Share This Gerry Dawes's Spain Post


In 2019, again ranked in the Top 50 Gastronomy Blogs and Websites for Gastronomists & Gastronomes in 2019 by Feedspot. "The Best Gastronomy blogs selected from thousands of Food blogs, Culture blogs and Food Science. We’ve carefully selected these websites because they are actively working to educate, inspire, and empower their readers with . . . high-quality information. (Last Updated Oct 23, 2019)

Over 1,150,000 views since inception, 16,000+ views in January 2020.

36. Gerry Dawes's Spain: An Insider's Guide to Spanish Food, Wine, Culture and Travel

"My good friend Gerry Dawes, the unbridled Spanish food and wine enthusiast cum expert whose writing, photography, and countless crisscrossings of the peninsula have done the most to introduce Americans—and especially American food professionals—to my country's culinary life. . .” - - Chef-restaurateur-humanitarian José Andrés, Nobel Peace Prize Nominee and Oscar Presenter 2019; Chef-partner of Mercado Little Spain at Hudson Yards, New York 2019


The Four Black Bulls of the Spanish Wine Apocalypse: Severe Weather Hits Numerous Spanish Wine Regions Causing Potentially Catastrophic Losses in Several Regions

* * * * * 

For the past several weeks, The Four Black Bulls of the Spanish Weather Apocalypse have been raging through the vineyards of Northern Spain wreaking havoc. Their names are Helada (Frost), Lluvia (Torrential Rain), Pedrisco (Hail), and Viento (Wind)  have caused dim prospects for the 2017 wine grape harvest in areas such as La Rioja Alta, La Rioja Alavesa, Ribera del Duero, Bierzo, Ribeiro, Valdeorras, Ribeira Sacra and Monterrei and some losses in the Albariño vineyards of Rías Baixas. 

The Black Bull of Spain looms over one of Luís Alberto Lecea´s frost-damaged vineyards around the Rioja Alta village of San Asensio, May 7, 2017.  The leaves on the vines nine days later are secondary growth that will produce little and are, under normal conditions, usually stripped off the vines by the grape farmers.  All photo by Gerry Dawes©2017.

And in their wake, they have brought a great wave of demoralization, one which the brave men and women who farm the vineyards of Atlantic Spain will no doubt overcome.  Still, at this point, many predict crop losses of from 70-90 percent.

In mid-April, high winds in Galicia ripped off branches off vines in Rías Baixas according to Manolo Dovalo, owner of Adegas Rozas, who produces one of Galicia’s greatest artisan Albariños.    

Then on the night of April 28 a late frost that will go down in the history of the viticulture of this region hit La Rioja during the night of April 28 devastated much of La Rioja Alta and La Rioja Alavesa, causing 90% to 100% damage to this year’s grape crop prospects.  Luis Albert Lecea, owner of Bodegas Lecea in San Asensio, told me, “I have bad news.  There will be no wine next year.”  


Luis took me on a tour of his devastated vineyards.  Lecea and his crew laboriously laid water lines into his vineyards and spent 800 Euros on gasoil (diesel) to run the pumps, trying to irrigate the vines, which had also been suffering from drought, hoping that the water would provoke the growth of more leaves to replace those shriveled by the frost

The irony of Lecea´s frost-damaged vines, with no leaves left, surrounded by the dried-up remains of once perfectly healthy ripe grapes (the now dried-up dark bunches on the ground) that had to be cut off and left to dry up on the ground to meet the Rioja D.O. yield require- ments during the 2016 harvest.  Had the producers been able to use these perfectly good grapes to lay in more stocks, they would have been compensated for the big losses they will suffer from this frost in 2017 and maybe beyond.  The new grape leaves are secondary shoots that will produce little or no grapes and are under normal conditions are usually stripped off the vine.   All photos by Gerry Dawes©2017.

 Rows of vines belonging to Bodegas Lecea in San Asensio where leaves should be beginning to flourish by May 7, 2017, when this picture was taken, are almost bare, their leaves frozen and withered by the cold wave on the night of August 28, 2017.  All photos by Gerry Dawes©2017.

Three days later, I arrived in Villafranca del Bierzo and found roads still being cleared from mud slides, the Camino de Santiago in front of La Puerta del Perdón strewn with rocks washed down by the torrential rains, and mud across many roads, plus reports of hail and frost that, especially in lower lying vineyards, will mean a very short crop in 2017.

Vine trunk burst caused by late April frost.
Photo courtesy Gregory Pérez, Bodegas y Viñedos Mengoba, Bierzo.

On May 30, a month after the frost hit, star Bierzo producer Gregory Pérez, owner-winemaker at Bodegas y Viñedos Mengoba, told me in a telephone conversation: “Now is when we are really beginning to see the damage from the frost, the vinos are drying up, the bark of the trunks is bursting. . . and the only thing we can do is severely re-crop the salvageable vines, though we will have to rip out some that were totally killed, re-plant and begin anew.  “It has been a wide spread disaster—not only in Bierzo, but in la Rioja, Ribera del Duero and many parts of Galicia.”  

Ironically, where I saw the mud slides and rocks strewn across the road near La Puerta del Perdón in Villafranca del Bierzo was a wall mural of a hiker with the words AVE FENIX alongside.  It appears that the vineyards of much of northern Spain will have to do just that, rise like the Phoenix from the ruins of the 2017 frost, regroup and battle their way back what is sure to be a very hard economic blow to their winemaking efforts. 

 AVE FENIX: Mural on a wall just beyond the famous La Puerta del Perdón in Villafranca del Bierzo on the Camino de Santiago.   One hope that Spain´s grape farmer - winemakers will rise like the Phoenix from the devastation of the weather this Spring.  All photos by Gerry Dawes©2017.

Later the same day, I visited Hacienda Ucediños in O Barco de Valdeorras, whose owners Eladio and Marcos Santalla Freile reported that one of their prime Godello Vineyards was hard hit by the frost and will produce little or no wine and they were also hit by torrential rains, but even at that they were luckier than many.  

Eladio Santalla Freile and Marcos Santalla Freile with a bottle of their truly stunning Hacienda Ucediños Valdeorras Godello 2016, which was a great match for a dozen remarkably good zamburiñas, or baby scallops, a cazuela or two of gambas al ajillo and a wooden plate of exceptional pulpo a feira, steamed octopus dressed with olive oil, Spanish pimentón (paprika) and sea salt. At Pulperia El Dorado in O Barco de Valdeorras, May 10, 2017.

At D’Berna in Córgomo in Valdeorras, higher up than some of their neighbors, escaped the frost, but were hit with mudslides during a downpour in which three inches of rain fell in just a couple of hours and brought tons of topsoil down from the vineyards that surround the winery and deposited several feet of mud and rocks in the parking lot at the side of the winery, buried their cooling unit and knocked out their water.  

When I arrived at D'Berna, several members of the family were hand shoveling the mud into wheel barrows and taking it away, while a front loader Caterpillar plowed mud out of the parking lot and road leading into the winery. 

And, in Ribeira Sacra, where I was last week, more reports of hail and torrential rains.  José Manuel Rodríguez, President of the Ribeira Sacra D. O. and producer of the superb Décima Mencía, suffered damage to one of his prime vineyards to add to the loss of much of his crop last year to a powerful hail storm.   Here there were also reports of frost and more damage from hail and torrential rains. 

Undamaged vineyards of Manuel Rodríguez, President of the Ribeira Sacra D. O. and producer of the superb Décima Mencía, who lost much of his crop to a severe hailstorm last year.

In mid-April, high winds in Galicia ripped off branches of vines in Rías Baixas according to Manolo Dovalo, owner of Adegas Rozas, who produces one of Galicia’s greatest artisan Albariños.   I spent an afternoon with my Bodegas Artesanas Albariño producers in Rías Baixas, where though Dovalo of Adegas Rozas reported some wind damage in his vineyards, all six of my producers seemed to have escaped serious crop-crippling damage. 
Manolo Dovalo, producer of Rozas (third from left), with the Bodegas Artesanas Albariño producers' wines, which are some of the greatest Grand Cru quality white wines produced in Galicia.



Not so in Ribeiro, to the east and inland, where Manolo Formigo (pictured above) showed me frost damage and estimated that he may lose as much as 80% of 2017’s expected production.

In Monterrei, one of the last regions I visited Antonio Triay, his wife Puri García and their son Ivan showed me their frost-damaged vines and were very demoralized.  They are small very high quality producers of Triay Godello and Mencía and they believe that 85-90% of their 2017 crop was wiped out in the late April frost that hit the Monterrei D.O. particularly hard. 

 Antonio Triay and his son Ivan showed me their frost-damaged vines and were very demoralized.
All photos by Gerry Dawes©2017.

Of all the regions I have visited so far, Viña Catajarros in Cigales and José Pariente in Rueda reported to me when I visited those area that they suffered little or no damage and, early in my trip, southern Navarra seems to have escaped damage.  In Corella (Navarra) Carlos Aliaga at Bodega Aliaga reported no damage.   

Ironically, the wall mural of a hiker with the words AVE FENIX was a harbinger.  It appears that the vineyards of much of northern Spain will have to do just that, rise like the Phoenix from the ruins of the 2017 frost, regroup and battle their way back what is sure to be a very hard economic blow to their winemaking efforts.

All photos by Gerry Dawes©2017.

Help Support Gerry Dawes's Spain & Its Content

If you enjoy these blog posts, please consider a contribution to help me continue the work of gathering all this great information and these photographs for Gerry Dawes's Insider's Guide to Spanish Food, Wine, Culture and Travel. Contributions of $5 and up will be greatly appreciated. Contributions of $500 or more will be acknowledged on the blog. Please click on this secure link to Paypal to make your contribution.

About Gerry Dawes

Gerry Dawes was awarded Spain's prestigious Premio Nacional de Gastronomía (National Gastronomy Award) in 2003. He writes and speaks frequently on Spanish wine and gastronomy and leads gastronomy, wine and cultural tours to Spain. He was a finalist for the 2001 James Beard Foundation's Journalism Award for Best Magazine Writing on Wine, won The Cava Institute's First Prize for Journalism for his article on cava in 2004, was awarded the CineGourLand “Cinéfilos y Gourmets” (Cinephiles & Gourmets) prize in 2009 in Getxo (Vizcaya) and received the 2009 Association of Food Journalists Second Prize for Best Food Feature in a Magazine for his Food Arts article, a retrospective piece about Catalan star chef, Ferran Adrià. 

In December, 2009, Dawes was awarded the Food Arts Silver Spoon Award in a profile written by José Andrés

". . .That we were the first to introduce American readers to Ferran Adrià in 1997 and have ever since continued to bring you a blow-by-blow narrative of Spain's riveting ferment is chiefly due to our Spanish correspondent, Gerry "Mr. Spain" Dawes, the messianic wine and food journalist raised in Southern Illinois and possessor of a self-accumulated doctorate in the Spanish table. Gerry once again brings us up to the very minute. . ." - - Michael & Ariane Batterberry, Editor-in-Chief/Publisher and Founding Editor/Publisher, Food Arts, October 2009. 
Pilot for a reality television series on wine, gastronomy, culture and travel in Spain.


Restaurante d’Berto, O Grove (Galicia) One of the Best Shellfish Restaurants in the World

* * * * *

Persistence of Memory* (Salvador Dalí) Five Melting Watch Rating

Spain's Best Undiscovered Restaurants
by Gerry Dawes
(Note: Photos to come soon.  Picasa Web Albums screwed a lot of people by ceasing to exist, thus wiping out all the slide shows on this blog and erasing days and days of work!.)

D’Berto specializes in simply prepared but sensational crustaceans, mollusks and fish from the beautiful Rías Baixas (lower fjords) of the northwestern region of Galicia: cigalas (Dublin Bay prawns), langostas (spiny, clawless lobsters), camarones (small, succulent shrimp), vieiras (scallops with their orange coral) and centollos (big spider crabs). Owner Alberto “Berto” Domínguez’s pristine selections are matched by his chef-sister Marisol’s spot-on cooking techniques, and the wine list features stellar picks, like Albariño Do Ferreiro “Cepas Vellas,” one of Spain’s best whites. 

Dinner, $70. 84 Avenida Teniente Domínguez, O Grove, Pontevedra, Galicia; 34-986/733-447.

Where to Stay: Located roughly ten miles south of O Grove, the Gran Talaso Hotel Sanxenxo (rooms, from $175; 3 Paseo Praia de Silgar; 34-986/691-111) overlooks the Ría de Pontevedra. Nearby, two other options are the classic beachfront Gran Hotel La Toja (rooms, from $300; 34-986/730-025) and the Parador Nacional de Cambados (rooms, from $200; Plaza Calzada; 34-902/547-979), set in a 17th-century mansion.

Related Posts with Thumbnails