Notes from Spain – Sunday July 18th

20 07 2010

Sunday, July 18, was our day off from the field school activities, and Lori and I visited a Medieval town we had glimpsed on our trip to Vitorio earlier in the week. Laguardia is a village in the southern foothills of the Sierra Cantabria Mountains of La Rioja, Spain. Sitting atop a high rock outcrop that dominates the surrounding landscape, Laguardia is an exceptional example of a walled village that has changed little since the 13th Century. The town is also a major center of the Rioja wine industry and almost every house within the confines of the defensive walls,contains a wine bodega (cellar).

 The old walls and buildings are almost completely intact, including the four entrance gates, so when you enter the historic 13th Century village you are literally transported back in time. Laguardia was originally established in the 10th century when a castle was built on the site. During the Middle Ages, village residents dug cellars into the rock below their homes to create cool areas for food storage and to act as places of refuge during periods of siege. Interestingly, so much of the village has been undermined by these tunnels that automobiles are not allowed within the walls of the village.

 The earliest written evidence of the existence of grapes in La Rioja dates to AD 873, and The King of Navarra and Aragon granted the first legal recognition of Rioja wine in 1102. In 1560, harvesters in the area established a symbol to represent the quality of the wines. As wine production became prominent in the region, the underground passages of Laguardia were found to be ideal for the fermenting of wine. Many of these cellars continue to be used to age the wines of La Rioja and can be visited today. With wine being such an important part of the social and economic lives of the residents, we tried our best to support their crafts and traditions.

Travis

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