Spain, the land of bulls and wine. This weekend I go to Pamplona, Spain for the “San Fermin”  festival more commonly known in the USA as the “running of the bulls.”   Yes, I run.  Probably on most any-one’s “bucket list,” running with the bulls is something you never forget.  This will be my 15th run. 

Following San Fermin I will visit a winery in La Mancha, the fiercely hot, high plain made famous by “Don Quixote.”  And while hot in summer, it is bone cold in winter.  It is also the site of the largest production of wine in the country, although it is much less known in the USA than is Ribero del Duero or Rioja or probably any other production area in Spain.  And the main grape used is the lowly Airen grape, which, while lacking any prestige, is the most produced grape in Spain. 

Like Don Quixote I am on a quest.  When ”bellying up” to a bar in the USA the man usually orders a beer, while the lady orders a white wine.  25 years ago that white wine was Chablis.  It was replaced by Chardonnay and now the choice is Pinot Grigio.   Nothing wrong with this pleasant, innocuous wine.  But I find that a good bottle of San Pelligrino sparkling water has more character and taste than Pinot Grigio.  

So my search for a wine that, like these popular choices, offers the same qualities, i.e. light or low alcohol, fruity,  low acidity, and competitive price,  but, unlike Pinot Grigio, offers some character and taste.  I have found that the larger wineries in La Mancha have worked minor miracles with the Airen grape and are now producing some brilliant white wines with it that I believe could replace Pinot Grigio. 

So after running with the bulls, I will be visiting a very large winery, 25 million liters a year, to see if we can work out a strategy to move Pinot Grigio out of the bars in the USA to make way for the new Airen whites.