Valdepeñas wine has not escaped comment, interpretation and contemplation by many great cultural figures, swept away by its unique charm.
Baltasar de Alcázar (1530-1606). This great Spanish poet sings the praises of our wines with near-religious devotion in this delicious stanzas from his poem Una Cena:
Comience el vinillo nuevo
y échole la bendición,
yo tengo por devoción
de santiguar lo que bebo.
Franco, fue, Inés, este toque,
pero arrójame la bota;
vale un florín cada gota
de aqueste vinillo aloque.
Don Antonio Poz (1725-1792). A Spanish painter and writer whose patrons included Charles III. Don Antonio Poz speaks highly of the Valdepeñas countryside and wine, forgiving the poor condition of the roads thanks to the exquisite wine produced in the region… «The best wine in Spain, according to a general consensus among the best informed on the matter». Three exceptional Frenchmen refer to the Valdepeñas countryside and wine in their chronicles.
The Baron of Daviller comments: «Between Santa Cruz de Múdela and Valdepeñas, a journey of around one hour by stagecoach, the entire route is lined by grapevines on each side». And Alexandre Dumas adds: «It was bona fide Valdepeñas wine, with a rugged and exciting palette. That rugged and dense type of wine that offers the seasoned connoisseur the added benefit of avoiding inebriation». The third is Gustavo Doré, who aside from being the best illustrator of Don Quixote, produced a lot of work on local customs in Valdepeñas, depicting agricultural scenes with constant references to wine.
The wine from Valdepeñas also made a lasting impression on two other Frenchmen, despite the defeat of French troops by the people of Valdepeñas during the War of Independence. Captain Mery writes in his wartime memoirs: «… We arrived in Valdepeñas, where the famous La Mancha wine is collected, which is to Spain as Burgundy is to France».
Marshal Henri-Philippe Petain, a French general and statesman during the first world war, also quipped: «Many battles could be won with this Valdepeñas wine». Captain Mery’s views are shared by André Julien, author of the famous work Topography of all the known vineyards (turn of the 19th century). In the section on Spain, Julien refers to the Valdepeñas wines in the following terms:
«… The best wines are produced in Valdepeñas and the surrounding area, and they are said to be very similar to our excellent Burgundy wines, displaying all the same qualities: finesse, spirit, a pleasing taste and even a good bouquet».
Another renowned traveller, Richard FORD, whose mid-19th century book Gathering from Spain was invaluable in spreading knowledge about Spain, writes that the famous Valdepeñas wine is said to have been the mother’s milk of Spain’s most famous squire, Sancho Panza. He adds:
«Those readers whose wine cellars are stocked with the excellent produce of Burgundy, Jerez and Champagne may perfectly well disregard all other wine.
Yet, if they were to make an exception, may it be only in favour of Valdepeñas and Manzanilla». In more recent times, Miguel de Unamuno, with his radical and concise stoicism, asks: «What are we to do with people who have never heard of the verónica and do not drink Valdepeñas wine».
Pedro Chicote is of a similar opinion, proclaiming: «Long live Valdepeñas wines and down with cocktails!».
Antonio Díaz Cañabate, in his book Historia de una taberna, gives a more lyrical account: «Valdepeñas is a joyful wine; its joy is like its garnet colour, a transparent joy that offers a glimpse of that essential optimism we all carry with us in some corner of our soul».
And Mariano José de Larra, setting aside his romanticism or perhaps because of it, reminisces in old Castilian: «(…) pours an overflowing gush of Valdepeñas wine all over the capon and the tablecloth. Wine flows, bliss heightens».
Luis Buñuel, whose films so often drew on his characteristic critical thinking, wrote in his book Mi último suspiro: «I’ll have to put wine, red wine in particular, at the top of the list. I’m also very fond of Spanish Valdepeñas, which should be drunk chilled and preferably out of a goatskin».
Buñuel’s love of Valdepeñas wine is also mentioned by the painter Gregorio Prieto, who wrote: «(…) Luis Buñuel, a dear friend of mine, who was as fond of Valdepeñas wine as I.
Since just as Buñuel would delight in finding a bottle of Valdepeñas in Paris, I loved nothing more than to dine in New York with a Valdepeñas wine in front of me».
Francisco Nieva, award-winning playwright and language scholar, confessed in his unforgettable opening speech at the 1983 festival of San Andrés (patron saint of new wine): «Valdepeñas wine runs through my veins».
Cata del Vino Nuevo y Anochecer Poético (annual poetry meet in Valdepeñas)
«Las palabras que nos permiten conocer la esencia de los hombres y las cosas. Cada vez que un autor abre una página de su alma, un mensaje es lanzado. Traza así su rumbo a los sentidos del lector. Aquí está la aventura humana; las ideas que nos sobrevuelan y se convierten en un testamento de la Historia. Os traemos una buena selección de palabras con alma, en las que sus autores han tratado -y lo han conseguido- hacer grande, muy grande el pulso de nuestra ciudad. Y lo han conseguido porque exaltar el Vino y la Poesía es cantar la épica de sus hijos, habitantes que no han detenido su historia; ésta sigue adelante…”
By the art and literature group «El Trascacho», Juan José Guardia Polaino.
THE TAVERNS OF MADRID
The very best Spanish literature of the 19th century and a good part of the 20th century has been written, without a doubt, in the taverns and cafés of Madrid.
The whole city was awash with Valdepeñas wine. Obviously, wine from other areas was also available, but none were displayed in bar windows to attract customers or had actual taverns named after them. These honours were reserved for Valdepeñas wines. An excellent account of the huge importance of taverns in the social life of Madrid can be found in Lorenzo Díaz’s book: Madrid, tabernas, botillerías y cafés. 1476-1991. To understand how the distinguishing characteristics of the city could revolve so much around a glass of Valdepeñas wine, we could turn to Crónicas de Madrid, which focuses on the golden age of the tavern in the 19th century. This book describes:
Markets organised in calle Toledo (Madrid) where people from the provinces would come to sell their goods: rush mats from Valencia, spices from Extremadura, wine from Valdepeñas and oranges and pomegranates from Murcia. The wine was sold in the very same skins it arrived in. A similar account is given by Mesonero Romanos in his Escenas matritenses: The taverns on calle Toledo, where on dappled mules, people from La Mancha would pass by and distribute Valdepeñas wine.
The scenes from some of these taverns would give rise to the popular saying in Madrid: ¡Qué bien entra un soldadito de Pavía con un buen trago de Valdepeñas! (A soldadito de Pavía tapa goes down a treat with a good gulp of Valdepeñas).
The scientist López Campillo says that the name of this dish of fried fish and red peppers came from the short yellow jackets of the popular Húsares de Pavía regiment, stationed at the Conde-Duque Barracks.
This all goes to show the very close ties between the glory days of taverns in Madrid and Valdepeñas wine during the 19th century. Luis Agromayor recalls the classic architecture and layout of these taverns, describing:
«The zinc counter, with gleaming glasses and bottles, the essence of simplicity and good taste, welcomes like a dock at a port a great number of customers firmly moored to the warmth of wine and tapas… The transparent Valdepeñas wine flows red and freely from cask to bottle and from bottle to glass and mouth, a comfort to the stomach and a joy to the heart».
Of the many classic taverns that still grace the streets of Madrid, the most famous is, without doubt, the Taverna Antonio Sánchez.
The first mention of the tavern places it at 13 calle Mesón de Paredes, and in 1870 it was owned by the bullfighter known as Colita.
In 1884, Antonio Sánchez Ruiz bought the tavern from his uncles, natives of Valdepeñas. At the time, it was known as the Cara Ancha tavern, after the nickname of the famous bullfighter whose regular custom made the tavern famous across the city.
We should also mention another equally well-known tavern: La Bola. It is located at calle de Guillermo Rollarid, 1, on the corner with calle de la Bola 5. It has a distinctive red façade and was opened in 1802.
This tavern is famous for its traditional stews, and it has been serving Valdepeñas wines since the years of the Bonaparte repression.
The Valdepeñeras Industrial is yet another of the many taverns in Madrid with a strong connection to Valdepeñas. In fact, the name Valdepeñas appears proudly on the tavern’s façade.
It can be found on calle O’Donnell, on the corner with Narváez. Every Friday, the Taberna Dolores bears witness to the devotion to the image of Jesús Rescatado, when large numbers of people gather to pray before the image.
The tavern, located midway along the route, has been watching the faithful file past its doors since 1928.
It is decorated with tiles bearing symbolic representations of wine, including vines and grapes and the magical words: Valdepeñas wines. In calle Sáncho Dávila (in Ventas) there is another curiously named bar: Valdepeñas en Madrid. And at calle Marceliano Santamaría 5, another named: La flor de Valdepeñas.