Visit to Bodegas Castaño in Yecla – 15th September 2022 – A Review by a ‘Wine Tasting Trip Virgin’

I joined 51 U3A members for this trip to the Bodegas Castaño in Yecla, where several vineyards grow in around 500 hectares, in beautiful Spanish countryside.

The Castaño family founded this Bodega in 1950, to develop and delight in the Art of the Monastrell, a unique grape variety that creates some beautiful wines with a special Mediterranean mineral character, which I learnt is derived from the dry farming process of the grape growing in the very stony limestone ground along with the perfect conditions of very cold winters and then very hot summers. Temperatures range from 7ºC in winter to 40ºC in summer.

I am a U3A Wine Tasting Trip Virgin although I think I do qualify as an expert wine taster through many personal years of wine drinking. This is, however, the first learning experience for me.  I did nearly trip up as I followed Raquel, our Bodega Host and Teacher, unsteadily over the very rocky terrain to view the vineyards. I was interested to learn of an environmentally friendly pheromone diffuser that is attached to the vines, that confuses the male moth into thinking that females are there when they’re not. I think Raquel called this a sexual confuser! This device, along with the cross pollination of an American vine, ensure a disease free vine.

I will be interested to taste a wine from an experimental vine where I learnt they are looking at producing a Malbec, one of the only reds I enjoy… but I heard the experimental process can take up to 20 years so perhaps not! Raquel went on to explain that it’s the taste buds in the middle of our tongue that initially experience the flavours which is why it is good practice to allow the wine to stay on the tongue for a moment to relish the burst of all that’s within… whoops… I’ve been doing it wrong all these years as the wine I drink rarely touches the sides!

We continued our visit back at the Bodega where we went to the wine making and fermentation process stores. This was a little tricky even for the nimblest among us, as we had to navigate great criss cross pipes strewn across the wet puddled floor. Not a Health and Safety Inspector in sight! …. but we are in Spain. The great containers being noisily filled, varied in size from huge to ginormous …. enough stock to keep us U3A members in wine for now and the next summer Garden Party  I’m hoping!

We visited the high humidity Oak barrelled storage cellar where we saw some wines being kept for a number of years for export for up to 42 countries. The wines barrelled here are tested and tasted periodically to ensure no spoiling but, after an enquiry from the floor for that job, we learnt that the qualification for that coveted position requires a degree as well as a nose for it! I was surprised to see labels for vegan wine as I thought all wines were vegan, but was told that protein from egg white can be used to remove the tiny particles in the sediment. Here they use pea protein to do that job for the vegan wines and furthermore they hope to be a completely organic vineyard within the next 2 years. We also learnt of Kosher wine being aged that had to follow a strict Kosher plan, overseen by the buyers.

We finally sat down to a fabulous 5 course lunch which included 3 starters and a chicken paella and a yummy chocolate pudding,  along  with wine tasting and learning more about the wines presented to us by Raquel. Needless to say the wine flowed copiously, along with the conversation with U3A friends, old and new.

We formed a disorderly queue in the shop afterwards to purchase some of our favourite wines along with a very tasty bodega produced olive oil.

Thank you very much Pat & Brian for the day and a big thank you to Pepe our driver who wound his way back to Moraira listening to the snores of a very replete U3A  wine tasting group.

Our thanks go to Fiona Sankey for the very interesting write-up and to John Snell for the wonderful photos.