So, it turns out that wine tasting in El Médano is a totally different concept from wine tasting in Los Cristianos!
Apt because I’ve been singing the praises of my “home” town of late, that last night’s Fiesta del Vino here turned out to be as “alternative” as the resort itself!
When I saw the banner at the entrance to the town proclaiming the event, I jumped to the conclusion that an exhibition by a consortium of local wineries was travelling the island, and that this fiesta would be the same as the one in Los Cristianos a few weeks ago. Not so.
Firstly, it was only the Abona and Güimar denominaciónes, the “local” ones, from this windswept and desert-like landscape. Hah, hah my new-found knowledge told me that meant great,white wines. Secondly, the catering was done by local restaurants, which meant no slinging a side of beef on the barbie, but tasty tapas of various sorts. To be honest, most were predictible (shame coming from a restaurant of the quality of El Jable in San Isidro, for one, that they weren’t more inventive – as I found out last week local ingredients can be used in new, delicious ways!), but nice. Thirdly – it was crowded, it was very crowded – it really was elbow room only (and we arrived around 7.30, very early by local standards), and fourthly, there was music – a group of youngsters belting out salsa-ish pop. Now someone is going to tell me they are a famous, local band, but I didn’t get their name, so I can’t say, sorry. Very pleasant and party-mood-enhancing though, if a tad limiting on conversation.
Set up on the oceanside edge of the main plaza the event was attracting the usual-for-El Médano, mixed crowd; people straight from the beach, still in pareos and flip flops; the local youth out for the night; people on their way home from work; surfer dudes; the weekend crowd down from the north of the island; some unnervingly cute dogs for some reason, and the odd foreign tourist. Talk about eclectic! Colleen remarked that it had the air of one of those cocktail parties where you don’t know anyone. Mind you, after a while you wouldn’t have been able to find anyone anyway!
The set up was the same, buy the glass and 5 tickets for €5, only you could exchange a ticket for a tapa as well as for wine. The rations, I must say, were more generous than they had been in Los Cristianos too, and we valiently shoved our way through the throng in attempts to track down a wine from the list we picked up at the entrance, but had to give up in some cases. It just wasn’t worth the bruised shins and pokes in the ribs. Los Cristianos had had the air of a wine “tasting” (not that there was any sniffing, swilling and spitting mind!), people seemed to be sampling, discussing and buying the wines. Here in El Médano, it was much more like a fiesta , and if there was anywhere to buy I didn’t spot it.
I sampled one red out of curiosity, and it was very bland. We asked a guy on one of the stalls about why white were more successful in the south and reds in the north, and, as you would imagine, it’s the weather and soil conditions which favor the types of grapes which thrive in the respective conditons. I didn’t sample the Testamento this time (which at €11 was €1 cheaper than before) mainly because it was just too darn crowded at their stand. My favorite of the evening was a sweetish, floral, fruity Vega Las Cañas. One of those wines I could have drunk all night, with or without food, and wouldn’t you know it, looks like it was the one stand where I didn’t pick up a brochure. Prize for the best brochure (partly because it is written not only in Spanish, but also English, French and German) was Bodega Viñaflor, where, by appointment, you can go to taste, so guess where I will be heading the next time I have visitors! The couple at the Viñaflor stand were also the most welcoming, charming and helpful. Just a pity it was so busy or we might have found out more about their wines!
In the end we took our final glass outside, and sat on the steps leading down to the beach, where we could breath the warm night air and watch the passing parade, and not for the first time this Summer, I wondered what I would have been doing at that moment had I stayed in England all those years ago. Since I lived in Los Abrigos (which is part of the same municipality as El Médano, Granadilla de Abona) 4 years ago, every Summer I’ve seen events labelled as “Noches de Sansofé”, but have never been able to discover just what that meant. I’ve trawled the internet, and I’ve asked just about everyone I thought might know, and come up with a blank every time. The other day I called into the tourist information office (dark glasses and headscraf of course, so no-one would spot me entering!) and the lovely lady who works there told me that it’s a Guanche word. She didn’t know the meaning, but told me to google “palabras Guanche” to find it. So I did.
Guanches, by the way, were the aboriginal inhabitants of the island before its conquest by Spain in 1494, and it seems agreed now that they were of Berber origin, reaching the island from the shores of North Africa at some point not documented. Sansofé appears to mean “you are welcome”. Welcome nights didn’t sound right, though I understood the context, and consulting the trusty online thesaurus I came up with “Mellow Nights” or “Harmonious Nights”. I like Mellow Nights best, so that’s how I shall translate it for people next time someone asks. It’s apt. The wine, the music, the hum of conversation, and the mild breeze were very mellow-making.
It’s the same with all these Summer events, outdoor cinema, folklore concerts, fiestas de vino, pop or salsa concerts, it’s the real Spirit of Summer, and it leaves me in the same mug-wumping state as Carnaval. One half of me deplores the early closing of the post office, the way Fridays dissolve into part of the weekend, the way lawyers and civil servants take the entire month of August off. Surely, this is no way for a community who wants to be successful and attract more tourists/business to the island to behave? The other half of me applauds that there is a community that places importance on leisure and relaxing, that doesn’t allow itself to stress out the way we do in countries like the UK or the US.
The town is really buzzing. Los Cristianos this summer has an air of waiting about it, waiting for the summer season to begin, waiting for the people who likely aren’t coming? It seems quiet and drab. On the other hand, people appear to be flocking to El Médano. I can’t remember ever seeing it so busy.
After escaping the crush we didn’t have the heart to push back for more tapas, and we headed down the road for some delicious sushi to finish off the night – not very Canarian, no, but quite in keeping with the genuinely diverse vibe in El Médano.