Thursday, November 11, 2010

Life without it possible?

Living here, I have become quite accostumed to good wine.  Just a stone's throw away sits the famous Spanish wine region - La Rioja, so a good bottle of wine doesn't really cost more than 3€ or 4€ ($5 or $6).  When we go out for pintxos or take strolls around town and stop in at a bar to warm up, we normally order a wine.  Funny thing is that it costs MORE for a bottle of water here than a glass of wine.  It's like they WANT you to drink the wine, which I buy into easily.  In my apartment, we normally share bottles of wine during the week and usually have a glass each during dinner.  It's a part of life here and has become a part of my life too, but unfortunatley this week...its not!

This week I have a doctor's prescription which highly advises that I don't drink alcohol - or else I might end up puking everywhere.  So, for 10 days, I am not allowed a single drop of wine!  Unbelievable.  It's not really THAT bad, but I guess it makes me take a step back and appreciate the delicious wine I am so accustomed to.  Recognized as the Premier Wine Region in Spain, the Rioja region has been home to vineyeards since the 11th century BC when the Phoenicians settled in the area after traveling up the Ebro River.  Centuries later, the Romans conquered the area and started setting up bodegas all around to supply and sustain the troops.  I read that a 75,000 liters (19,813 gallons) container was unearthed in the region...obviously proving the Romans had some pretty thirsty soldiers!

The reputation of Rioja wine grew in the Middle Ages as pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago trekked through the region on thier way to Santiago, Spain.  When in la Rioja, they of course tested various wines.  With its growing popularity, the wine-makers started to look for ways to spread thier product around and begin shipping bottles to the Basque Country.  Being a very important port area, Rioja wines were able to reach Dutch and English wine merchants, and so the popularity for Spanish wine began to grow.

Once wine-makers learned of oak aging barrels, the shelf-life of the wine was stretched.  This made it possible for the grape juice to find its way all the way to Cuba and Central America.  When epidemics hit Galician and Bordeaux bodegas, the Rioja region capitalized on the situation and supplied the high wine demand with thier wines.

After such a great period of success the Rioja was depleted of any vines after WWII when the country was famished and the government ordered the grapes to be replaced with wheat to feed the Spainairds.  Finally, in the 1960s, the vines were replanted and the wine-makers began to experiment with aging, grapes, etc and made a new and improved Rioja wine, that I happen to appreciate every time I take a sip.

Knowing all this, it really makes you want to have a nice glass of wine no?  Well, you guys go ahead...and I will too, in 10 days! 

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