ve booked my holidays. And before you ask, yes, I’m basing it around food and wine. I’ll report back in July, but I thought readers might be interested in my plan should you be thinking about a similar holiday.
Early in 2019 I wrote about the new Cork to Santander ferry service but couldn’t get myself organised to try it out. The journey takes 26 hours-plus and is ‘economy class’ so has significantly less facilities than the Cork-Roscoff boat, Pont Aven, which is a bit of a floating palace. We couldn’t miss out on this little bit of luxury so we will travel Cork-Roscoff and drive through France to Spain, stopping in Muscadet, Bordeaux, Gascony and possibly the Basque country. Once we get to Spain we plan to visit around five wine regions and eventually return to Ireland via the Santander-Cork ferry. I’m not put off by the 26 hours as I’ve been on ‘economy’ Brittany Ferries boats to the UK and standards are relatively high.
I realise this is ambitious, given we have just two weeks, but roads in France and Spain are excellent and I know the route well. Roscoff to Bordeaux by car takes around seven hours, Bordeaux to San Sebastian is three hours and San Sebastian to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia is a further seven hours. The plan currently is to spend five days in France, two days in San Sebastian and then drive to Santiago along the coast with an overnight in Asturias to try some seafood with the local cider. We will then head for Santiago for a few days (including a visit to Rias Baixas), spend a day in Valdeorras in Eastern Galicia, and then a few days based in Valladolid which is near Ribera, Toro and Verdejo, before making our way to Santander to take the ferry home. I do not plan on driving more than three or four hours per day — good lunch will be an essential part of the trip, and more than likely I’ll make morning trips to vineyards on my own while the other three enjoy late breakfasts and find a spot for lunch.
Travelling by ferry and car should reduce our carbon footprint compared to flying and will allow for a couple of cases of souvenir wines. My wine recommendations this week cover some of the producers I plan to visit in Spain and in France.
BEST VALUE UNDER €15
This is reduced from €19.99 and while I’m not sure it is quite worth the full price, this is very solid value for a tenner. Aromas of blackberry and plums with a hint of green pepper, fruity and solidly ripe with crunchy dark fruits, well suited to a meaty stew. I recommend decanting this for an hour beforehand to open it up a little.
Rioja is an hour south of San Sebastian and both of Rioja’s wine towns, Haro and Lagroño are worth a visit. This budget Rioja is made with 100% Garnacha rather than usual Tempranillo blend. Soft and fruity with pleasing red and blackberry fruits and a touch of refreshing blackcurrant skin bitterness on the finish. Perfect for a midweek pizza or Spanish tortilla.
World Wide Wines, Bradleys Cork, Le Caveau, www.lecaveau.ie
This family run estate is over 75 years old, significantly older than the bulk of producers on this high mountain plain just over an hour north of Madrid. Rich purple colour, classic nose of black fruits with floral touches mixed with spice. Solid fruits on the palate, more depth than you would expect.
BEST VALUE OVER €15
Bradleys North Main St Cork; World Wide Wines; Baggot St Wines; Le Caveau; Green Man Terenure
Montus is arguably the best wine of Madiran in the Gers Department, around two hours drive south of Bordeaux. Montus is always firm but elegant with cabernet sauvignon tempering the rather austere Tanat grape. Rich mocha and spice, dark blackcurrant and blackberry fruits.
Whelehans; 64 Wines; Blackrock Cellar; Lilac Wines; Clontarf Wines; Sweeneys; Baggot St Wines
Rafael Palacios is the star winemaker of Valdeorras, a small region in eastern Galicia, around 2.5 hours by car from Santiago. His Godello grapes are an average age of 25 and are grown at 600m. This has floral and (stone) fruit aromas with a touch of fennel and sage and a salty tang.
JJ O’Driscolls; No 21, Ardkeen Stores; Vintry; McHughs; Independent off licences
Yes, there are cheaper Albarinos out there but beware of buying this grape on price. Based in O Rosal in the very south of Rias Baixas I might not get a chance to visit given how the much nearer the Salnés sub-region is to Santiago. Pristine mineral freshness with jasmine and peach aromas.