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Max Abroad : The Best of Spain

Quite simply writing about the best things Spain has to offer and anything that might crop up along the way. Spain is a lot more than just sun, sand and sea...

The Forests of Spain Hide a Secret Treasure
Tuesday, January 25, 2022


In the Spanish provinces of Segovia, Ávila and Valladolid a special treasure is hidden.

There, in the middle of Tierra de Pinares and Sierra de Gredos, a thick forest of 400,000 hectares of resinous pines extends towards the mountains.

Sheltered from the hot Spanish sun and lined with trails, this forest is a popular destination for locals and tourists. And, if you visit at the right time and look closely, you'll see workers standing by the tree trunks carrying out the centuries-old tradition of harvesting the "liquid gold" of the pine. 



In Spain and much of the Mediterranean, pine resin was used to waterproof ships, treat burns, and light torches, among other things. But it was not until the 19th and 20th centuries that pine resin extraction became profitable in that Spanish region. When technology and industrialization helped convert the thick sap into plastics, varnishes, glues, tires, rubber and even food additives in the mid-19th century, the owners of the dense Pinus pinaster forests of Castilla y León saw an opportunity. And although this slow process stopped in much of the world, in the last decade it has experienced a renaissance in Castilla y León, the place with the most resin manufacturers in all of Europe and one of the last on the continent where this practice persists.

The extraction process has remained largely unchanged since this industry began, but today's resin manufacturers have created more efficient and ergonomic tools, as well as chemicals that stimulate resin secretion. As a result, yields and productivity were greatly improved.

What also changed was that in the past the extraction of resin was "to the death" of the trees, using very aggressive methods. But, for some time now there has been a change "to life", with a practice in which the number of incisions in the bark is minimized, reducing damage to the tree.

In the warmer months of March through November, local growers carefully extract the resin from the pine trees by first removing the outer layer of the tree's bark. They nail a holder and place a collection container. The extractors then use their axes to make diagonal incisions in the bark causing the trees to "bleed" and their resin to seep into the bucket. When they are full, they pour the sap into 200kg containers.

Producers send the substance to distilling factories, which extract the turpentine from the resin, which has a slimy, yellowish appearance that solidifies when cooled into shiny, amber-coloured stones. During the peak of pine resin extraction in Spain in 1961, when 55,267 tons were extracted, more than 90% came from the forests of Castilla y León. The lack of demand and the sharp fall in prices led to production falling and almost disappearing in the 1990s. Many thought that this would be the end of this Spanish tradition.



In Castilla y León, resin has not only been an economic livelihood for rural communities, but also a trade that is passed down from generation to generation. Many families have at least one person who has "bled" trees or participated in their distillation. Much of the economic and social activity in these towns has always been marked by the resin industry and the communities maintain this legacy as an important part of their culture.

Today we can see many products made from petroleum, such as plastic, for example, which is not biodegradable, can also be made from resin and break down more easily. Resin is thought to be the oil of the world today and in the future. The idea is that all uses of oil will be replaced by resin. Plastics are already being manufactured from resin. For example, in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industry in addition to its applications in construction or in the manufacture of varnishes and glues. The forest is a great supplier of renewable resources and energy that it allows substituting petroleum products. Resin plays an important role. Pine resin advocates also believe it could offer a solution to Spain's rural exodus. According to a report by the Bank of Spain, 42% of the towns in the country are affected by depopulation because more and more young people are leaving the countryside to seek better job opportunities in the cities. This phenomenon is aggravated in Castilla y León, where 80% of the municipalities in 14 provinces are considered "in danger of extinction”. However, due to the new interest in pine resin, some young people have begun to return. 




The ​​Valle del Tiétar (Ávila) has recently applied to become a UNESCO-protected Biosphere Reserve with the intention of protecting the region. Additionally, to raise interest and attract tourism there are also several museums where visitors can see the traditional cabins where the first workers slept and appreciate old tools, and several companies offer guided tours of the "Ruta de la Resina”. On weekends, these lush forests can be filled with the sound of footsteps as tourists come to escape the hustle and bustle of nearby cities.



Like 2        Published at 9:32 AM   Comments (0)

A Mysterious Mine & A Chapel
Tuesday, January 18, 2022


There are few more mysterious places than an abandoned mine. You are not often presented with the opportunity to visit one, but in La Jayona, in the mountain range that separates Extremadura from Andalusia, you have the only chance to do it. Walking through the passages of this excavation you can see how the hands of man and nature have joined together to create an unequalled landscape, steeped in history and mystery.

Right in the middle of the La Jayona mountain range, about five kilometres from Fuente del Arco, an experience steeped in nature, history and adventure is waiting for you. The La Jayona Mine closed down in 1921. Until then, hundreds of long-suffering miners had laboured to extract iron ore. At first, they worked with the help of horses, later with that of an overhead cable connecting the mine with the railway station.




More than seventy years passed before the mine was rescued from oblivion and declared a Natural Monument in 1997. During the dark years of excavation, nature had taken over the abandoned galleries to create a rich ecosystem that today coexists with the mining remains of the cavity. Fern, climbing plants, moss, insects, bats and even birds live in the rocky recesses of the mine.

Inside, the galleries follow the natural veins of the mineral, which enables one to observe geological phenomena such as fold hinges, karstic processes, striation and slickensides. Each one of these formations, blended with nature's exuberance and the sunlight that peeps through small cracks and cavities will make your tour of the mine an exciting, magical experience.

Before visiting La Jayona - admission is free - you need to telephone the Fuente del Arco Town Council (667 756 600). The council organises the groups and a guide shows you the three galleries that are open to the public, although there used to be 11 in operation. Outside, the remains of the rubble and munitions dump still bring back memories of the area's industrial past. 

The mine is Fuente del Arco's main tourist attraction, a small village that still lives around its Plaza Mayor, where you can see the parish church of Our Lady of the Assumption.

The most important building in the municipality is the chapel of Nuestra Señora del Ara,  located a few kilometres away in the mountains. It is a Mudejar and Baroque-inspired church that is unremarkable from the outside but leaves visitors literally speechless when they enter. The walls and vaults are covered in frescos of great beauty and colours which certainly remind one of its “big sister” in the Vatican.


From Fuente del Arco there are several possible itineraries for getting to know the rest of the towns in the region of Campiña Sur. For example, the remains of the Roman Regina theatre are in Casas de Reina. The town of Reina is notable for the Arab fort that towers over it. You can also take advantage of your stay in the area to follow the routes of the different royal droving rights of way used by shepherds to take their flocks of sheep from Extremadura to Andalusia. The border character of this land is reflected in its gastronomy, which is a mixture of hearty mountain fare and dishes of Arab origin.

So if you happen to be in the area stop by and take a look.



Like 0        Published at 7:25 PM   Comments (0)

A Vinyard 700m above sea-level: Casar de Burbia - Bierzo
Wednesday, January 12, 2022


Casar de Burbia is a family winery located in a historic region with the protected designation of origin "El Bierzo", and they are devoted to producing red wines from their own vineyards.

The Fernandez Bello family started to produce wine in the ’80s by purchasing vineyards in the mountainous zones and highest areas of the valley, in Valtuille de Arriba (Leon).

The most significant assets of the winery are undoubtedly it's 27 hectares of vineyards surrounding the road to Santiago.

When the Fernández Bello family began to buy old vineyards in 1989, those on the mountain of Valtuille de Arriba were suffering gradual and evident neglect due to their limited production compared to the fertile valley. However, the value of these vineyards is currently unquestionable, both due to its steep slopes facing towards the sun, which drains any possible accumulation of excess water, as well as its altitude above 700 m, which provides a significant temperature difference between night and day.

The old vineyards needed to be regenerated since over 30 % of them were planted with white vines, mostly Palomino, a variety with little enological quality. The winery began a hard job which lasted 7 years, during which over 9,000 plants were grafted in the old existing roots. Using the most traditional grafting techniques in the zone, the 'Meseta graft', the white varieties were replaced with the blue-ribbon variety in the area, Mencia. All this effort, now bearing fruit, meant a regeneration of vineyards which was unmatched in El Bierzo region. One of the fruits of all this hard work was TEBAIDA -



TEBAIDA -  Casar de Burbia


D.O. Bierzo Red Aged minimum 16 months in French (Allier and Troncais) oak barrels 100% old-vine Mencía grapes
• Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate (June 2009)- 91+ points

• Wine & Spirits Magazine 2009 - 91 points

• Stephen Tanzer’s International Wine Cellar (91 puntos)

• Peñín Guide 2010 (Tebaida 2007) - 92 points

• Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate (April 2008)- 92 points

• Peñín Guide 2009 (Tebaida 2006) - 91 points



Tebaida is made from a selection of the grapes from the different estates of Viña  San Salvador,  El Castañal, and Viña Sapita, which boast some of the bodega’s richest vineyards owing to their altitude at over 700 metres above sea-level, their orientation and their century-old status.

The terroir, typical of these estates, is more extreme and largely made up of slate with traces of other minerals such as iron and aluminium.

Harvesting is carried out by hand, as is the crushing process. Alcoholic fermentation takes place at a temperature of 24-25ºC in 5.000-litre capacity stainless steel vats, where extraction is maximised to the full. The wine is then subject to malolactic fermentation in French (Allier and Troncais) oak barrels, and aged for a minimum of 16 months.

Like 0        Published at 10:36 PM   Comments (0)

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