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by Guest Editor Pablo Echenique

“Mamma, quel vino è generoso!”. Such are the words, highlighted by a worrying tremolo of violins, that begin Turiddu’s pathetic farewell to his mother before he is assassinated in one of the most breathtaking finales in the history of opera. Like in Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana, wine has a constant presence in the art of musical theatre. “Je suis le vin!” cry the spirits that surround Hoffmann, that charming and romantic boozer, in one of his dreams of love in Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffman. Not to speak of the legendary toast (Libbiamo!) in the opening party in Verdi’s La Traviata. A bottle of “vin di Spagna” is opened by the evil Scarpia in his Roman dinner with Floria Tosca. Rioja’s Viña Tondonia, a classic, would have been a perfect companion for such a solemn event.

I am sure that Wagner must have drunk many bottles of Riesling white wine when he wrote the music for such a painful love story as the one in Tristan und Isolde, in my opinion, the finest and most beautiful piece of music ever created. Moreover, “Oremus”, Vega Sicilia’s Tokaj wine, the Hungarian capriccio of the best Spanish cellar, could have brought relief to the old German maestro in his nights of despair and insomnia.

Wine and music are two passions often combined by bon vivants. I’m thinking in particular of a couple or three good friends of mine. The other night, one of them invited me to Madrid’s Teatro Real to see the spectacular production of Giordano’s Andrea Chenier. After the show we had dinner in a fine new Italian restaurant near the theatre. Certainly, the best pizza in town. We ordered a Sicilian Nero d’Avola. Not bad. Still, I kept thinking about those surprising new wines called “Habla” (a weird name for a wine) number 1, 2 and 3. Produced in the region of Extremadura, they are another confirmation of the fact that, actually, there is life beyond Rioja and Ribera del Duero. Cool design of the bottles and a reminiscence of the legendary “Nº 5” to name the jewel of the crown (in the case of Chanel’s legendary Eau de Parfum). Habla 1 is produced with Cavernet Sauvignon grapes; Habla 2 comes from Tempranillo, whereas number 3 (my favourite) is a Syrah wine. Do yourself a favour and try them. This morning I “youtubed” Plácido’s incredible 1981 performance of “Come un bel di di maggio” (from Andrea Chenier). I definitely owe Placido a good bottle of “Habla”.

Last month I found myself consciously delaying my decision to taste a new wine made by relatives. I knew it would be very good, but somehow I was not ready to open it. I was enjoying so much my future encounter with it that I wanted to extend the pleasure of anticipation. Perhaps this is the essence of happiness, being able to project ourselves into better moments and start living them before they arrive. A few days ago, however, I finally felt the call of duty and opened the new wine.

Marques de Valdueza comes from an ancient estate near Mérida, the Roman city in Extremadura, and confirms that these days you can find extraordinary wines anywhere in Spain. Valdueza 2006 is an original and powerful wine made with Caubernet Savignon and Shyraz grapes. This is a wine you need to decant at least an hour before you start drinking it, something really crucial to enjoy it. I have not tried yet the 2007 edition but I know Merlot grapes have been added and I have already heard wonderful things about it: more anticipated pleasure!

The Valdueza project started with the creation of an outstanding olive oil under this this glorious name. Marques de Valdueza olive oil became ultra famous very quickly -it even got the attention of the FT Magazine “How to Spend it”, that raved about it as if the oil was the best Bordeaux of the century.

In spite of its international success, the Valdueza olive oil and now the wine are symbols of permanent values. Behind them there is a story of love and dedication to the Spanish countryside of generations, continued now by Alonso Valdueza and his son Fadrique. Alonso is a legendary hunter, much like his father was. He leads the Spanish movement to save the “cañadas”, the medieval transhumance system of paths, along which livestock was permitted to travel and graze. These “cañadas” cross Spain and have been used for centuries to search for lusher lands. Well, drinking Valdueza is a bit like moving South, we nomads, in anticipation of greener pastures.