Posted on April 6th, 2012
Roving wine reporter and travel gourmand Melissa Gardner gives us the inside scoop on the best places to eat, drink and be merry in Madrid
When you visit Madrid, you will easily find flamenco, lace mantillas, tortillas and tapas. Many aesthetes go for a wallow in the golden triangle of museums—The Prado, Reina Sofia and Thyseen-Bornemicsza –to have their senses filled and minds boggled by those wondrous and sweeping art collections. But once sensory overload sets in, nothing soothes better than a sunny Spanish wine. Lucky you, the Madrid wine scene comes to you by the bodega, as well as by the glass.
For the quickest fix, exit the triangle and take a taxi to the La Latina neighborhood, where the entire length of the Cava Baja is jammed with tapas bars, wandering tourists and a sprinkling of locals. Whether it’s traditional Spanish croquetas & jamon or the modern stacked tapas in the style of the northern Basque, the indispensable accompaniment is wine. So it’s best to find a taperia with more than three or four wines by the copa. For the most diverse Spanish wine selection, head to number 30, Casa Lucas, where they regularly feature something like 15 fine red, white, rosado, cava, porto and dulce wines by the glass. Don’t go thinking that Spanish wine begins and ends with Rioja and Ribera del Duero—that’s like thinking all good French wine comes only from Burgundy and Bordeaux.
Have a sip of red from Alicante, Navarra or Madrid. Most of the grapes are familiar—tempranillo, cabernet sauvignon, syrah—but some may be new to you, like mencia or garnacha. Or choose a juicy mouth-watering white made from verdejo (Spain’s answer to sauvignon blanc) or godello, planted in the Rueda and Ribiera regions. Among Casa Lucas’ many delicious dishes, order the Arroz Cremosa for a knockout foie-boletus- risotto to pair with your exotic copa de vino. It’s no wonder this place can get crowded. Now you are ready for some elbow room, consider an afternoon jaunt to the country, specifically the wine country.
Madrid is (supposedly) the only capital in the world with a DO—made up of an astonishing 45 bodegas scattered through three subzones – Arganda, Navalcarnero and San Martin – that beard the state from southeast to south west. The Madrid DO was established in 1990, and already Bodega Tagonius has received multiple high scores, vintage after vintage, from the wine press. Drive merely 40 minutes from the center of Madrid to the southeast and you will have escaped into the rolling, undeveloped Arganda. Continue past the Barajas airport, then up and up to an elevation of nearly 800 meters, where you will come upon the Gosálbez-Orti bodega, a jewel of hand-crafted, masterful wines in the village of Pozuelo del Rey. The quality belies the mom & pop vibe, and these are wines you will rarely see outside of Spain. So, after tasting with the owners, Estrella and Carlos, be sure to snap up some bottles to take with you. You will be pleased by the age-worthy wines blended from tempranillo, syrah and cabernet–and if you’re lucky, they may still have some 100% garnacha available. Simply send them an email 24 hours ahead to tell them when you‘ll arrive and they will happily show you wine “from the inside”.