Now it’s all well and good banging on about this wine or that wine, and of course you can buy them in the shops, but there’s nothing quite like seeing the land where the grapes grow and, if possible, visiting wineries.

All these mini itinerary trips require hiring a car and please, if you do them, try, where possible, to have a designated driver. The SWE team doesn’t want a lawsuit against them for promoting the acquiring of DUIs.

Have a look at these 6 regional Spanish road trips, set your own timetables to fit in with the ideas, and enjoy d(r)iving in the heart of the wine-lands!

1. Navarra/Rioja – two/three days

Start of the route: Estella

End of the route: Logroño

Recommended steps:

  1. After enjoying the historic centre of pretty Estella head out southwest along the NA-1110 and visit the Santa María de Irache monastery, its bodega and the free Tempranillo wine tap there pouring out DO Navarra red.
  2. Follow the NA-1110 past vineyards and the remote villages of the Camino de Santiago such as Los Arcos, Torres del Río and Viana to arrive at Logroño.
  3. In Logroño, capital of DO La Rioja, go out for tapas in the famous bar-filled streets around Calle Laurel and Calle San Agustín.
  4. Take the N-232a to the gorgeous hilltop town of Laguardia. Eat in one of the old taverns: pochas (bean stew), steak and potatoes with red peppers.
  5. Afterwards take a trip to maybe visit the Ysios winery, designed by Santiago Calatrava, or head just south a little on the A-3210 to the village of Elciego to visit the famed Marqués de Riscal winery designed by the Guggenheim’s Frank Gehry.
  6. Drive into the wine lands again through villages like San Vicente de Sonsierra and Briones and make your way to the capital of the La Rioja wine region: Haro.
  7. A visit to one of the great bodegas is a must (CUNE, Muga etc). My favourite is Bodegas López de Heredia Viña Tondonia with its ancient and dusty subterranean wine cellars and antiquated methods of production. For a more upmarket lunch head to historic Hotel los Agustinos.

2. Manchuela/Utiel-Requena – one/two days

Start of the route: Alcalá del Júcar

End of the route: Requena

Recommended Steps:

  1. Enjoy the delirious beauty of Alcalá del Júcar: take a drink at the Cuevas de Masago cave bar and have lunch/dinner and wine at El Moli restaurant.
  2. Head west along the Júcar river on the B-5 to the Jorquera viewpoint on the AB-880.
  3. Head north in the direction of Fuentealbilla and visit the winery Finca El Molar: a biodynamic place run by a young and friendly lady called Rus.
  4. Take the CM-3207 road east driving through the wine-lands of DO Manchuela.
  5. Stop just before the fairytale village of Cofrentes on the CV-439 for one of the most startling views in the whole area.
  6. Head north along the N-330 and the high undulating vine-covered fields of DO Utiel-Requena.
  7. Visit the old centre of Requena, like an Andalusian white town lost in the Valencia region.
  8. Enjoy a cheap tasting at the wine shop on Plaza del Salvador and then have a nice traditional meal at the friendly Mesón de la Villa.

3. Ribeira Sacra – one day

Start of the route: Os Peares

End of the route: Monforte de Lemos

Recommended steps:

  1. Head to the village Os Peares and turn onto the dramatic Sil Canyon road, LU-P-4103.
  2. Rejoin at the OU-0508 and continue on to the postcard-perfect viewpoint: Mirador de Vilouxe.
  3. Take the LU-903, which heads through the verdant green depths of the DO Ribeira Sacra wine-lands. Keep your eyes peeled for the Monasterio de San Paio de Abeleda near the village of O Couto and grab a glass or a bottle of local Mencía red wine at the Adega Ponte de Boga or one of the many other bodegas that little the area.
  4. Cross the canyon at its bottom and come up the other side past high-flung Doade and the famously steep vine-covered valley walls.
  5. End your day at Monforte Lemos, a calm town famed for its giant 18th century seminary, and enjoy a well-earned meal.

4. Jerez – one day

Start of the route: Jerez

End of the route: Jerez

Recommended steps:

  1. Start off your trip by looking around the dreamy old town in Jerez and stopping in at old bars like Tabanco San Pablo, for a local tipple.
  2. Head to the town’s oldest sherry winery – Fundador, started in 1730 – and go for a tour and tasting around its fascinating complex.
  3. Head west along the pretty A-480 road. On either side, for as far as the eye can make out, you can notice the distinct dry, almost, white albariza soils: a mixture of chalk, sand and clay. Vineyards surround you as you drive to Sanlúcar de Barrameda.
  4. Enjoy the views across the sands and lazy Guadalquivir estuary to the UNESCO-protected Doñana national park on the other side of the water. Enjoy cheap drinks and some fresh fish and flamenquín at Don Viento.
  5. Stroll up to the centre of the old town, perhaps ‘forcing’ yourself to have another sherry at the adorable Plaza de Cabildo.
  6. Have a final mosey through more of those typically white and endearingly scruffy white streets – occasionally shocked with colour – to Taberna der Guerrita for a tapa and yet more sherry.
  7. Choose your designated driver and head back to Jerez past the final wine-town of El Puerto de Santa María before taking the CA-201 and visiting the beautiful Carthusian charterhouse, Cartuja de Santa María de la Defensión.

5. Cariñena/Campo de Borja – one day

Start of the route: Zaragoza

End of the route: Borja

Recommended steps:

  1. Head south from Zaragoza on the A-222 towards the eerie and Civil War-ruined ghost town of Belchite.
  2. Head west along the A-220 keeping your eyes peeled just after leaving Belchite for the odd-looking Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Pueyo up on its private hill.
  3. Drive through the rumbling plains and vineyards of DO Cariñena and make for the attractive town of Borja; home of Bodegas Borsao, which Robert Parker said in 2016 was ‘My favourite value winery not only in Spain, but in the world…’
  4. Have food at La Bóveda del Mercado and make sure to accompany it with red wine: the speciality being made from the Garnacha grape. You are now in DO Campo de Borja, the ‘Empire of Garnacha’.
  5. Follow the small road north, that rises out of the town past beautiful vineyards, to the Santuario de Misericordia. Here you can see the amusing repainting of Ecce Homo when local octogenarian Cecilia Giménez tried, and spectacularly failed, to restore the fresco.
  6. Return towards the N-122 and take the road west, coming off at the Z-372. You’re now heading into the lush and mountainous beauty of the Moncayo Natural Park.
  7. Visit the imposing and ancient-looking Monasterio de Veruela and its well-set up wine museum. Also, of course, grab a drink there!

6. Bierzo – one day

Start of the route: Ponferrada

End of the route: Villafranca del Bierzo

Recommended steps:

  1. First head east along the LE-142 and check out some of the outrageously cute slate-tiled mountain villages typical of the area: Molinaseca, El Acebo de San Miguel, Foncebadón and, slightly further off, Rabanal del Camino.
  2. Check out the Templar Castle in Ponferrada and grab tapas in the old town at El Bodegón: famed for their spicy mussels, fried calamari and patatas bravas.
  3. Head west along the LE-713 to the wine town of Cacabelos and then try to grab a tour of the Godelia winery. You’ll start to notice that you are following pilgrims on the Camino de Santiago.
  4. Past dinky Pieros, take the offshoot road CV-126-32 to the ramshackle and diminutive wine-village Valtuille de Arriba. This whole area is surrounded by smooth multicoloured hills dotted as far as the eye can see with Mencía grapevines; Spain’s answer to Pinot Noir.
  5. Follow the country roads west – best to use a GPS here – to one of Spain’s most attractive small towns: Villafranca del Bierzo. Eat at the Casa de Comidas La Pedrera, with its pretty decor and garden.

There are myriad routes through cute villages and outstanding countryside in all 70 of the country’s denominaciones. So, when you’ve finished these 6, hire a car and make your own adventure!

Salud y buen camino!


If you come to Madrid, which of course, we hope you do. If you go into a modern or classic little Spanish tapas bar, which of course, we hope you do. And if you order a wine, which of course, you should, you’ll often have limited options. You ask for a vino tinto, and will almost always be given a Tempranillo from Rioja – although these days it is common to be offered a Ribera del Duero. Ask for a vino blanco, and you’ll be proffered a goblet of Verdejo from Rueda – though, again, sometimes Albariño from Rías Baixas makes an appearance.

Across most of Castille – both Castilla y León and La Mancha – and Madrid, Extremadura, and Andalucía the most common white wine is always Verdejo. Go most other places and that exotically named grape is still there, accompanied with her productive little region of Rueda. It’s the most well-known grape and region pairing that no-one has heard of!

So today it’s time to meet Verdejo: Spain’s quiet signature grape.

The Grape:

  • The juicy green gapes were brought to Spain probably sometime in the 11th century by the Mozarabs coming from the north of Africa.
  • The first vines were planted in the small but sensationally productive region of Rueda, 175km northwest of Madrid. There are fewer than 60 bodegas in the area, but the grape has become synonymous with the area. Pure terroir.
  • It seems to be the daughter of Savagnin and Castellana Blanca.
  • The name stems from the Spanish for green, verde. The viticultural version of ‘say what you see’ as they are famed for their green-blue bloom.
  • In 2010, Australia got a taste for the grape and started to plant it.
  • The grape is ideally suited to the poor soils and harsh environment present in Rueda; a region that can drop 25 degrees celsius at nighttime.
  • The climate of the meseta is also handy, because Verdejo has a high susceptibility to Powdery mildew fungal disease. The complete dryness doesn’t allow the humidity-loving growth of the fungus.
  • It’s only really in the last 40-odd years that Verdejo from Rueda has come into its own. For a long time it was used in Spain to produce a strong Sherry-like wine.
  • It wasn’t until 70s, with the Rioja giant Marqués de Riscal seeing its potential, that Verdejo began to be used to make fresh and crisp still wines.
  • It’s a fairly venerable Spanish denominación de origen, formed in 1980.
  • The grapes, like many in hot climates, are generally harvested at night. The cooler temperatures will protect the grapes and mean they won’t start to oxidise.
  • As per usual, Verdejo has myriad other names, though generally they are not common but they are wonderful to look at: boto de gall, botón de gallo blanco, cepa de madrigal, gouvelo, verdal del país, verdeja, verdeja blanca.

The Wines:

  • Verdejo as a wine, especially when showing its full expression in Rueda, is famed for its slightly green-tinted straw colour and aromatic and almost herbaceous aroma.
  • It’s not dissimilar to Sauvignon Blanc or a big Pinot Gris. Some laurel, bitter almonds, lemons and citrus are all found on the nose. The palate is smooth and quite full and has sharp acidity.
  • Be aware Verdejo can be rather unappealing if not served chilled enough, sometimes too alcoholic and petrolly. But when chilled correctly is an utter delight.
  • Verdejo can take to ageing quite well, turning almost nutty. That being said, it is not overly common; many producers believing that you lose the intrinsic qualities that Verdejo is good for.
  • The grape, due to the similarity of the vines and name, is sometimes confused with Verdelho. They are not the same. And that’s that.
  • Verdejo is often mixed with Sauvignon Blanc or Macabeo.
  • Due to the acidity of the wines, Verdejo is almost the perfect food pairing white wine.
    • It goes very well with seafood and shellfish.
    • Salty or matured food like strong cheeses pair brilliantly.
    • Verdejo also can go toe to toe with ‘exotic’ food like Thai or Chinese and even spicy food – though, as stated prior, make sure it’s well-chilled!
  • The wines, to be called Rueda Verdejo must be 85% Verdejo. Usually, to show it off fully, producers are more likely to produce 100% wines.
  • Despite finding its spiritual home in Rueda, the largest planting of the grape is actually in Extremadura followed by Castilla La Mancha.

So, even though the boozing populace of Madrid may either a) be bored of Verdejo these days or b) take it for granted, there is no doubting or ignoring the fact that this little green juice bomb has been carrying Spain’s greatest cities, its most famous socialites, its hardy workers and its tiniest villages, into various states of inebriation for centuries.

Verdejo (and Rueda) are owed a debt of soused thanks from a lot of Spain. When all else fails and the cabinets and shelves are running dry, there’s always Verdejo, smiling down at you and saying ‘Hola, pop me in the fridge a while and then drink me!’


I love cooking, it relaxes me, it helps me to escape from this busy world. Even cooking under pressure, for a number of guests or against the clock, I enjoy the art of food processing. Cooking is also a way to take control of things, once you get to cook you must decide the ingredients, flavours, recipes, textures… You have to unleash your creativity from the first minute to the last.

I admit that not everyone shares that passion for the kitchen, but that should not be a reason to stay away from it. By choosing some simple recipes you can enjoy your Spanish wines paired with tapas that have come out of your own hands.

Cheese and ham

No doubt the easiest to prepare, but not for that reason is it any less popular. It’s as easy as cutting some cured cheese and ham. The magic of this tapa lies in two elements: the quality of the raw material and the cutting technique.

Ingredients:

  • cheese
  • Iberian ham
  • bread or breadsticks

Cured cheeses should be cut in wedges or triangles. Those with stronger flavors, such as Manchego, Zamorano or Mahon, should be cut into wedges or bars with a thickness of 5 to 10 millimeters. Cut the creamy or soft ones into small slices but always with a minimum thickness of 5 mm. Because they are difficult to cut, it is recommended to introduce the knife blade into a bowl of hot water, so that it easily slides through the cheese. Cheeses like Cabrales can be presented in small blocks so diners can take it directly with the help of a knife. For moldy crust cheeses we cut the slices with the rind intact. And spreadable or cream cheeses, such as the famous Torta del Casar, are served directly to the table with no slicing. As you can see, a good cut can enhance the shape, flavour and presence of cheeses.

I prefer the cured ones. Sometimes I add some honey, quince, some jam or marmalade; depending on your favourite flavour.

On the other hand, it’s not difficult to find jamón ibérico already sliced, but if you want to cut your own ham I advise you to watch a few tutorials on YouTube beforehand. Remember: you must cut the ham into thin slices, almost transparent, covering the width of the piece but not very long, 6 or 7 cm. The cuts should be always parallel and done in opposite direction to the hoof, always leaving a flat surface without grooves.

Which wine can we have?

A Cava or a Sherry is the perfect accompaniment for this simple dish. The acidity with play well against the fattiness of the cheese and meat.

Gambas al ajillo (garlic shrimp)

Ingredients (for two people)

  • 400 g of frozen or fresh shrimps
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • parsley
  • olive oil
  • Salt
  • chili pepper

I learned how to cook this recipe in a Madrid bar where they have been preparing it since the days after the Civil War: Casa del Abuelo. The preparation is so easy. Preferably in a clay pot, put a little olive oil with chili pepper, then heat and roll the cloves or chopped garlic around in the oil with a little chopped parsley. We toss in the shelled shrimp, up the heat and add salt. Voilà. A minute later we remove it from heat and we bring it to the table, hot as Sun, being careful not hurt any of our guests or burn the table. To avoid such catastrophes, we can underlay the pot with a plate and protect the table where it’s going to be served.

Which wine can we have?

A white Verdejo from Rueda or youthful and fresh white Viura form Rioja will pair nicely with both the heat of the dish and slip in between the salt and garlic.

Chorizo a la sidra (Chorizo with cider)

Ingredients:

  • Fresh chorizos
  • cider
  • boiled potatoes (optional)

We pulled off the string from the sausages and put them on a deep pan. We prick them with the tip of a knife so the chorizos don’t burst and also release their juices during cooking. We cover them with cider and cook them on a high heat.

The cooking time depends on the freshness, size and quality of chorizo, but after about 15 or 20 minutes the alcohol will have evaporated off and the liquid reduced, leaving a sauce in the bottom of the pan. Serve immediately.

Eat them with some slices of artisan bread, or with a baked potato, which fuses perfectly with chorizos.

Which wine can we have?

A red wine with personality, perhaps a bold and spicy Tempranillo red from Toro or Ribera del Duero.

Lacón cocido con patatas (Cooked lacón with potatoes)

Ingredients (for two people)

  • 100 gr of lacón
  • 300g potatoes
  • paprika
  • salt and pepper
  • Olive oil

Lacón is a cured front leg of the pork, though less than the more typical jamón-style paletilla. Specifically it’s cured for just 35 days. The process however is the same: the piece is salted, washed to remove excess salt, dried or settled and matured.

This recipe is very easy. Ready? Boil the potatoes, peel them and cut into thick slices about a half centimetre in size. Cover the dish with them and finish with sliced ham. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle a little spicy paprika and drizzle with a dash of extra virgin olive oil.

Which wine can we have?

An Albariño will go nicely. A full-bodied and aromatic Galician white to match the porky potatoes.

Huevos rotos con jamón (Broken eggs with ham)

Did dare buy a jamón ibérico? Well, here you have another idea of how to use it. This is one of my favourite tapas.

Ingredients:

  • 3 medium potatoes
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 or 7 slices of jamón ibérico.

Fry the potatoes, previously cut into slices, not sticks. Place them apart. Then fry the eggs, making sure that the yolk is soft. Place them over the chips. Now drape the jamón slices over the eggs. Surprise your friends with this beautiful dish. But wait, that’s not all: before anyone can stick a fork in it, confidently cut up the potatoes, eggs and ham, four or five times, mixing it up. Let the yolk flow over ham and potatoes like lava. And now, eat.

This dish has many versions where you can replace the jamón with sausage, black pudding, chorizo or any other flavour that fits well with the potatoes and eggs.

Which wine can we have?
A young red will pair nicely. Nothing too overbearing. A juicy Mencía from Riberia Sacra or Bierzo perhaps.


De Vinos

  • Calle de la Palma, 76
    28015 Madrid
  • Barrio: Universidad
  • Metro: Noviciado
  • +34 911 823 499

Strolling one day with Luke on the old Calle Palma, he took me to this little tavern. It is not unusual that is filled with people, and not just for their tastings, concerts or promotions of wine and vermouth, but because it is really a great place to discover and appreciate the world of wine. It’s easy to miss it, keep your eyes open when walking nearby. The interior has that stale air, with tradition, we call it in Spain with ‘solera’, part of our tradition, really welcoming. The tavern really smells history, did you know it is a former dairy?.

Do not worry if there are many people at the entrance, because there is more room at the back.

The best thing of the place is the owner Yolanda, a real winelover. Let her take you under her wing, her wine list is as wide as it is interesting, served “como Dios manda”. Succumb to the most extravagant denominations, leave the mainstream path of Rioja and Ribera: Mencia, Bierzo, Somontano … By glass or bottle, and do not worry if you don’t finish the bottle, you can bring it home, or better still, they can vacuum seal with a name tag. Cool, right?

It’s not all about wine, they also have some tapas that are a real pleasure to the senses. The menu is as good as the wine one. I especially remember the parmesan mousse with red wine jam … Oh. My. God. Or just go with a simple cheese. Simple tapas: a cheese and a wine. Pleasure of the gods

Posada del León de Oro

The old inns of old “Madrid de los Austrias”, near the Plaza Mayor, have been reconverted into sofisticated hotels that have not turned their backs on one of the most rooted traditions in this city: wine. La Posada del León de Oro is one of those hostels of the late nineteenth century, crossed by the Christian wall of the XII century, and which, after its lavish restoration, has not lost its noisy and daily hubbub, like all the best bars in Madrid. It is not overly expensive for such a luxurious looking place. They have done a very good job with the restoration of the old inn.

The wine list has more than 300 types. Ask for whichever bottle you want, and pay only the bottle plus the corkage. The floor in some parts is transparent glass and you can see the ancient cellar through it. Among all the wines they pay special attention to the Madrid ones, something I like. The tapas range goes from the simplest things like the typical pincho de tortilla to the most sophisticated ones.

Matritum

  • Calle Cava Alta, 17
    28005 Madrid
  • Barrio: La Latina
  • Metro: La Latina
  • +34 913 658 237
  • matritum.es

Matritum is the Latin name for Madrid, but do not look in the history books, this is not a Roman city. The city of Madrid is much more recent, and that’s the reason they can make tunnels and holes anywhere without fear of finding a Roman arena or some Arab baths.

This is definitely my favorite corner of La Latina, small and friendly. The food is exquisite, with a touch of innovation but respectful to the national gastronomic tradition. Pre-book your dinner at this pleasant and hidden restaurant of Cava Alta. Let yourself go by the advice of Alfonso, the sommelier, who is in charge of the place. Meatballs, croquettes, foie gras… see what the staff recommend. The journey of flavors is amazing.

The place is intimate with few tables, not quite cheap, but acceptable. The wine list is designed for each season and includes varieties ranging from the expected Riojas to the unexpected, large enough to have the sensation of traveling around world. It will not disappoint you. This place has also a wide variety of tapas and wines from all regions of Spain.

Casa Lucas

  • Calle de la Cava Baja, 30
    28005 Madrid
  • Barrio: La Latina
  • Metro: La Latina
  • +34 913 650 804
  • casalucas.es

Casa Lucas is one of those places to stop when you are in the area. It is located right next to the emblematic Casa Lucio and is one of the most popular places on the Cava Baja. You will be surprised how small it is, just 6 or 7 tables, so plan your visit well, it’s always full.

If you have to wait, that it is the perfect moment to take a wine at the bar. Here it works the rule of “eat well, drink well”. The menu is excellent, and the wine list is more than acceptable. Do not look for a sophisticated place, newly designed, loud music or dim lighting. This is a bar. Yes. The food is exquisite and worth paying that little more than the local bars. Excellent croquettes, chicken curry, tatakis …

The wine list runs all the Spanish geography with more than twenty references across the country

Taberna Tempranillo

  • Calle Cava Baja, 38
    28005 Madrid
  • La Latina
  • Metro: La Latina
  • +34 913 641 532

I love this wine and tapas bar in its simplicity: wine and tapas. You always find people packed into it, so the sooner you go the better. A wall full of bottles up to the ceiling decorates the bar. Wine, that is the word that defines this bar. After all, Tempranillo is the most famous grape of Spain. You will find excellent quality wines from all over the country at good price. With every wine you get a tapa: excellent embutidos as ham, chorizo, lomo…accompanied by bread of the highest quality. A real pleasure for the mouth.

The tapas menu exceeds the conventional: let yourself be taken away on a flavour zephyr with sophisticated Iberian ham, crab or foie gras, line-caught tuna with garden vegetables. Their open sandwiches, tostas, a real Madrid obsession, are to die for here. The price is incredibly reasonable, so the only thing you have to deal is with the lack of space.


A couple of years ago I walked an elongated version of the Camino de Santiago. 51 days and about 1200km. The most famous route is from France in the little village of St-Jean-Pied-de-Port to the ancient holy city of Santiago de Compostela. I published a book about it called, quite originally, El Camino, and then essentially put it neatly behind me into my past. Now I recall my journey and think to myself, as well as the Camino de Santiago, it could quite easily be named the Camino de Vino. For there was a lot of wine. The Spanish have been at it, wine-making that is, since the Phoenicians and Romans.

If we focus, for the sake of brevity and sanity, on the principal and most famous route, the camino francés, we are talking about a 780km walk from east to west along a millennia-old pilgrim track. Spain has 70 denominaciones de origen (D.O.), demarcated wine regions, so statistically it makes sense that one would pass through at least a few of them.

Coming down tired and sore from the Pyrenees on day one, you enter the old kingdom of Navarra, which, handily, happens to be a D.O. It is an odd region that is as varied as it is attractive. From Swiss-style green peaks dotted with chalet toy towns with Basque names like Linzoain, Zubiri, Aurtiz, to ancient medieval cities like Pamplona, Estella and Puente la Reina, Navarra has long been the pilgrim gateway to Spain.

And, after a long walk, you want a glass of wine or five. As a region for red wine it is quite far behind a lot of the other great regions, though they are tasty, they are also rather unpolished and often a little unexciting and simple. But they do the job. Navarra’s magic lies in its rosés and is arguably the best region in Spain for reliable versions of the dark pink Spanish chilled wine.

Around the village of Cirauqui, trellised wines snake up to its little mount and at the old former Benedictine monastery of Irache there is a pilgrim wine fountain dispensing free red to walkers. Take your plastic bottle and fill it up. The tap wasn’t working when I passed by the morning of my walk so I would have to imagine how it tasted.

A few days later and the pilgrim hauls his tired frame into the old quartermaster of the Spanish wine world: La Rioja. It was rare to have a view that didn’t include kilometres and kilometres of vineyards. Spring had left the surrounding fields velvety and green with long grasses. It was almost a Spanish Tuscany without the Cyprus trees.

We wouldn’t have dreamed of ordering anything except the local wine in these towns – Navarrete, Nájera, Santo Domingo de la Calzada; all small church-filled places. But the crown was given to Logroño and its obscene number of bars. Tapas bar after tapas bar offering a full list of local producers and their wines; usually none more than a couple of euros a glass, and served with the famed speciality nibbles: potatoes cooked with peppers and chorizo, stuffed mushrooms, fried pig snouts, little sandwiches.

We rubbed our heads and in the morning blinked clear the hangovers as we approached the much-scorned yet bleak beauty and expanses of the meseta. The 200km long flat-as-a-pancake plateau. The topography had simmered down to nearly zero. There were a few soft rises and dips but not a vineyard in sight. We were walking west and shadowing another behemoth region: Ribera del Duero, which lay 85km to the south.

As compensation for this we continued to do what we did every day: get up early, walk between 20-40km, arrive at our destination, and open and drink an unhealthy amount of local wine. Fortunately, as we drifted from Burgos to Frómista, to Carrión de los Condes, to Castrojeriz, to Sahagún, this local wine happened to be those dark liquorice-filled yet smooth beasts of Ribera.

After the monument-filled and genteel old city of León, it was high time we walked through a D.O. again. This time was Bierzo, the floral wonderland of the far west part of Castilla y León. The land grow bouncy and hilly again, and then the mountains brought a new architecture; stone houses with distinctive grey slate roofs.

The vineyards of Bierzo showed off their drama as they slid over warm green slopes in the foreground as snow-tipped peaks danced in the back. Little ladies in round hats were pruning the vines around the postcard-perfect villages of Molinaseca, Villafranca del Bierzo, Valtuille de Arriba. In Bierzo, for red wines, the Mencía grape was king. It is a grape I have described before as the Pinot Noir of Spain. Elegant, floral and lighter than the bolstered Tempranillos, hot Garnachas and inky Monastrells of the rest of Spain. Here, with the moderate climate, retaining heat in summer but overall more mild in all seasons, red fruits, violets and a pleasing minerality fill these suave wines. Many fuzzy mornings were had.

Finally the world was drowned in green as I entered the mystical Celtic lands of Galicia. Here the temperatures drop and the humidity and rainfall increase. There are reds, good reds, to be had in this region, but the superstars are the whites.

At Portomarín we brushed the top of D.O. Ribeira Sacra, a fecund valley sliced in two by the Sil river; famous for its grand canyon. Here again Mencía was the dominant red. They had a different aspect to the darker wines of Bierzo, lacking the heavier fruit punch. They were dangerously drinkable, light and fruity but still had that classic minerality, poetically linked to the steep slate hillsides on which the Mencía grape grows.

And so to Santiago de Compostela I arrived. I had been lashed with rain and had sweated through shirts, been pummelled with hail storms and blown about by gales, often on the same day, but after 47 days I had finally arrived at that moss-covered religious relic where St James lay, dead as dust in his box.

However there was one more region to drink. Split into five sub-zones, D.O. Rías Baixas spreads itself out along the lower western fjord-like estuaries of Galicia. They share the space with cute Scandiweigian villages, broad sandy bays, eucalyptus forests and fishermen. They also make Spain’s best white wines using the Albariño grape.

The day after I arrived I headed north up to the shipwreck-riddled Costa da Morte, coast of death, on the vineyard-less Rías Altas, but for now, in Santiago, I could at least feel fairly close to some vineyards. There is a sub-zone – Ribera del Ulla – that creeps in land and leaves the fjords, and sits just 10km or so south of the city. So we drank our fill.

Albariño in its Galician homeland is a joy to drink; bracing acidity and fresh lemony flavours and melons and apricots too sometimes. They can be creamy if left on the lees or almost effervescently mimicking the Vinho Verdes of Portugal. And, when paired with seafood – the region’s speciality – it makes the drinker emit sounds that are best left to the privacy of one’s home.

I finished the Camino de Santiago with firmed buttocks and calf muscles, the same belly, and, probably a liver that had packed up and died in the corner of the room. St. James might be shocked if he ever came back one day to realise that his Camino de Santiago is really the Camino de Vino.