Drinking Wine and Learning Spanish


Combining Spanish, travel and culinary delight in Spain

Right after I graduated from high school I got an English teaching job in Logroño, capital of La Rioja, a province in the North of Spain where a lot of the world's best wine comes from.
The city was surrounded by "viñedos" (vineyards), and most people worked in the wine business. You could visit "bodegas" (wineries) everywhere, and walking through the old town at night, you could not only get countless delicious "tapas" (the famous Spanish bite-sized delights) but they served incredibly good "vino rojo" (red wine) with them for 50 cents a glass.

Once my roommate took me to a bodega that belonged to his friend. We visited the vineyard outside and the cellar, which was full of oak barrels and wine bottles. Then we sat around a table and got to try different wines. We learned that taste and quality of the wine depended on how long it was stored. If the label said "crianza", it meant that the wine had been stored for one year. If it said "reserva", it had been stored for two years, one of them in oak. If it said "gran reserva", it had been stored for two years in oak and for three years in the bottle. The longer a wine had been stored the more expensive it was.

We held white napkins behind the wine to judge the color, which ranged from brownish to raspberry pink. We smelled the wine, then moved it around, only to realize that it smelled completely different afterwards. We drank small sips and let air stream into our mouths, which changed the taste. In this way I had to turn 20 before I learned something about wine. The "rioja" (as they called their wine) was "realmente increíble" (really incredible).

At night, we went to eat tapas. We ordered "champiñones" (fried mushrooms on a skewer), "patatas bravas" (potatoes in spicy tomato sauce), und "bocadillos con queso" (bread rolls with cheese) as well as a few slices of "jamón serrano" (Serrano ham) they cut off one of the pig legs hanging over the bar for us. Proudly, I ordered a "crianza" to accompany our dinner.

When everything was served, my friend said "¡Que buena pinta!", so to wrap up a good day, I learned an expression used in Spain when what you have in front of you looks completely amazing.