Tasting wine is more than sticking your nose into a glass, swishing fermented juice around over your tongue, and quietly listening to all of your senses to see what they make of it. Wine is first and foremost about people, places, and experiences.
Upon arrival in the town of Chantada for what we expected to be a wine tasting with a touch of fanfare, we quickly realized due to the sheer number of cars and lack of parking that this town was the place to be during its wine festival. After paying a couple of euros for two glasses, we haphazardly selected a first white to taste. Before we could stop him, the wine maker had poured two generous glasses. We posed them on an upturned oak barrel wondering why they would serve full glasses at a tasting and searching in vain for the wine tasting spittoons. People around us were eating, drinking, and making merry – not sniffing, swishing, and spitting. We had come all this way to taste as many wines as possible, and sure, have a good time, but if we had to drink full glasses like this, there was no way we could taste more than a few wines, and frankly, I wouldn’t trust my judgement by the last glass. The technical difficulties of wine tasting!
I spotted a little sink with running water, and pointed it out to Bastien. After a moment of observing the crowd, he shot me a look and muttered, “Don’t you dare spit. We have to drink it or the wine makers will be offended!” And so we drank that first glass, and then compromised, each seeking out a different wine and sharing with each other. This worked out, but it was difficult not to be swept up in the celebratory ambiance of the festival. Before we knew it, we were standing in line for el pulpo!
It was impossible to miss, these giant red boiled octopus legs, just waiting for hungry pilgrims to ask for a plate. Bastien and I were perhaps the only tourists from abroad, giddy and excited about ordering el pulpo.
El pulpo gallego became our new best friend that day. The texture was comparable to chicken with a light fresh taste from the ocean. The olive oil stood out proudly and the sweet paprika spiced it all up just enough to really take it away.
We strolled through the crowded streets where people seemed cheerful and glad to be outside. Giant police officers passed out fake tickets and gave directions.
Later, our noses directed us to the bbq pit where we ordered ribs and sausage with big crusty bread. It was so good that I just barely managed to snap a photo in between bites with my greasy wine-stained paws.
We ended with more pulpo, probably overdoing it just a tad, but we were happy.
As for the wine tasting, there were some nice glasses. I remember inviting fruity aromas balanced by a good acidity and some mineral saliva-inducing mouths that crash on your tongue before swiftly vanishing. I can’t say that tasting during a lively street festival was a particularly efficient way to sort out the wines but it was a great way to discover what the wines of Chantada are about… simple (but far from boring!), drinkable, and celebrating, to have with good simple food and in good fun company.