All year, Córdoba awaits the spring. We suffer through the frigid houses, unpredictable downpours, and naked trees for the most wonderful time of the year: May.
May is the season of sun, flowers, and festivals; when the heat is still bearable and staying inside is nearly impossible. The first event to kick of the fiesta season is the Cata del Vino Montilla-Moriles.
This festival, celebrated either at the end of April or the beginning of May, is a massive wine tasting ceremoniously held in a glorified parking lot.
But the scenery doesn’t matter because after a few glasses, you don’t really care where you are.
The Cata is famous for its brutally long lines, so going early is a must. At one point this year, there were 4,000 people waiting to get in! As my friend said, “In Córdoba, there aren’t that many people, but when there’s an event, everybody goes.”
With each entrance, you’re given a wine glass and a little card that gets you five glasses of wine or one bottle. The idea is that you hop from one bodega to another, presumably trying one of the five wines: Fino, Amontillado, Oloroso, Palo Cortado, Pedro Ximénez.
In the fertile lands that surround the Guadalquivir, Andalusia’s main river, lie the towns of Montilla and Moriles. These two towns, along with others, are famous for their vineyards (known as bodegas), that specialize in exquisite white wines.
These wines range from dry to incredibly sweet – the sweetest being Pedro Ximénez. Imagine the sweetness of maple syrup with the drinkable consistency of wine and you’ll start to get the idea. Good Pedro Ximénez is actually quite delicious, but it is intense. Unsurprisingly, it is usually served as a dessert beverage.
Once you’ve selected your first wine and edged your way into an empty spot, you’re finally ready to taste. There are three main stages to properly catar:
- Take a look at your glass of wine. Notice the color and the smell. Looking classy and/or snobby while doing this is optional, but always recommended.
- Hold the glass firmly by the stem and swirl it around. This is much more difficult than it seems, but let me tell you it’s all in the wrist. By swirling the wine around, it breaks up molecules to release more of the aromas in the wine.
- Finally, drink the wine. The wines from Montilla-Moriles often have notes of coffee, dried fruits and nuts, and even chocolate. Most characteristic of these wines is the lingering salty aftertaste that reminds one of the nearby Mediterranean Sea.
The Cata is a celebration of good wine, food, and company. It’s best with a group of good friends, but who knows, with everyone so cheerful, you could even make some new ones!
Still curious? Here’s the Montilla-Moriles website.
Special thanks to Juan Prieto for his collaboration on this post.