132 Bottles Of Wine Stolen From A Michelin Star Restaurant In Madrid
Indy

Who would say no to three days in Spain exploring vineyards, eating tapas and strolling through cobbled streets?

If the answer to this question was "me" then you would already have finished reading this article.

But the answer is actually "not me", which is how I find myself welcoming the start of November in the Northern Spanish city of Logroño in La Rioja - and you find yourself reading about it.

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Hosted by wine company Baron de Ley, I'm here to learn about winemaking, getting to know the area, and soak up a whole lot of culture while doing so.

They say travel broadens the mind, here's what it did to mine:

1. Being on a plane after a pandemic is weird

Sorry to bring it up - but remember Covid? There was a time, and a recent one at that, when we weren't allowed to leave our house for more than an hour a day because a deadly illness was spreading at an uncontrollable pace. After that, there was a time when we were allowed to do a few things, like go to the pub, but only if we ate a big meal with a side dish warning that if we spread too much illness that privilege would be taken away.

The fabric of our daily lives changed so much, many of us thought there'd be some hangover when Covid went away and we adjusted to a 'New Normal'. But when all lockdown measures were abandoned not even a year ago, we seemed to sign a collective amnesia pact and the memory of lockdown disappeared into nothingness like a retractable tape measure.

It is good, I'm sure, that there's no societal agoraphobia and people aren't adopting the brace position every time someone clears their throat within a three-mile radius. I say this without dismissing those with long Covid or those mourning loved ones who died. Of course, as with all general observations there's nuance to consider.

But while I broadly thought everything had gone almost aggressively back-to-normal, I've also been experiencing the very first-world problem of putting off flying, not because of the virus, but because the longer you go without doing so, the more sitting in a box flying at speed high in the air feels so surreal, it should be illegal.

So here I am steeling myself with a temporally inappropriate pint, Duty Free to the left, Brits Abroad To Be to the right, before I get on the plane, and see people napping, reading, or playing Candy Crush on their phones like they are about to do one of the most normal things in the world (maybe because they are) and not skydive, like my brain thinks I'm doing.

But we take off and I adjust, because humans do, and the last piece of my post-lockdown jigsaw puzzle is complete.

2. Brexit is terrible - I'm lucky to have two passports

We've established being on a plane can be rattling but airports are worse, and since Britain left the EU, there's an added layer of Union Jack emblazoned blue and red tape to get through - or at least a longer queue at passport control.

Brag alert, but I am actually a dual citizen of Britain and Germany and have two passports in my holster.

So when I look to the left and see people crawl through the UK queue, then to my right and see others teleport through the EU barrier, I decide today's a day to be German. It all feels a bit Catch Me If You Can as I pocket one passport then brandish another, but it is legit and I sail through the rest of the airport with renewed awareness of what a golden ticket EU membership is.

3. A famous road with a quirky history

Kate Plummer

That self-indulgence put to bed, and after a beautiful drive through Northern Spain, I am in Logroño ready to have dinner on Calle del Laurel - the city's famous tapas street.

I learn it got the name because in the past, a lot of sex workers used to hang out there and dangle laurels out their windows to reveal their presence to punters.

I'm not sure if it is a good lesson about growth creation in the economy - please, no-one tell Jeremy Hunt - but it made the area so busy that bars and restaurants sprung up to cater to people's other needs and now it's a big attraction.

4. And some great food to match

For good reason too. The food is great.

The highlight is a Jenga tower of mushrooms stacked on an oval baguette slice and drenched in garlic sauce. There's a prawn on top too for good measure, or protein. Like all good things, it is a challenge to eat - messy, oily, and delicious.

The custom here is to stop at each restaurant, get a drink and one small dish like patatas bravas or croquettes, then move on to the next place. I'm immediately sold. Why on Earth would you choose a pub crawl when you could go on a snack crawl? This is far better than sinking pints after work on an empty stomach before mainlining something grim from a fast food joint on the way home.

Somehow even with food it is cheaper than a few rounds at a British boozer too.

5. There's no denying wine's pretentious - but interesting

Kate Plummer

After dinner and a night of good sleep, it is time to visit Baron de Ley's winery where I realise making great wine is more complex than I imagined.

There's a reason why different wine is served in different glasses, for instance. The shape affects the release of different aromas and that in turn impacts flavour.

I also learn, during a tour of Baron de Leys barrel supplier, Toneleria Murua, that which barrel is used to store wine really does matter. French and American oak create different flavour profiles in wine, and the time wine spends in a barrel also impacts taste.

With a cost of living crisis at home, a war in Ukraine, and many other indicators of societal decline, the amount of energy and resource that goes into ensuring wine isn't just nice but perfect, feels slightly baffling.

But the artistry and craftsmanship that goes into it is quite inspiring too. Passion is infectious.

After all, if I want to sound impressive at a dinner party I can now whip out these facts and more (did you know you can tell how old wine is by its colour?). And of course, I want to sound impressive - so I'm elated.

With that, I return home to the UK where there are sadly fewer cobbled streets and fewer tapas. My mind has been broadened - and my stomach too.

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