Wine & Cheese – better than a kiss?

For the last couple of years Jumilla has celebrated Diá de San Valentín with a Feria del Amor, which sounded very romantic until we spotted the posters advertising this year´s event with the headline “Vino y Queso, mejor que un beso”!  Not that we were complaining, as it meant we could have a glass of wine and cheese-based tapa for 2€, sponsored not surprisingly by Montasinos Cheeses and Bodegas Carchelo.  It certainly was different to last year´s Feria, the highlight of which was the longest kiss competition, where several couples competed enthusiastically for the trophy, as the judges and public watched them whilst sampling sweet wine and rollos de amor.

Waiting for the tour guide

As part of the Feria, the tourist office was organising free guided visits, so we signed up for one to Santa Ana, which concluded with a trip to a local bodega.  Needless to say, it was the visit to Santa Ana that really interested us.  A couple of friends had planned to come along, however we had a last minute call to say they had just seen that it was snowing outside so they were cancelling. 

John and I decided to wrap up in our warmest clothes and brave the weather, which was a good decision.  We all met in the Jardín del Rey Don Pedro, where we discovered that our neighbour Isabel was part of the group.  We knew that it was a long walk up to Santa Ana, so were relieved when we were shepherded to a bus and driven up the road

It was still snowing when the bus stopped and we wondered how long the walk would be, however we only went as far as the Monasterio, where we were ushered into the church.  A Franciscan friar welcomed everybody and gave a brief introduction, telling us all about the church, before opening the door into the Museum, which John and I had never seen before.  Although the talk was in Spanish we understood enough to find it interesting, and it was fairly brief   The museum was fascinating: we were amazed both by the number of rooms in the museum and by the different themes in each room. 

John and Sue in Santa Ana Museo

We could have spent hours there, reading about all the exhibits, however we had a coach to get back on and a visit to a bodega, so we reluctantly left with the others.  It was still snowing outside and not very warm, so the thought of getting back on the coach was very appealing.  Isobel grinned at me and said “Wine next Sue, and hopefully we will get warm!”  I was in favour of both ideas.

A snowy day in Santa Ana

To our surprise the coach didn´t take us back into Jumilla as expected.  Instead it headed towards the bypass to Yecla and John told me that he suspected we were going to Martinez Verdu, a bodega that we had never visited before.  For once he was right (ouch!) and after the coach turned off the main road we eventually arrived at the bodega.  We had the opportunity to sample several good wines before enjoying a buffet of local delicacies and helping ourselves to more wine, by which time I am happy to say we had thawed out.

¡Salud, Isabel!

After the Valentine´s weekend we had another four weeks to enjoy the wine and cheese promotion, so we decided to take advantage of it.  Ten local establishments were taking part, competing to win prizes for the best tapa, so we decided to sample them all and vote for our favourite.   Although  we chose Restaurante San Agustín as number one, with their “Corazón de queso y alcachofa”, Cervecería Nuestro Bar, Bar La Casa, Bar QT APTC and Restaurante Reyes Católicos were close runners-up.  As a bonus, with each glass of wine and tapa that we bought, we were given a scratch card.  During four weeks of sampling many delicious tapas, we won three lots of cheese, a tasty ham and cheese spread, three large sausages, two miniatures of Tio Pepe sherry and three miniatures of vodka.  Better than a kiss?  Maybe not, but definitely a close second!

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