Tag Archives: wine

Witches, Legend, and Queimada

When the Celts first made their migration from the upper reaches of Europe down to the Iberian Peninsula it was the mid Iron Age. With them they brought to this green and familiar seeming land many traditions and stories, only few of which have survived today. Unlike the common view of Spain as a hot, passionate, flamenco dancing, guitar playing culture, the history of the Galician people is marked by ancient nights full of magic and mystery, of witches circled in the darkness, churning fiery brews to ward off evil spirits, and attract the good.

The ‘Conxuro de Queimada’ is one of these surviving rituals (though there is debate if the rite is actually as old as some claim, or if it was in fact a more recent invention around the 1950’s. Entirely possible that even if it was dreamed up in the 20th century, that there was some evidence tying it to an earlier time). Queimada itself is a spirit distilled from wine and then flavored with herbs, then often sugar, lemon peel, coffee, and cinnamon.

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The ritual of the drink is supposed to be a warding one that frightens off any spirits in the area with malintent. The forests of Galicia are often referred to as the Bosque Animada, or the animated wood, where said ne’er-do-welling sprites lie in wait to do travelers harm. It was originally a witches brew, but is now an all occasions kind of event, whether you’re just meeting up with friends or having a big party, queimada is a great addition to the get together.

But of course the most perfect night to have your conxuro is the Noche de San Juan, or St. John’s night (also called Witches’ Night), which is June 23rd. The conxuro demands a certain level of spooky ambiance, so once night falls, after brewing up the queimada, people gather round, turn off the lights, and recite the ‘spell’ meant to ward off evil.

“ …Hear! Hear the roars

of those that cannot

stop burning in the firewater,

becoming so purified.

And when this beverage

goes down our throats,

we will get free of the evil

of our soul and of any charm…”

(You can read the whole thing here )

Then, the queimada is lit on fire. It burns an incredible bright blue, and as the brandy burns off (and is added back in slowly), the fire makes ‘sigils’ and ‘ letters’ on top of the liquid, supposedly writing in the witches’ language (it is actually just a byproduct of how the brandy burns, but it’s neat nevertheless).

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After the fire burns out, the queimada is ready! Poured out into cups and shared among the gathered, making for a happy party indeed.

4 Things in La Rioja You Can’t Miss This Summer

4 Things in La Rioja You Can’t Miss this Summer

Colorfully Spain’s summer programming has everything you need for a perfect vacation. La Rioja is famous for its wine making, but that isn’t all it has to offer. Here are 4 things that you can’t miss in Spain’s wine country this summer.

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  1. The haunted bodega of El Fabulista. You can get wine anywhere in the province, but wine that comes with a story like this one, told by a native storyteller in the spooky cave like cellars of this unique bodega is not something to miss!
  2. A tapas crawl through the Barrio Laurel. Logroño is not an incredibly famous place, but for its tapas, it should be. It is the hotspot of the north, each restaurant in the neighborhood of Laurel specializing in a different tapa, making for an overall incredible gastronomic experience.

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  3. The Monasteries of Suso and Yuso. Built up and down from each other on the side of a small mountain, these two monasteries are now an UNESCO Heritage Site, as the elder one, Suso is believed to be the birthplace of the modern Spanish and Basque written languages 1,000 years ago.

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  4. The town of La Guardia. If you want a peaceful and picturesque vacation, this is the town to go to – there are no cars allowed in town because the entire village is resting on some 300 underground bodegas! You can see some of the eldest cellars through the glass floors of some restaurants, and many have tours available, and are still functional today. So leave your wheels at the city gate, and take in the medieval architecture on foot.

If you are interested in our summer and autumn tours to La Rioja in 2016, please don’t hesitate to contact us for more information.

Four Great Spanish Wine and Cheese Pairings

Wine and cheese, an inseparable marriage of two great foods. And one that is enjoyed the nation over here in Spain. However, there is a subtle art to creating pairings, especially in a place that offers so many different options of each.

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One of the biggest pitfalls I see of matching these foods is that there is this stubborn and persistent expectation that cheese should always be paired with a red wine. This is a fallacy for several reasons: one is that as there are so many different tastes, it is a poor move to simply pair them indiscriminately, and two is that when you get down to the chemistry of it, salt and tannin don’t mix well whatsoever.

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I suggest not trying to pair highly cured cheese like manchego with any reds, or any bleu cheeses, as it will kill the taste of both the wine and the food. But that isn’t to say there aren’t good pairings for them, or that no red works out well with any cheese.

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  1. Manchego and Port – Old manchego especially, or curado. The high salt content mixes very well with the sweetness of a port wine. Alternatively, it goes well with richer sherries, anywhere from Amontillado to Palo Cortado.
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  2. Montsec and young Red – if you really do want to have a red with your cheese, goat cheeses from the north of the country work well. But make sure it’s a young red, something soft, and preferably not aged in oak barrels. Often times the bite of a crianza wine or older is too much and overshadows the cheese.
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  3. Sweet whites and smoked cheese – I am a big fan of Albariño in general, and of diametrically opposed tastes, so when I found this suggestion I tried it post haste. Since Albariños are fruity, it does play well off of a smoked cheese. I recommend Idiazábal cheese (native to the Basque Country).
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  4. Sheep’s milk cheese and Cava – Many of the cheeses from the Pyrenees, such as Tupi or Ombra have distinct tastes that linger, and go well with chilled cava, which won’t overpower and thus mask the unique taste of the cheese. Cava is soft enough to compliment, and I recommend semi dry.

5 Types of Sherry

Sherry, Spanish fortified wine, has to be one of the most underappreciated wines out there. Though it has a wide range of taste and goes well with almost any food, it has largely been ignored by the wine drinking population outside of Spain. But, according to Winemag.com, sherry is surging in popularity with the millennial generation.

So let’s take a look at five of the sherries Spain has to offer. If you want some good recommendations on what to buy check out the most recent edition of the buyer’s guide.

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First, what is sherry? It’s a fortified wine, meaning a distilled spirit, usually brandy, is added to it. Sherry comes in a myriad of colors and tastes, sometimes it is a dry aperitif, and sometimes it is an after dinner taste.

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In Spanish, it is called jerez, named for Jerez de la Frontera, where it is exclusively made.

1. Fino

Fino is the lightest sherry, quite dry and slightly acidic, with a significant flor, which is the film of yeast that blankets the top of the liquid while it is in the barrel (shown below). It is typically 15% or so abv (alcohol by volume), and food for pre dinner appetite whetting.

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2. Manzanilla

Manzanilla is also a light sherry, much like its close cousin the Fino, but slightly less harsh and chalky. It’s pretty much perfect when paired with seafood.

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3. Amontillado

Not only a fine drink, but also a great ploy if you need to trick your friend into coming down to your dungeon with you so you can immure him for some unnamed offense (yes I just made a Poe joke). When the flor does’t hold up and the yeast blanket falls through, the nutty, rich taste of an amontillado is the result.

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Careful with it, though, it´s about 18% abv on average.

4. Oloroso

Oloroso is the ‘strong smell wine’ according to it is name, and is made when the wine maker purposefully skims or breaks the flor in order to let air into the brew. It´s about the same abv as the amontillado, but can be sweet or dry depending on what grapes are used.

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5. Palo Cortado

No one is quite sure how a palo cortado happens. It loses its flor much like an amontillado but then somehow becomes much thicker and tastes more like an oloroso, because of a mysterious process that no one is quite sure of. So it is kind of the rebel, doing it’s own thing.

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Most decent brands, Tio Pepe, or Gonzalez Byass to name the big ones, won’t even run you much money. So take it from us, try out a sherry with your next meal, and you’ll be hooked on it, too!

Surf Gastronomy Fusion Tours in Asturias

Colorfully Spain announces brand new, exciting surf based tours in northern Spain for the summer of 2016!

The north of Spain is not only a great place to eat and taste wine, it’s also a natural paradise and a heaven for hikers and surfers alike. Now, Colorfully is offering innovative new tours that combine the two!

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From paddle surfing down the green mountain rivers, stopping at cider houses along the way, to surfing by day and tapas crawls by night, Colorfully has a range of options for outdoor adventurers. And of course, a sampling of the region’s history and archaeology, from the castros of the north, to the church of Santiago de Compostela.

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If you are interested in our outdoor adventure focused summer packages, contact us for more information!

Harvest Season in La Rioja

Colorfully Spain has exciting trip to La Rioja you won’t find anywhere else!
With harvest season just around the corner, now is the time to think about autumn trips to one of the most beautiful places in Europe. Spain’s wine country is famous for its gastronomy, but has so much else to offer.

Colorfully Spain has a new route planned to the region that is a fusion of archaeological adventure, light outdoors sport, and some of the best cuisine on the continent. Bike, hike, or horseback ride through a 2,500 year old archaeological site on the banks of the Duero in Soria, or explore the secrets of the Black Lagoon, then head north to the vineyards of La Guardia to participate in the harvest and sample wines from the various smaller bodegas that you can’t experience outside their home towns.

With trips leaving from July through October, Colorfully Spain is continuing its promise of making history and culture come alive for our clients, providing 24 hour gate to gate bilingual service, personalized itineraries, and ecofriendly business.

Interested in our La Rioja route? Check out more information here!

A New Way to Travel Europe

Each contact with a human being is so rare, so precious, one should preserve it.
― Anaïs Nin

We live in a world which is rapidly changing. People say it is growing smaller, as technology links us all closer together. But, the world is not smaller than it was. It is wide, it is wild, and it is full of incredible things. And we are not closer solely because we have the ability to speak to each other. We are closer because we can travel together, we can meet each other, and we can see and learn how much there is beyond our own front doors.

The world is an incredible place. And we want to help you explore it.

Colorfully Spain is an innovative new travel agency that is dedicated to a cultural and educational form of travel. We don’t just offer package tours and main sights.  Our tours are specifically designed to provide opportunities to engage, so you can learn by talking and doing.

What we offer:

  • A myriad of optional activities from cooking classes as well as fine dining, dancing lessons as well as shows, boating, wine tasting, and more.
  • Exclusive access to archaeological sites across the country.
  • Routes to smaller areas largely untouched by tourism.
  • Small, intimate group tours.
  • Accomodation for any price range.
  • Bilingual guides who are experts in their fields.
  • Self made and self guided trips for independent travelers.
  • 24 hour a day, gate-to-gate bilingual service via cell phone.

What we don’t offer:

  • Standard packages you can find anywhere.
  • Hidden fees.
  • Large group tours.

We also practice cultural sustainability as much as we can, meaning that strive to support the places we visit by partnering with establishments who buy local produce or services from their home zone, and who try to maintain their traditional practices. It’s our way of showing respect to our country; we don’t want to lose the culture that makes us Spanish, so we’re here to support that in whatever ways we can.

What do you want from your vacation? Do you want a good price for quality accommodations, 24 hour bilingual service by phone, unique itineraries that will take you through living cities and incredible archaeological sites, and interactive classes where you can learn to dance, cook, surf, sail, or whatever you can imagine?

Well, we’ve got that.

Are you ready to explore?

We are waiting for you.

 www.colorfullyspain.com