A taste of Castilla y Léon

When we read the words ‘wine resort’ we imagine trips around wineries and relaxing wine spas. Where can you go if you would like more than this? Hacienda Zorita! The ‘Pentagon’ of the Haciendas Company is a fullyfledged complex of oenogastronomic delights. Beginning with the joint participation of a few wineries, there is now a resort, a spa and a cellar that looks like a stage setting for an exotic opera, with a VIP dining area, and, to cater for our other appetites, an organic farm where they produce vegetables, plus high-end, well-matured balsamic vinegar, cheese and mouth-watering jamón. Believe me, even if you think that Spanish jamón is fatty and unpleasant, this product will convert you; it is a gastronomic pearl, more addictive than cigarettes (I hope you don’t smoke) or oysters.

This was the most relaxing trade trip that I have made in 16 years of working in the wine business. There were no obscure discussions of pH and acidity levels or other niceties of chemistry. Here the chemistry comes from the people who work in this marvellous project. For example, the vice president, Jaime Boville Garcia de Vinuesa, to give him his full name, who discusses his cheese with such a passion that you long to try anything that he recommends, especially the cheese aged in Syrah wine or thyme for six months. This proved an inspired idea to treasure, with the flavour of the cheeses straight away changing the taste and texture of ‘big’ Spanish wines with great subtlety. Jaime explains that the success of Hacienda Zorita’s wonderful farm cheese depends on three factors: the best milk, the best technology and the special maturation process in an impeccable space, as clean as an operating theatre, with controlled temperature levels (8ºC) at 85% humidity.

As for the balsamic vinegars, these are also treated like wines. As they evaporate over the years, they are moved to progressively smaller different wood barrels, where they develop more sweet and dried fruit flavours, passing through a stage of nuttiness (only achieved after five years in cask) until it reaches, at ten years, the reward worth waiting for: a concentrated nectar reminiscent of Christmas cake! We tried it with strawberries, with the balsamic vinegar used instead of cream. It worked beautifully.

On this trip I received a good idea from Duarte Cunha, who is the general manager of Hacienda Zorita Hotel and Spa. He described how nowadays tourists choose to visit not just one region, but try to find roots, themes and variations, which may take them from one country to another.

In this case Salamanca has a perfect position, so the wine tourist can head off to Madrid or venture further into the vineyards of Portugal. I for one will definitely return, to sample again the peace that gives you an audience with yourself and your thoughts. And that is all you need to write the perfect book about wine.

That Syrah, again

Among the different styles of wines produced by The Haciendas Company from their many wineries, my heart was won over by a product from a winery only 20 minutes from the Portuguese border, where a woman winemaker, Alma Garcia, makes an extraordinary Syrah. I am not normally inspired by Syrah wines but this time I decided that of all the wines I sampled, the 2011 Hacienda Zorita Natural Reserve Syrah, Unamuno Vineyard, is the one deserving of more detailed consideration. Almost every wine region is trying to find a terroir that is friendly to Syrah, but I find it very difficult to find anything arresting in the new Syrah style after tasting the iconic Syrahs from the Old and New World.

So it’s lovely to find a memorable wine from this region. I wanted to find the typical Syrah characteristics: the notes of tobacco and red berries, and here not too far from Salamanca I found a very ambitious example of what I was looking for. It is made by a woman, but in a bold male-style; the berries had been harvested at the ideal level of ripeness, and there was an excellent fruit component, which was complemented by refreshing acidity. The tannins were perfectly integrated.

There is an amazing feeling in the mouth and the expected similar power on the palate. This wine is still very young. We tasted the 2011 (24 months in new French oak), and now dream of trying more vintages.

The 2015 will be available soon and it was an excellent vintage, so do not miss it!

By Tanya Mann

This is an extract from a full report on the CWW trip to Castilla y Léon in 2016. Members can read the full report online here.