The Camino de Santiago is an ancient Christian pilgrimage to the holy city of Santiago de Compostela in Northern Spain. Recently, it has experienced a surge in popularity due in part to the 2010 Emilio Estevez film The Way. The potential routes to Santiago de Compostela converge in the spectacularly scenic territory of Spain’s northern provinces, so the journey has become a popular activity for those of all faiths and none.
If trudging through the Spanish heat to pay homage to the relics of St. James doesn’t sound like your thing, we have that in common.
But there’s another reason you should know about the Camino de Santiago – the route passes some of Spain’s best wine regions. So, this week we’ve organised an alternative pilgrimage, a pilgrimage of wine: Vino of the Camino! We’re starting our holy journey in La Rioja, early in the Spanish section of the Camino, before continuing on to Rias Baixas, just below Santiago de Compostela.
If you followed the Camino from France into Spain, you would skirt the northern border of La Rioja just after you crossed the Pyrenees. No doubt weary after your time in the mountains, you should take a quick diversion from your pilgrimage and continue south-west from Pamplona, into the heart of La Rioja. Right before you reached Logroño, you would find yourself on the very hospitable doorstep of Bodegas Carlos San Pedro Perez de Viñasperi. And you would be very lucky indeed to find yourself there.
Carlos San Pedro’s family have been making wine for wayward pilgrims for more than 500 years. So, the oak barrels in the Bodega are full of history as well as wine. But Carlos is a farmer first, and a winemaker second. He believes the great wine can only come from great fruit, so focuses his attention on the 45 hectares that provide Tempranillo and Graciano grapes for his delicious Viñasperi Crianza. The San Pedro family vineyard enjoys a fortunate combination of soil and altitude, as well as an endowment of old vines. Carlos San Pedro combines these elements to create an excellent exemplar of modern Rioja.
The wine is textured and elegant. The influence of oak is as prominent as the dark, plummy fruits without overpowering the freshness of flavour. This balance would make Viñasperi Crianza an excellent foil for robustly cooked or fattier cuts of meat. Think roast lamb or pork shoulder.
Sustained by Viñasperi Crianza and the hearty food it deserves, you should have the energy to continue towards Rias Baixas, just below Santiago.
It’s there you’ll find Abel Francisco Codesso of Bodegas As Laxas. And if you ask politely, he might give you a taste of his Val do Sosego Albariño. Abel grows his Albariño grapes on south-facing terraces that line the Spanish bank of the Miño river (the opposite bank of the Miño river is in Portugal). On these slopes, the grapes get plenty of intense sunshine tempered by a moist and cooling Atlantic breeze. It’s a perfect situation for these grapes to develop their characteristic fresh and aromatic character. Oz Clark describes Val do Sosego Albariño as “is soft, even slightly chubby, but that only serves as a vehicle for the cool fruit of pears and white peach and the pithy bitterness of grapefruit zest”.
Val do Sosego Albariño would be delicious with the kinds of dishes that have both a rich and a mild element, like crab with avocado, or asparagus with hollandaise sauce.
If you want to experience the Vino of the Camino, we’ll have both Val do Sosego Albariño and Viñasperi Crianza open for you to taste in Mullingar and Arnotts from Monday the 16th of October. You’re more than welcome to stop by and raise a glass to St. James!