Wow! That was the first word to come to mind when we entered the Jardín Botánico last night: José María of Los Chilines had surpassed even his high standards.
This was the third Gran Cata that we have attended since moving to Jumilla. We thought the first one in Jardín de Los Caños was great – lots of good food and lots of good wine - even though we were sitting on stone seats. We encouraged our friends Lesley and John to join us for last year’s Gran Cata, which proved to be even better, with live music from a local group, plus chairs had been provided for us all to sit on.
We all reserved our tickets for this year’s Gran Cata as soon as details appeared, which was lucky as they sold out almost immediately, such is José María’s reputation for organising excellent wine tasting events.
La Gran Cata mark III was held in the beautiful surroundings of the Jardín Botánico however the first thing we noticed on arrival was a red carpet! We walked along the red carpet, stopped to have our photos taken by Fotocool and then headed for the lounge area. I was wearing flat shoes, suspecting that we might have to stand up all evening as it was a far bigger event than before, so it was a pleasant surprise to see that tables and chairs had been set out.
We were soon joined by a group of young people, one of whom introduced herself and said she was keen to practise her English on us. She was called Victoria, and we realised that she was the singer who would be providing the evening’s entertainment later on.
The whole evening was exceptionally well organised, especially considering there were two hundred and fifty people present. Bar Paraiso were in charge of catering again, so we knew that the food would be very tasty. The wine waiters timed things to perfection, so we all had the right wine to taste as the wine makers from the 10 participating bodegas introduced their individual wines.
I think the four British pensioners were the only people present to appreciate the irony of one wine being named Crápula, though we tried to explain it to the chicos and chicas at our table. Our favourite wines were Divus, Gemina Cuvee, Calzas and Juan Gil 18 meses. Wine tasting is all about individual taste though as, in spite of us not rating Crápula, the wine guru Robert Parker gave it 90 points!
While we were tasting the first five wines, plates of delicious food kept arriving. Our Spanish companions were eagerly waiting for the jamón, which the champion Maestro Cortador de Jamón was carving, so I kindly helped them out with the seafood tapas and cheeses.
Victoria disappeared with Paco her guitarist just after we had tasted the fourth wine (she was being abstemious though, only drinking water and coke) and she then appeared on stage to perform her first set. Victoria had already told us that only three of her twenty five songs would be sung in Spanish, so not surprisingly we knew most of the words.
After tasting the final five wines we listened to Victoria’s second set, while more bottles of wine were being brought round, giving us a chance to taste our favourites again. By now several people were up dancing and, once I had twisted John’s arm, we joined them for a couple of lively numbers. After that Lesley and I discovered the Dulce Zone, where tiny desserts and chocolate truffles had been laid out, so we headed eagerly in that direction. Yummy!
We left at one o’clock, having had more than enough food and wine, however we noticed on the way out that Chaplin Bar was serving drinks to those with more stamina than us.
Many congratulations to José María and his team for organising such an amazing event – we are already looking forward to next year’s Gran Cata!
PS What do you think we had to pay for this great evening? Please leave your guesses in the comments box below, and I will post the answer next week.