After a lovely refreshing sleep on our memory foam mattresses we awoke ready to see what day 2 would entail. We had arranged a tour entitled ‘The Winebus’ and so after getting ready we took the tube to Claridge Hotel for the meeting spot, stopping off on the way to pick up a ham and cheese toasted sandwich and a green tea. The hotel was beautiful and I felt a bit out of place eating my 2Euro sandwich in their very plush lobby.
After a few minutes our guide Nacho arrived (from what I gathered his name was actually Nathaniel but he had adopted the easier to pronounce Nacho which was fine for us. We had thought the group would be quite big since it was entailed a bus however, we were pleasantly surprised to find out it was just us and 2 American girls from New York named Emma and Megan. They were both lovely and after the introductions we were off. The drive to Rueda, our first stop was pretty long and so we all enjoyed a nap en-route.
We stopped off at a little café just on the outskirts of town where I had my first chilled glass of Verdejo with a very yummy Spanish Tortilla. The wine was lovely and refreshing and our guide informed us that this was the most famous white wine in Spain and it is produced in Rueda – the wine region we were visiting. After our little wine break it was on to the first stop – Yllera Winery.
I have visited a few wineries, most of which were in South Africa, and have seen tiny family run places as well as mass producers. Each place tends to have a different feel to it. Yllera is a group of winemakers that own different wineries throughout many different regions in Spain. They make hundreds of thousands of bottles and so the first part of the tour was through the mass production part of the winery. We saw the machinery used in order to produce wine for the mass market and our guide Veronica (who was speaking in Spanish and so Nacho translated) explained the procedure first for white wine, which makes up around 40% of production, then for red and finally for sparkling. The sparkling wine is made in a similar way to champagne whereby they add yeast to the bottle and then turn it an eighth every day before slicing of the top of the bottle once they have got all of the bad products to fall to one end. It was interesting to learn about the commerciality of wine and how the winery has had to export a large proportion of wine as the profit margin is much better in comparison to selling local.
After we had learned about the production we made our way downstairs into a cute bar for a tasting of the White Verdejo wine and the Red Tempranillo. Both were lovely although I particularly enjoyed the red. They also served a yummy local cheese also produced in Rueda alongside some chorizo as a Tapa to go with the wine. The tasting was great fun and it was nice to get to know the 2 American girls on the tour with us a little better.
In Spain many centuries ago the local people had no access to clean water and so wine was their drink of choice. However, with the heat of the summer sun they had to find a storage place to stop it from going off quickly. The method of choice was caves underneath houses as these kept a steady temperature of around 16 degrees. The second part of the tour involved us driving down the road of the small town (Rueda reminded me distinctly of a town from a cowboy Western film) to the wineries older section which is only really used nowadays for tourists. The winery bought the old cave system of a local family when they were selling it and now uses it as a place to show tourists the historical aspect of winemaking that is associated with the town. It was very interesting to wander around the underground cave system and listen to all of the mythical stories associated with it however, for us this part of the tour was distinctly lacking in what we had come for – wine! At the end of the last section there was a small gift shop where I was able to purchase a bottle of the Tempranillo to take home before we headed of the stop number 2.
By this point we were getting peckish and so our next stop at Medina del Campo was for lunch. As 2 of the group were vegetarian (very difficult in Spain) Nacho recommended we go for tapas to – La Taperia de la Plaza – so that we could all pick what we wanted to eat. This turned out perfectly with some really tasty food. We had; langoustines with (grey wormy things) on toast, morcilla on toast, garlic mushrooms with cheese on toast, ham croquettes, cream of chicken wrap with vegetables, local sausage with cheese toast and seafood and cheese toast all washed down with 2 different verdejo white wines from Rueda. We were all very full after but finished the fantastic meal off with green tea and coffee. The Plaza square was a lovely setting for lunch. Each of the small squares represent what you could find in that area of the old market square.
We were scheduled to visit the local museum next but we were all having such a lovely time sitting drinking wine in the sun that we asked if we could try a different bar instead and so we made our way to El Casino de Medina del Campo for, you guessed it, some more verdejo! We were also very lucky as at the bar was the owner of a winery, whose wine we just happened to be drinking. He introduced himself to each of us and asked about the wine and our preferences. The tapa was a sort of deep fried prawn thing which I tried out of courtesy but wasn’t a huge fan off – it was very doughy. This is the great thing about the winebus. The small group sizes allow you to be flexible and Nacho is up for any suggestions you might have.
The final stop on our tour was a visit to the Castle a la Moto, which was a traditionally beautiful Spanish castle that was quite stunning in the early evening light. Again the tour that we followed was in Spanish but Nacho was fantastic at translating and answering any questions that we had. The tour started underground at the old foundations and then continued through the castle building. There were courtyards inside and you could see how it would have housed a royal court. There was even a chapel inside the building to ensure that the royal household’s every need was catered to. As we were leaving some local musicians were setting up for an evening concert in the castle which we could hear them rehearsing for as we were drinking some red wine in the car park to finish the tour. It was great.
The tour was a fantastic way to see some of the surrounding area of Madrid as well as learning some more about Spanish wine. Nacho changes the tour most weekends and I can definitely say if I am ever back in Madrid I will be taking the opportunity to try another one of his tours. His enthusiasm for Spain and wine was contagious. You can check out his website and upcoming tours below;
We headed back to Madrid and sadly said goodbye to Nacho and Megan and Emma. Nacho had kindly agreed to drop us off in the centre of town and conveniently we were very near to a restaurant a good friend of ours – Derek – had recommended; Fatigas del Querer. As we approached the place we could see it was buzzing with people, quite different from our tapas experience the evening before where the places had been quite empty. We managed to find a table and ordered some obligatory red wine from Ribera del Duero. It was delicious and a great accompaniment to our food of paella and patatas bravas and aioli and Spanish tortilla. Having been used to ordering tapas portions we were quite taken aback when 3 huge plates of food arrived. The paella was really lovely with lots of yummy seafood and the potatoes were fantastic, one really spicy and one garlic. We were stuffed full but so happy.
We wandered through the streets of Madrid back to our hostel in the evening sun. One thing we have noticed is that people seem to appear around 9p.m. at night and from then on the streets are bustling like a carnival. Compare this to say 11a.m. and they are completely deserted. It is definitely a city with an active nightlife and we enjoyed our colourful walk back before collapsing into bed. Another brilliant day.