Friday, March 22, 2013

a wine festival

A few weekends ago, two friends and I made an expedition to Chantada, a nearby pueblo, for the first wine festival on the Galician calendar. Because wine, duh.

Since we were beholden to the bus schedule, we had to get there pretty early in the day, around 10:30. We found the festival tent, and then settled into a nearby cafe for a coffee, but were quickly lured back out by the sound of wailing bagpipes.

Wait, you say. Bagpipes? In Spain?

Due to its Celtic heritage, traditional Galician music relies heavily on the bagpipe, or gaita. You can see a performance by Ourense's Royal Bagpipe Orchestra to get a sense of what it sounds like here. (Bonuses: playing on the Great Wall and in New York's St. Patrick's Day Parade.) Obviously, the group playing the Wine Festival of Chantada was not quite on that level, but it was awesome nonetheless, especially for gaita junkies like my friend K. and I.

By the time the bagpipe concert was over, it was time to start tasting some wine (so it was maybe three minutes past noon). Chantada is in the middle of Galicia's best-known wine region, the Ribeira Sacra, so all of the vineyards were local. There were around 20 (no mom, we did not taste wine from every single one!), representing everything from large, industrial operations to mom-pop-and-grandpa bodegas. Each one was set up in a stand shaped like a wine barrel--nice touch, Chantada.

wine barrel pic stolen from my friend K.
look how happy we are!
I'm glad we went early, because even though it meant we started drinking around noon, there wasn't a huge crush of people there. We got the chance to talk to some of the vineyards' representatives, which was awesome (even if they only spoke Galician, like the lady pictured above--but that's okay, 'cause she made the best cured sausage I have ever put into my mouth). We're even planning to visit a bodega or two after K. and A. get back from their Holy Week travels--hooray!

By two, we were ready for a break from wine-tasting, so we settled down to a lunch of octopus, bread, apple pie that K. had brought from Lugo, and (of course) wine. I'm really going to miss eating octopus on the regular when I get back to America. Probably not as much as I miss Indian and Thai food in Spain, but I'll still miss it.

After another round or two (or three or four) of wine, it was time to head back to the bus. It had been pouring rain all day, but magically stopped just before we had to leave the relative safety of the wine tent. So we took a more circuitous route through Chantada's old city, which was absolutely beautiful, and along the river.

And Chantada was only the kick-off to the wine festival season! There's another one coming up weekend after next in the pueblo of Quiroga. I'm counting down the days...

Bonus: Check out these guys, who have forgotten more about going to wine festivals than I will ever know. Yes, they did bring a private cart stocked with a leg of ham, sausages and chorizo, cheese, and bread, with them.


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