Five trendy culinary destinations for an autumn getaway in Spain
Autumn is upon us and the countryside is painted in tones of yellow and red. This is the season for a quick inland getaway focused on good food. It’s also the perfect time for some rural tourism, which grew 11 per cent in Spain last year but managed to keep prices at the same level as in previous years.
1 From barbecue to botillo: calorie-laden Castile and León
With 1.5 million overnight stays, this region is the queen of rural tourism. Here, the spotlight is on barbecues, Segovian-style suckling pig and the omnipresent suckling lamb, the latter being especially appreciated in Burgos and Valladolid. This year, don’t miss Bierzo’s botillo, celebrating its first year with a designation of origin and a winner in the Castile and León Gastronomy Awards.
The area is also a winemaking superpower with highly aromatic wines from Rueda, with varieties including Pata Negra Sauvignon Blanc from the wineries of García Carrión. This wine is crafted from a select production of only three plots and is known for its intense aromas of pineapple and boxwood. In the Ribera del Duero, Matarromera remains a solid classic with a score of 92 points in this year’s Peñín Guide’s Prestige edition. The wine is available for tasting at the Espadaña de San Bernardo, which offers all the brand’s varieties, along with its suckling lamb and local stews and soups. The Conde de San Cristóbal red from Marqués de Vargas has also become immensely popular ever since Michelle Obama drank it while visiting Cuba. A limited amount of this wine is crafted in the heart of the Ribera Golden Mile, in the town of Peñafiel, Valladolid.
2 Markets and chestnuts in the Extremadura of the Games of Thrones
Games of Thrones has put Extremadura on the international tourist map. But it wasn’t a secret for gourmets, especially in the autumn, with events such as the Otoñada of the Valle del Jerte, with the crafts markets, the Otoño Mágico of the Vale de Ambroz, with mushroom-hunting workshops and a Gran Calbotá dedicated to calbotes (roasted chestnuts). In addition, the Sierra de Gata organises 14 conferences on honey, cheese and mushrooms.
The star of Montesano is Iberian acorn-fed ham with the DO Dehesa de Extremadura, produced on their estate in Jerez de los Caballeros in Badajoz, from Iberian pigs fed with grass and acorns.
3 Reinventing the classics in Andalusia
With a pantry as diverse as its sea and mountains, Andalucia is making new steps this year with new features such as the creation of the Andalucian Academy of Gazpacho. The surprise ingredient for this autumn is the chestnut, which has two fairs dedicated to it in Malaga, in Alcaucín and Yunquera.
With cooks such as Ángel León, Andalucian cuisine is reinventing its traditional flavours. You can visit León’s restaurant, Aponiente, in Puerto de Santa María, Cádiz. And while you’re there you can also taste exclusive Yodo – limited editions of wines that go well with seafood, fino and amontillado sherries, produced only for Aponiente by Bodegas Lustau.
As far as ham goes, there’s nothing more classic than Cinco Jotas de Jabugo (Huelva). This producer of 100 per cent Iberian acorn-fed ham has opened its facilities to visitors, who can sign up for an unforgettable tasting session or explore the surrounding meadows on horseback.
The other standard of Andalucian cuisine is olive oil. The Seville brand La Española, with more than 175 years of tradition, dominates the national market, but also in Asia, the USA and more than 90 countries on five continents. It produces creations as typically Andalucian as Manzanilla sherry and oils with essence of rosemary or basil.
4 Castilla-La Mancha, capital of hunting
After Toledo’s period as a Capital of Gastronomy last year, Castilla-La Mancha has established a food-lovers’ offering which can be found in the game dishes that are now in season. Be sure to enjoy some Manchego cheese, as well, as there are 65 cheese dairies and more than 3,700 farms providing milk to them in the region. In addition, La Mancha is the most extensive wine producing region in the world, with 300,000 hectares of vineyards that produce top-quality wines such as Caliza from the Félix Solís winery. This multi-prize-winning coupage of Merlot, Syrah and Tempranillo is – along with Viña San Juan – the flagship of the brand.
5 Rivers that irrigate market gardens and vineyards in La Rioja
The busiest region in terms of wine tourism is also one of the best culinary destinations. The gardens watered by the same rivers that irrigate vineyards produce outstanding artichokes, cardoons, borage... But, above all, don’t leave La Rioja without sitting down to some lamb chops grilled over grape vine clippings.
For more than 100 years, Bodegas Riojanas, in the town of Cenicero, has been crafting such prestigious wines as Viña Albina and Monte Real. The company’s facilities – which can be toured – are permeated by that century-old history. At Montecillo, they meld the legacy of their classic range with the creativity of signature wines. They are adding to this the historical vintages used to make their limited Montecillo Gran Reserva Selección Especial. Rioja Vega stands out with a wine created for a special occasion – its 130th anniversary. This award-winning wine is highly aromatic. And don’t miss the white Tempranillo, whichss has just earned 91 points in the Guía Peñín.