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If you fancy visiting a Bodega in or near Jumilla you are spoilt for choice, however if you are specifically looking for a tour in English that will limit your choice a bit, as Jumilla is inland and therefore many local people only speak Spanish.  This guide is intended therefore to point non-Spanish-speaking people in the right direction.

The bodegas situated within walking distance of the city centre are all very different, so this is also a resumé to help you decide which bodega is right for you.  You may of course want to visit several bodegas, however you will need a lot of stamina if you intend visiting them all on the same day!

1.  Bodegas Viña Campanero

This is the smallest  bodega in Jumilla and if you speak a bit of Spanish it is definitely not to be missed.  Pedro and his father are very welcoming: they enjoy showing people around and are very proud of their newest acquisition, a small bottling unit, which was only installed last year.    There are great views of Sierra Santa Ana from the salón, a tiny wine museum, and they also have a reasonably priced shop on their premises.  The bodega is behind BSI, so it would be good to combine a visit here with one at BSI.

Museum in Bodega Viña Campanero

 2.   Bodegas San Isidro (BSI)

The largest bodega in Jumilla is BSI, which is a co-operative.  Tours in English are available, but please make sure you book in advance.  They have some experimental vines on their site, however in the vendimia we see tractors queuing up with loads of grapes to deposit there, many of them from small vineyards, as well as trailers full of olives later in the year.  They also have their own wine museum and a shop on their premises.
3.   Bodegas Silvano Garcia

They have two members of staff who speak good English, and they do several different tours, including a visit to their aroma room.  The visit to the aroma room costs a bit more but all our visitors have said it is worth doing, as it is not only educational but also fun. 

If you don’t normally like sweet wine (I didn’t), I recommend forgetting your prejudices and trying their award-winning dulce wines.  I am now a convert and particularly enjoy their Monastrell dulce, which is perfect with dessert at the end of a good meal.
4.  Bodegas Pedro Luis Martínez

More commonly known as Bodegas Alceño, we think that this bodega is so good because the chief winemaker is very particular about things such as the correct temperature, which is reflected in the quality of their wines.  It is the oldest bodega in Jumilla, being founded in 1870.  Some English is spoken, but remember to book in advance if you want a tour in English.  Don’t forget to buy some wine before you go! 

5Bodegas Bleda

We were lucky enough to be guinea pigs for their first tour of the bodega in English several months ago.  Antonio Bleda  had only been learning English for two months at the time, and we were very impressed by how good he was: by now he probably speaks perfect English!

It is worth visiting this bodega for its location alone: situated about 2 kilometres outside Jumilla on the road to Ontur, and surrounded by vineyards.  Not only that, but they have many award-winning wines, though my personal recommendation is their Castillo de Jumilla Blanco, which everybody who has tasted it rates highly – even the committed red wine drinkers! It is also very reasonably priced, so you can afford to buy several bottles to take home.

6.  Bodegas Carchelo

Slightly off the beaten track, but recommended for a visit because of its location in the Valley of El Carche and because at least one member of staff (Poñi) speaks good English.  My daughter Kate was impressed by their branding, and said that she would immediately spot their wines in any wine-shop because of the distinctive black and white hoops around the neck of the bottle.

7.  Bodegas Viña Elena

Another family business, which was originally called Bodegas Pacheco after the grandfather of the current generation.  It is now named Bodegas Viña Elena after Paco’s youngest daughter Elena, who is being groomed to take over from him.  You can see the original bodega as well as the smart new installations, and don’t miss the lovely garden at the back.  The bodega is at km 52 on the N344, the main road between Jumilla and Murcia.  Tours are available in English by contacting them in advance.

The local bodegas charge from 5€ per person for a tour, including wine tasting and nibbles, though you can negotiate a reduction for a large group.  As mentioned above, it is advisable to book in advance, especially if you want a tour in English.  All of them sell wine on the premises, so even if you haven’t booked a tour of the bodega you can pop in to buy a few bottles of your favourite wine.

Other bodegas well worth a visit are Bodegas Luzón, Bodegas JM Martínez Verdú, Hacienda del Carche, Casa de la Ermita and Bodegas Finca Omblancas.  They are all out of town, which means you can see the vineyards as well as visiting the bodegas.  More details can be found on the Ruta del Vino website - you need to scroll down their page to find links to all the bodegas.

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We had such a wonderful evening last night that I don’t know how I can possibly condense it all into one post.  We had two events to attend with our friends Lesley and John (thank you for chauffeuring us Lesley!) both of which were being held outside, so we were grateful that it was another lovely summer’s evening.

Our friend Cristina was getting married under a pergola at Salones Pio XII and we didn’t want to miss seeing her even though we had booked tickets for our final Música entre Vinos, which was due to start at the same time.  The bride was traditionally late, though early by Jumillano standards – however she does come from near Barcelona, which probably explains it.  Cristina looked stunning, in a very elegant understated way, as she arrived in an open-topped sports car. 

Here comes the bride!

The occasion was enhanced by our friend Jaqui singing a couple of songs, and although the civil ceremony was in Spanish we could follow what was happening, more or less: the moment when they both said “Si”, the handing over of the rings, the new husband kissing his bride and finally the signing of the register.  We witnessed the moment when they became husband and wife, before we discreetly slipped away.  We had brought some rice to throw, however when we spotted at least two large boxes of rice sitting on a wall behind the pergola we reckoned there were plenty of other people willing to carry out this duty.

Bodegas Viña Elena were hosting Música entre Vinos for the first time, so we were curious to see how well they coped.  We have visited the bodega before, so we weren’t too worried about missing the tour, and Loles had kindly confirmed that the concert wouldn’t be starting until at least 21.15.

The organisation of the whole evening was superb, starting with the moment when we arrived at 21.15 and were efficiently directed first to the car park and then to the collection point to pick up the all-essential wine glasses.  Background music was being played as we headed towards the bodega, so we knew that Loles had been correct in saying that if we arrived at that time we wouldn’t miss any of the concert. 

We had timed our arrival to perfection.  We were trying the first of four wines - Paco Pacheco Blanco 2010 - and accepting some of the tasty food on offer, when the musicians started tuning up.   The catering had been done by Media Luna, who brought out plate after plate of delicious food: including spoons of scrumptious seafood, chunks of Manchego cheese, plenty of jamón for the carnivores, and cubes of juicy melon.  We were impressed by the Bodega’s Tinto Jóven, which we reckon is one of the best from 2010.

Bodegas Viña Elena

There was a great ambiance and I would say that this was one of the most enjoyable events we have attended during Música entre Vinos this year.   Part of this was due to the fact that so many of our friends were there enjoying themselves, part of this was due to the friendly welcome we received from Paco Pacheco and his family and part of this was due to the music from Cantos  Jazz Fusión, playing classics like “Bye Bye Black Bird” and “Autumn Leaves”.

We mentioned this to our friend Pedro, President of the Ruta del Vino, towards the end of the evening – adding that we preferred it when busloads of fellow Brits weren’t around, especially those who complained about the lack of chairs!  Having said that, after standing up for well over three hours in my high heels, I was grateful when a couple of people left and we were able to grab their chairs to sit down for a while.

Our final verdict is that Música Entre Vinos 2011 was an outstanding success, with a winning combination of good wine and food accompanied by good music, and that each year it seems to get even better.  We can’t wait until Música Entre Vinos 2012 – and promise to publish full details here, as soon as Pedro emails me!

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Even before you see the welcome sign to Jumilla, the Ciudad del Vino, it’s pretty obvious that Jumilla is a wine producing area by the numerous vineyards on either side of the road.  There are olive groves, almond trees, orchards of peaches and pears as well, but it’s the vine that dominates the landscape.

Vineyards at Casa de la Ermita

Wine has been produced in Jumilla since Roman times from which I gather – though history isn’t one of my strong subjects - that Jumillanos have been making wine for a very long time. 

When phylloxera devastated vineyards in France in the middle of the 19th century, there was a resulting boost to Spanish winemaking and particularly in Jumilla where the monastrell grapes were unaffected.  French wine-making immigrants brought their expertise to the area, which was a turning point for Jumilla wines, even though they too were affected by phylloxera at a later date. 

Early exports of Jumilla wine were in barrels and, as they were taken by train to Alicante and shipped from there, the wine was designated as Alicante wine.  The next important stage in the history of Jumilla wine therefore was on 22nd January 1966, when it was granted the right to have its own D.O.  Currently there are 42 bodegas within the D.O. Jumilla and, contrary to rumours, John and I haven’t visited them all.  At the time of writing our total is 13 – lucky for some!

The creation of the Ruta del Vino Jumilla, which is certified as one of the Wine Routes of Spain, was an important step for wine tourism in Jumilla.  Twelve bodegas, two wine shops, one specialist food and drink shop plus seven restaurants are amongst the associates, who all work hard at promoting Jumilla and its wine. 

Last year the Ruta del Vino won a special mention in the national awards for best enoturística initiative for its popular and successful Música entre Vinos events.  Los Chilines vinoteria was also shortlisted, which didn’t surprise us after attending their many excellent winetasting events, including La Gran Cata, one of the year’s highlights, which we will be going to next week.

Times are hard, so Jumilla isn’t resting on its laurels.  One of its biggest export markets is the USA, helped no doubt by the fact that Robert Parker has given 90 points or more to many Jumilla wines over the last few years.  He has recognised that Jumilla wines are extraordinarily good value and commented on their superb price-quality ratio.  Last year the main markets for Jumilla’s bottled wines were the UK, USA and Germany. 

However there are new markets out there and local bodegas are also looking to increase their exports to other countries such as Japan, Russia and Canada.  In spite of the world-wide recession, over 8 million litres of wine were sold in 2010, with a slight increase in the amount of bottled wine, although figures for bulk wine were down. 

This year Jumilla celebrates its 40th Fiesta de la Vendimia, where wine flows from one of the fountains in the city centre, much wine is drunk by both Jumillanos and visitors, and on the last night lots of wine is thrown over the participants.  Not surprisingly, John and I consider that a bit of a waste!

So let’s raise our glasses to Jumilla wine – Salud!

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I have already mentioned that Jumilla is the “Ciudad del Vino”, but is it really a city or is it just a town?  Most British people visiting Jumilla for the first time assume that, with a population of just over 25,000, it is a town.  We expect cities either to have a cathedral, which traditionally was the case,  or to have a significant population - therefore we wouldn’t consider Jumilla to be a city.  However Jumilla was granted city status by King Alfonso XIII on July 17th 1911, and the city has just celebrated its centenary.  At the same time the Town Hall was granted the title of “Excelentísimo”.

Jumilla Town Hall

Jumilla was honoured because of “the increasing development of agriculture, industry and trade and their constant adherence to the constitutional monarchy”.   I don’t know how many citizens are monarchists nowadays, but I do know that the wine industry in particular is always looking for new markets and introducing initiatives such as “Música entre Vinos”, so they are definitely following in the footsteps of their ancestors.

While I am talking about the history of Jumilla, maybe I should mention how many significant dates for the city end with the number 1. 

1241 – Alfonso X conquered Jumilla for the Kingdom of Castile.

1411 – Saint Vicente Ferrer preached in Jumilla and the first Holy Week procession was held.

1461 Juan Pacheco, the Marquis of Villena, restructured the old castle and built the Torre de Homenaje, as seen today.

1911 – King Alfonso XIII granted Jumilla City status.

1931 – The Parish Church of Santiago and El Casón (Roman funeral monument) were declared National Monuments.

1981 – Old town of Jumilla was declared of historical importance.

1991 – HM Queen Sofía visited Jumilla for the inauguration of the Teatro Vico after its restoration.

The first significant date was 600 millions years ago, when a series of mammals left their footprints in the area of La Hoya de la Sima. Another important date was 1,500 BC when the first Bronze Age population settled in the city. 

The Romans arrived in 180 BC, settling in and around the current site of Jumilla, until the troops of Abd-El-Azid conquered Jumilla in 713.  It was the Arab conquerors who named the town Jamila – meaning beautiful - and they ruled until Alfonso X (remember him?) conquered the town in 1241.

When we first visited the local archaeological museum, we were a bit puzzled by the dates.  We use BC to represent the years Before Christ and AD for Anno Domini (Latin for the year of our  Lord) representing the years After Christ.  In Spain AC is used rather than BC, which we eventually worked out meant Antes de Cristo, and DC is used instead of AD, meaning Despúes de Cristo.  Confused?  Yes, so were we!

I don’t want to send everybody to sleep, so I think that is enough for your first history lesson.  The next history lesson will be about the wine industry in Jumilla: just for a taster I will mention the fact that the first vines here were grown by the Romans, which as you know was a long time ago.

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Why part 2½ you may ask?  Well my post about last Saturday’s Música entre vinos should have been part 2, but I got carried away and named it Saturday Night Fever instead.  I couldn’t decide between calling this post Música entre Vinos part 2 or part 3 so I decided to compromise.  I am British after all, and we like to find a diplomatic solution where possible.

So how did last night’s event in Bodegas Alceño go?  How did it compare with the seven events in total that we had already attended this year?  John rated it no 3, however I decided it was equal second: being diplomatic again.

We expected the organisation to be good, which it was.  We knew that we would enjoy the wines, which we did.  Juan Miguel is meticulous about how his wines are stored and served so that you can enjoy them at their best, and he always delivers.  As soon as we spotted the familiar figure of the boss of Casa Canales with his efficient staff, we were reassured that the food would be good too.

 We have enjoyed listening to the music of Jumilla Black Band in previous years, so we knew they wouldn’t disappoint.  My only criticism is that I would have preferred them not to wear their trade-mark black clothes, as they don’t show up very well in my photos!

Our friends John and Lesley have visitors so they decided to give this event a miss, making us the only “ingleses” there last night.  Fortunately we didn’t need them to chauffeur us this time as Bodegas Alceño is within walking distance of our apartment.  Officially the bodega’s name is Bodegas Pedro Lúis Martínez, however they are better known as Alceño, which is a far snappier title.

Bodegas Alceño's back yard

The evening started well, as Casa Canales had already set out plates of savoury pastries and almonds, and soon we were enjoying a glass of vino blanco to wash them down with.  We were outside, and it was a very warm evening, so we both appreciated the perfectly chilled wine. 

We were joined by some friendly Jumillanos, who soon took us under their wing.  One of them hunted down a bottle of chilled rosado, which they told us was “fresco” and perfect for such a balmy night.  A plate of jamón appeared, which they offered to me, however I declined and explained that I didn’t eat any type of meat.  Seconds later one of the señoras caught the attention of a waitress who had a plate of cheese and purloined it for me.

We were also joined by a friendly black and white dog, who bore a startling resemblance to our own dog Lisa.  So much so that I almost said to John “You did lock the door behind you, didn’t you?”

Once again there was a great atmosphere, helped by the swing music that we were listening to, with everybody tapping their feet or swaying in time to the music.  The food kept coming with hardly a break, and in spite of our best efforts we were having to pass plates on to the next table where a group of young people were willing to help us out.

As the temperature dropped, most people decided to taste the vino tinto, which was being served natural.  For the benefit of readers living in the UK I would like to point out that, even though it was now after 11pm, cardigans and jackets were still superfluous.  Instead of being hot, it was now pleasantly warm.

Juan Miguel had a quick word when passing by, advising us that the Tinto Dulce 2010 was muy bien.  It arrived just in time to accompany the desserts and chocolate - and he was right: it was indeed very good.  As, of course, was the whole evening.

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Saturday night is party night in Jumilla – or it has been so far this month.  We thought that last week’s event at Bodegas JM Martínez Verdu would be hard to beat (what a party that was!) but Música entre Vinos at Bodegas Viña Campanero last night was great fun too.  One advantage was the location, which is within walking distance of our apartment, so there was no rush to get there on time.  I have to confess that this is one of my favourite bodegas: it is the smallest one in the area, so a tour doesn’t take much time; we like their wines too, which is always a bonus; it is very friendly – even our dog Lisa is made to feel welcome by Pedro and his father, though we had to leave her behind on Saturday night! 

A lovely evening at Bodegas Viña Campanero

We had assumed that the concert was being held indoors, as has happened in previous years, but when we arrived we discovered that everything had been set up outside.  It had been a lovely hot day, and it was starting to become pleasantly cool when we arrived just after 8pm, so we had no objections to this change.  One of the joys of living in Spain is that summer evenings aren’t cold, so we can enjoy lots of outdoor events.  Even when we left the bodega after midnight, I didn’t need to wear the shawl I had taken.

I went in search of a bottle of water, so that we could all have a cold drink while waiting for the wine to be served.  Our friends Lesley and John had arrived before us, while Lesley’s son Nick and his friend Tracey weren’t due to arrive until 9pm.  None of us was surprised when Nick and Tracey arrived to find that they hadn’t actually missed anything – have I mentioned the fact that punctuality isn’t a Jumillano characteristic?

We all agreed that the wine was worth waiting for, though we couldn’t agree on our favourite.  I really appreciated the chilled white and rosado wines on such a warm evening, but John soon moved onto his usual red wines and pronounced the Tinto Joven as his favourite wine.  We expected the food to be good and we weren’t disappointed: I particularly enjoyed the tiny portions of tortilla, the cheeses and the churros, which were served in traditional style with hot chocolate at the end of the evening. 

An unexpected bonus was the arrival of our friends Jaqui and Melissa with a couple of our Spanish neighbours. plus we saw lots of other familiar faces.  We heard a few other English voices, however I suspect that we were easily outnumbered by the Spanish community, as there aren’t that many British people (or indeed other foreigners) living in this area.

Andrés and Cristóbal were joined by a friend for this number

The music was provided by Andrés Martínez and Cristóbal Cutillas, who played some brilliant riffs on his guitar.  The infectious music soon had the appreciative audience nodding in time to the beat and rumour has it a couple of Brits were spotted dancing, along with several Spanish couples.  There were loud calls of “Otras” at the end of the evening, and the duo happily obliged.

We were glad that we didn’t have too far to go home, as we have another late night ahead of us.  One of our favourite groups Al Golpe is playing tonight, to bring the Fiestas de San Fermín to a close, and they aren’t due to start performing until 22.30.  It’s a good thing that we don’t have anything on the agenda for tomorrow morning!

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Hopefully I whetted your appetites in my previous post, so I thought I would do a quick update today on yesterday’s fiesta fun.

Our friend Jaqui invited a few of us to join her and her daughter Melissa for menú del día in Restaurante Monasterio. For those of you not in the know, the Spanish fixed price menú del día  is a wonderful invention, started in 1965 under the Franco régime to guarantee workers a good cheap meal at lunchtime.   The cost of our lunch was 9€ per head, with so many starters, mains and desserts to choose from that we had to ask our patient waiter to repeat the choices a couple of times.

Waiting for our main courses to arrive

We shared a generous salad to begin with, and then the waiter kindly brought fussy old me a tapa of ensalada marisco as I didn’t like any of the starters.  In my defence, my choice was slightly limited by the fact that I don’t eat any meat! The starters included salmorejo (similar to gazpacho), consomé with pelotas (meatballs) and arroz tres delicias, which looked like vegetable rice however, as I suspected, some ham had been added.  Main courses included sardines, boquerones, chicken, meat kebabs and escalopes – I can’t remember all the choices, just the dishes our group selected.  We begged for a break before we ordered desserts, as by this stage we were all feeling pretty full!  I had a yummy tiramisu (I received some envious looks from my fellow diners) and other homemade desserts included tarta de queso, flan and natillas.  We had a couple of bottles of good Jumilla wine to accompany our meal, and coffee to finish.

John and I were offered a lift home but declined, as we needed to walk off some of our huge lunch. Just to remind you, the menu was 9€ each: amazing value! 

We also walked into town that evening, to meet up with Jaqui and Melissa again, plus other friends.  The meeting point was Bar La Casa, because we knew that Cristina was due to play a starring role in the evening’s events, as she is one of the Reinas for 2011.  When we arrived Cristina was working hard serving us and other customers, dressed in her everyday clothes, but she assured us that she would be changing later on.

Cristina wearing her sash

After some tapas and red wine, and once a totally transformed Cristina had emerged, we all wandered across the road to join in the festivities.  The plaza was already crowded and the atmosphere was buzzing, as families watched their children dancing on the large stage.  In between the dance performances, the Fiesta Reinas were being crowned and presented with bouquets.  We all cheered loudly when Cristina received her award, calling out “Guapa!”  There were also bursts of fireworks in between performances,  as I predicted.  When we left just after midnight it was obvious that many of the revellers would be partying for a long time, however we had two more late nights ahead of us, so decided it would be wise to pace ourselves.

Fireworks for San Fermín

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 Spain has always been a popular holiday destination, however many tourists don’t get the most out of their stay.  Sure, they return with a suntan (or more likely sunburn!), several pounds heavier weight-wise, several pounds lighter money-wise (having spent far too many euros), some tacky souvenirs and lots of exciting photos of them on the beach, by the pool or in the bar.  Is that what you want? Or do you fancy doing something different this year?

Before you go on holiday, use the internet to research your holiday with a difference.  Staying on the Costa del Sol? Away from the beaches there are some lovely villages to visit on the ruta de los pueblos blancos, or discover the city of Malaga instead of bypassing it in your rush to reach the beach.  Costa Blanca?  There is a lot to see in Alicante (the city, not the airport!) and if you are a wine lover, come and visit Jumilla, known as the city of wine.  A good place to start your research is, and don’t forget to check whether there are going to be any fiestas in the area you are visiting.

Visit Mijas for the day when staying on the Costa del Sol

The first thing you will have to learn when you are on holiday is to get up a bit earlier than usual, so that you can enjoy the whole day, and to leave your hotel/apartment/resort/comfort zone.  You are going out for breakfast, which for Spanish people is best enjoyed in a café or bar between 10 and 12.  They will have had a cup of coffee first thing, but the morning break is a time to meet friends and have a chat over a coffee and tostada or maybe chocolate and churros.  You will definitely need a snack then, because you aren’t going to have lunch until 2pm at the earliest!

Spend your morning walking around the nearest town, visiting museums and churches, strolling through local parks and generally working up a good appetite for lunch.  Don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes, to slap on the suntan lotion, to bring your camera (this year your friends may find your photos a bit more interesting than usual) and remember to carry a bottle of water. 

Keep your eyes open while you are enjoying your walk because you are looking out for a good menú del día, however be aware that many restaurants won’t advertise them before 1pm.  This is a top money-saving tip in Spain: have your main meal at lunchtime like the Spanish do, though avoid obvious tourist areas to get the best value for your money. Menú del día will usually cost you between 8€ and 12€ for a minimum of 3 courses, bread and a drink.  We know a very good bar in Jumilla where for 8€ we get a shared salad to start with, a basket of bread, a wide choice of starters, mains and desserts, a carafe of red wine with water or refresco plus coffee to finish our meal.  After that, we don’t need much food in the evening!

Drive inland from the Costa Blanca to visit Jumilla castle, a local bodega, and have menú del día

Lunch will be a leisurely affair, which is good news, as you will be indoors during the hottest part of the day.  If you want to go native, observe how Spanish people avoid sitting in the sun.  They love being outdoors during the summer: enjoying a drink, chatting to their friends, promenading along the sea front, but they walk in the shade or sit under a parasol.  Also observe that, even though Spanish chicas will wear miniscule skirts or shorts in town, beach wear is kept strictly for the beach.

After lunch you can stroll back to your hotel or apartment for a siesta if you fancy going really native, or plan ahead for the evening, relax with a good book, and enjoy a cold drink.  In tourist areas there may be shops open in the afternoon, but elsewhere only supermarkets disregard the traditional siesta.

If you haven’t gone out for a menú del día, be prepared to pay more for your evening meal, and also be prepared to wait for it!  We were staying in Barcelona a few years ago, and left our hotel at 8pm to find somewhere to eat.  Nearly every restaurant was shut, and as we were hungry we were becoming a bit anxious.   We popped into a bar that was open,  for a glass of wine and some tapas to calm our nerves.  As we left the bar just after 9pm, we saw that restaurants were beginning to open up again.  Lesson learnt!

Depending on where you are staying, you may be given a free tapa with your drink when you go out in the evening for a glass of wine .  If you had a big lunch, that may be all you need.  If not, look for a bar that is full of local people and you should find the best and cheapest tapas there.

A peaceful square in Valencia

Finally, don’t go to bed too early or you may miss the best part of the day.  On the last night of a holiday in Valencia to enjoy the Las Fallas festival, we were on our way back to our hotel just after midnight, when we decided to stop for a coffee.  Noticing a large marquee in the square behind the bar, we decided to take a quick look and discovered that a band was tuning up inside.  Local people were beginning to go into the marquee and encouraged us to join them, pointing out that there was a bar set up in the corner, which was selling drinks for 1€.

Soon everybody was up dancing to the music, chatting away to us in a mixture of English and Spanish and generally having a good time.  There was a mixture of both young and old, from niños to abuelos, all making a lot of noise (Spanish people tend to be noisy) but nobody appeared to be drunk, even though vast amounts of alcohol were being served at the bar.  When we left at three in the morning the party was still in full swing, however sadly we had a flight to catch!

If you decide to go native in Spain, you are guaranteed to have a great time.  Please tell us all about your experiences and any recommendations in the comments box below.

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Música entre Vinos was a brilliantly conceived idea from the Ruta del Vino Jumilla and is now in its fourth season.   Put simply, during the summer months a series of concerts are held in local Bodegas, where you can also taste wines from the Bodega accompanied by local dishes.  We had already enjoyed five of the first six events (we applied too late for the sixth one!) and were looking forward to the other four that we have booked.

We popped into Los Chilines wine shop for a word with José María on Friday.  He told us that tickets were still available for the Música entre Vinos events at Bodegas Viña Campanero next weekend and Bodegas Pedro Luis Martinez the following weekend, however only a couple are left for the closing event at Bodegas Bleda on 30th July.  This year’s events have proved extremely popular and most have sold out well in advance.

Even more astonishing was the news that La Gran Cata, which is being held on 29th July, has already sold out.  Apparently there were 400 applications for the 250 tickets – luckily we had reserved tickets last week for ourselves and our friends Lesley and John!

On Saturday night we headed to Bodegas JM Martínez Verdú, hoping that the event would be as good as the one we attended there last year.  It was rather worrying when we drove through a downpour, as we suspected that the concert was going to be held outside.  We arrived to find our friend Fina looking anxiously at the sky.  She reassured us that our four reserved tickets were there, while muttering to us that she was nervous about the weather.

Inside the bodega

Fortunately the weather was on our side and we enjoyed a wonderful evening.  I have to say that the whole event exceeded our expectations: it was very well organised; the wine flowed; the food was absolutely delicious; the music was from the superb Flamenco group Al Golpe and we enjoyed watching Flamenco dancers too – and finally there was a wonderful atmosphere with so many people having a good time. 

The evening started with a tour of the bodega for those people who hadn’t visited it before.  The rest of us showed our tickets to get a wine glass and shortly afterwards the efficient, smiling staff wandered around with bottles of chilled white and rosado wines to top up our glasses.  That was a good start to the evening and it got even better when plates of food appeared.  The catering was provided by one of our favourite bars in Jumilla, Bar Paraiso. (When visitors want to taste authentic Spanish food in a typical Spanish bar, that’s where we take them, for the excellent value 8€ menú del día!)  

John, waiting with our friends Lesley and John, for the wine to appear!

We enjoyed some tiny empanadas (savoury pasties), what appeared to be mini sausage rolls (though I gave them a miss as I don’t eat meat) and the most delicious seafood vol au vents I have ever tasted.  I don’t know how many of the tiny vol au vents I ate, but every time they offered me another one I willingly accepted.  Yummy!

We then moved into the garden further down the road for the actual concert by Al Golpe.  Three coach-loads of British residents from Torrevieja on the coast had ventured inland for this event.  They had been  persuaded to come along by their Spanish teacher Begonia, who coincidentally is teaching Spanish to Lesley’s son Nick, who has just moved to Los Alcazares.

Once the concert started, the evening became very lively.  Al Golpe are a talented group of three young musicians from Jumilla.  I will give a link to a video that I took at the concert, but believe me they sound even better live, with an appreciative Spanish (and English!) audience.  To add to the experience there were a couple of lovely Flamenco dancers who, or so we were told, were the daughters of José María, the owner of the Bodega.

Flamenco dancers

While we were enjoying the concert, some good red wine was served (look out for Xenys, Xenysel or Calzás on the label, if you want to try their wines) and even more delicious food.  We had to smile when we overheard an English woman saying “they are bringing round bread and jam!”   Excuse me, Madam, it is a local delicacy of fried goat’s cheese topped with jam made from Monastrell grapes – and absolutely delicious.

Plate after plate of jámon, cold meats, cheese and tapas were brought round and, just when we thought we were full, they produced desserts!  Tiny dishes of lemon sorbet to refresh our palates were followed by arroz con leche, tarta moka and fresh fruit kebabs.

We all agreed that this was the best event so far, but we are going to three more this month so I will be reporting back on them over the next couple of weeks.

Video of Al Golpe


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