“Legend has it that Hemingway wrote his short story “The Killers” in just one morning, May 16, 1926, in a pensión in Madrid. Then he had lunch, took a siesta, woke up and wrote “Today is Friday.” And as if those two stories were not enough, he went down to the Forno bar, “that old bullfighters cafe,” drank some brandy and, back in his room, wrote “Ten Indians.” Just like that.
“The owner of the pensión, worried about the health of a young and very thin Hemingway, noticed that the writer had not eaten since noon, so she brought some bacalao, together with a small steak and friend potatoes and a bottle of Valdepeñas.
“A bottle of what?” I wondered, the first time I read this interview from the 1940s, many years ago in the Paris Review.
“Perhaps you entered the world of Spanish wine through a bottle of cheap Rioja or, more recently, thanks to some uncruous Rivera del Duero. I, on the other hand, entered the world of Spanish wines by the phrase: What the hell is Valdepeñas? In the late 1920s, Spaniards annually consumed more than 80 liters of wine per capita. Located south of Madrid. Valdepeñas was one of the main sources of supply. And the grape they used was the tempranillo…”
“But if you decide on a more extreme adventure, head to Montefalco, in Italy’s Umbria, the land of one of the most tannic grapes on earth: sagrantino. While the grape is often blended with other varieties to soften its impact, Arnaldo Caprai makes 25 Anni from 100 percent sagrantino. Its tannins seem to form a wall, impenetrable and thick. Bring on whatever you want: roast beef, grilled lamb or pork sausage. This little Italian monster can take on all of that and more.”
You can read the full article in the Fall 2017 issue of Wine & Spirits.