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Elite level cycling and top-quality wine might not seem like the most evident of combinations. But just as the cyclists looking to grab the red jersey at the upcoming Vuelta a España 2021 strive for perfection in all areas, so do the winemakers that we work with from the Iberian Peninsula.
Beyond that there are numerous other similarities. Time and patience are undoubtedly of paramount importance. Watching cycling races may not be the most widely consumed sporting spectacle, but there is beauty in the patience shown by the riders. And when those ‘big-bang’ moments occur, it makes it all the sweeter. Winemaking requires a like-minded approach of measure. Grape growing is no mean feat. Producers must be meticulous in their tending to the vines, the treatments they apply, judging when the right moment is to strike at harvest. It is a culmination of months and years of graft.
And just as a peloton is made up of riders of varying specialisms (climbers, sprinters, all-rounders), so is the Spanish wine scene, with fresh rosés to full-bodied whites, to spell-binding bottles made from indigenous grape varieties and the archetypal punchy, spicy reds.
Arguably the most influential factor though in both the Vuelta and Spanish winemaking is the topography and natural elements of the country. Grueling, nigh-on sadistic climbs up thousands of meters of elevation into the unforgiving mountain ranges of Spain are what define this bike race and give rise to the last men standing.
It is this altitude that is also of such defining significance when cultivating grapes. If vines were not planted sufficiently high enough above sea level, the growing environment would be considerably too hot to facilitate achieving the ideal fruit ripeness. The cooling impact that benefits vineyards that are situated at 400 plus meters is vital for a steady growing season that leads to the superb wines produced from all corners of the country.
So with the clear synergy of wine and cycling in plain sight, the undoubted added interest from the recent Olympics cycling events that will still be present in many, and with the Vuelta a España starting this Saturday 14th August, we’ve not only picked out some exquisite bottles to accompany your viewing of the race, but have delved into producers that are also situated close to the race route itself, just for a bit of added fun – enjoy!
This is such an underrated wine. The vines are situated just outside Rioja, not far off the first three stages of the Vuelta a España, so a perfect bottle to kick things off. Altitudes reach around 600m above sea level, and the grapes are hand-harvested to preserve quality and integrity, demonstrating the aforementioned patience required.
A low intervention Godello, with a beautifully fragrant palate – what better way to settle into the start of the race this Saturday!
An absolute stonewall favourite at Plonk, amongst customers and the team alike. One of the most exciting aspects of Grand Tour cycling is the surprises that can arise from nowhere. In that vein, this 100% Garnacha is no different.
Made by Spanish MW (Master of Wine) Fernando Mora, the aim was to redefine the style of Garnacha to be elegant and fresh. To emphasise this new, surprising style, the grapes are 30% whole bunch pressed and fermented in concrete with natural yeasts. The nose is super fragrant, there's grippy tannin to be had, but it’s not punching you in the mouth. Juicy with a scented length - a enjoyable bottle that will do wonders accompanying your viewing of the nearby route of stage 4!
We then move to stage 5, as the race takes the riders from Tarancón to Albacete, not far from vines located on the vast plateau of La Manche. And with this we again land upon a different style of wine altogether from the previous two.
The Maro El Rosado is packed full of fresh and fragrant strawberries, berries, and cherries. Bone dry and crisp and totally smashable.
Much of the race from stage 5 onwards then follows the east coast of Spain, and then down into Sherry production land of the south, before kicking back up to the north of the country. Which is where our wine trial rejoins proceedings.
With thousands of kilometres covered by the time we hit stages 21 and 22, we’ll be exhausted just watching the intense scenes the riders have had to endure (can only imagine how they’re feeling!). So, to round this epic spectacle off, the race passes through the north-west of the country, where we encounter the trusty grape of these lands – Albariño.
A wine booming with fragrant lemon, apples, and a hint of blossom from Monte Xiabre is just what the physio will be calling for as the riders near the finish line (that and an ice bath no doubt…).
So, whether you’re big into your cycling or not, why not grab some bottles, to either elevate your already piqued interest in the Vuelta a España 2021, or to use Spanish wine as a gateway into giving the sport a go from a spectator standpoint!