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Cities in the Spotlight: Madrid, Spain

Updated: Mar 11

In today's post we will be travelling to Madrid, Spain.


Madrid City Information

Madrid is the capital and most populous city of Spain. The city has almost 3.4 million inhabitants and a metropolitan area population of approximately 6.7 million. It is the second-largest city in the European Union (EU), surpassed only by Berlin in its administrative limits, and its monocentric metropolitan area is the second-largest in the EU, surpassed only by Paris. The municipality covers 604.3 km2 (233.3 sq mi) geographical area.

Madrid lies on the River Manzanares in the central part of the Iberian Peninsula. Capital city of both Spain (almost without interruption since 1561) and the surrounding autonomous community of Madrid (since 1983), it is also the political, economic and cultural centre of the country. The city is situated on an elevated plain about 300 kilometres (190 mi) from the closest seaside location. Seasonal differences are large by Iberian standards with hot summers and cool winters. The mayor is José Luis Martínez-Almeida from the People's Party. Madrid houses the headquarters of the UN's World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the Ibero-American General Secretariat (SEGIB), the Organization of Ibero-American States (OEI), and the Public Interest Oversight Board (PIOB).

It also hosts major international regulators and promoters of the Spanish language: the Standing Committee of the Association of Spanish Language Academies, headquarters of the Royal Spanish Academy (RAE), the Instituto Cervantes and the Foundation of Emerging Spanish (FundéuRAE). Madrid organises fairs such as FITUR, ARCO, SIMO TCI and the Madrid Fashion Week. Madrid is home to two world-famous football clubs, Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid.

While Madrid possesses modern infrastructure, it has preserved the look and feel of many of its historic neighbourhoods and streets. Its landmarks include the Plaza Mayor, the Royal Palace of Madrid; the Royal Theatre with its restored 1850 Opera House; the Buen Retiro Park, founded in 1631; the 19th-century National Library building (founded in 1712) containing some of Spain's historical archives; many national museums, and the Golden Triangle of Art, located along the Paseo del Prado and comprising three art museums: Prado Museum, the Reina Sofía Museum, a museum of modern art, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, which complements the holdings of the other two museums. Cibeles Palace and Fountain has become one of the monument symbols of the city.


Madrid Historical Significance

The site of modern-day Madrid has been occupied since prehistoric times, and there are archaeological remains of the Celtic Carpetani settlement, Roman villas, a Visigoth basilica near the church of Santa María de la Almudena and three Visigoth necropoleis near Casa de Campo, Tetúan and Vicálvaro. Middle Ages

The first historical document about the existence of an established settlement in Madrid dates from the Muslim age. At the second half of the 9th century, Cordobese Emir Muhammad I built a fortress on a headland near the river Manzanares, as one of the many fortresses he ordered to be built on the border between Al-Andalus and the kingdoms of León and Castile, with the objective of protecting Toledo from the Christian invasions and also as a starting point for Muslim offensives. After the disintegration of the Caliphate of Córdoba in the early 11th century, Madrid was integrated in the Taifa of Toledo.

In the context of the wider campaign for the conquest of the taifa of Toledo initiated in 1079, Madrid was seized in 1083 by Alfonso VI of León and Castile, who sought to use the town as an offensive outpost against the city of Toledo, in turn conquered in 1085. Following the conquest, Christians occupied the center of the city, while Muslims and Jews were displaced to the suburbs. Madrid, located near Alcalá (under Muslim control until 1118), remained a borderland for a while, suffering a number of razzias during the Almoravid period and its walls were destroyed in 1110. The city was confirmed as villa de realengo (linked to the Crown) in 1123, during the reign of Alfonso VII. The 1123 Charter of Otorgamiento established the first explicit limits between Madrid and Segovia, namely the Puerto de El Berrueco and the Puerto de Lozoya. Since 1188, Madrid won the right to be a city with representation in the courts of Castile. In 1202, Alfonso VIII gave Madrid its first charter to regulate the municipal council, which was expanded in 1222 by Ferdinand III. The government system of the town was changed to a regimiento of 12 regidores by Alfonso XI on 6 January 1346.

Since the mid-13th century and up to the late 14th century, the concejo of Madrid vied for the control of the Real de Manzanares territory against the concejo of Segovia, a powerful town north of the Sierra de Guadarrama mountain range, characterised by its repopulating prowess and its husbandry-based economy, contrasted by the agricultural and less competent in repopulation town of Madrid. After the decline of Sepúlveda, another concejo north of the mountain range, Segovia had become a major actor south of the Guadarrama mountains, expanding across the Lozoya and Manzanares rivers to the north of Madrid and along the Guadarrama river course to its west. In 1309, the Courts of Castile convened at Madrid for the first time under Ferdinand IV, and later in 1329, 1339, 1391, 1393, 1419 and twice in 1435. Modern Age

During the revolt of the Comuneros, led by Juan de Padilla, Madrid joined the revolt against Charles, Holy Roman Emperor, but after defeat at the Battle of Villalar, Madrid was besieged and occupied by the imperial troops. The city was however granted the titles of Coronada (Crowned) and Imperial. The number of urban inhabitants grew from 4,060 in the year 1530 to 37,500 in the year 1594. The poor population of the court was composed of ex-soldiers, foreigners, rogues and Ruanes, dissatisfied with the lack of food and high prices. In June 1561 Phillip II set his court in Madrid, installing it in the old alcázar. Thanks to this, the city of Madrid became the political centre of the monarchy, being the capital of Spain except for a short period between 1601 and 1606, in which the Court was relocated to Valladolid (and the Madrid population temporarily plummeted accordingly).

Being the capital was decisive for the evolution of the city and influenced its fate and during the rest of the reign of Philip II, the population boomed, going up from about 18,000 in 1561 to 80,000 in 1598. During the early 17th century, although Madrid recovered from the loss of the capital status, with the return of diplomats, lords and affluent people, as well as an entourage of noted writers and artists together with them, extreme poverty was however rampant. The century also was a time of heyday for theatre, represented in the so-called corrales de comedias.

The city changed hands several times during the War of the Spanish succession: from the Bourbon control it passed to the allied "Austracist" army with Portuguese and English presence that entered the city in late June 1706, only to be retaken by the Bourbon army on 4 August 1706. The Habsburg army led by the Archduke Charles entered the city for a second time in September 1710, leaving the city less than three months after. Philip V entered the capital on 3 December 1710.

Seeking to take advantage of the Madrid's location at the geographic centre of Spain, the 18th century saw a sustained effort to create a radial system of communications and transports for the country through public investments. Philip V built the Royal Palace, the Royal Tapestry Factory and the main Royal Academies. The reign of Charles III, who came to be known as "the best mayor of Madrid", saw an effort to turn the city into a true capital, with the construction of sewers, street lighting, cemeteries outside the city and a number of monuments and cultural institutions. The reforms enacted by his Sicilian minister were however opposed in 1766 by the populace in the so-called Esquilache Riots, a revolt demanding to repeal a clothing decree banning the use of traditional hats and long cloaks aiming to curb crime in the city.

In the context of the Peninsular War, the situation in French-occupied Madrid after March 1808 was becoming more and more tense. On 2 May, a crowd began to gather near the Royal Palace protesting against the French attempt to evict the remaining members of the Bourbon royal family to Bayonne, prompting up an uprising against the French Imperial troops that lasted hours and spread throughout the city, including a famous last stand at the Monteleón barracks. Subsequent repression was brutal, with many insurgent Spaniards being summarily executed. The uprising led to a declaration of war calling all the Spaniards to fights against the French invaders. Capital of the Liberal State

The city was invaded on 24 May 1823 by a French army—the so-called Hundred Thousand Sons of Saint Louis—called to intervene to restore the absolutism of Ferdinand that the latter had been deprived from during the 1820–1823 trienio liberal. Unlike other European capitals, during the first half of the 19th century the only noticeable bourgeois elements in Madrid (that experienced a delay in its industrial development up to that point) were merchants. The University of Alcalá de Henares was relocated to Madrid in 1836, becoming the Central University. The economy of the city further modernized during the second half of the 19th century, consolidating its status as a service and financial centre. New industries were mostly focused in book publishing, construction and low-tech sectors. The introduction of railway transport greatly helped Madrid's economic prowess, and led to changes in consumption patterns (such as the substitution of salted fish for fresh fish from the Spanish coasts) as well as further strengthening the city's role as a logistics node in the country's distribution network. Electric lighting in the streets was introduced in the 1890s.

During the first third of the 20th century the population nearly doubled, reaching more than 850,000 inhabitants. New suburbs such as Las Ventas, Tetuán and El Carmen became the homes of the influx of workers, while Ensanche became a middle-class neighbourhood of Madrid. Second Republic and Civil War

The Spanish Constitution of 1931 was the first to legislate the location of the country's capital, setting it explicitly in Madrid. During the 1930s, Madrid enjoyed "great vitality"; it was demographically young, becoming urbanized and the centre of new political movements. During this time, major construction projects were undertaken, including the northern extension of the Paseo de la Castellana, one of Madrid's major thoroughfares. The tertiary sector, including banking, insurance and telephone services, grew greatly. Illiteracy rates were down to below 20%, and the city's cultural life grew notably during the so-called Silver Age of Spanish Culture; the sales of newspapers also increased. Conversely, the proclamation of the Republic created a severe housing shortage. Slums and squalor grew due to high population growth and the influx of the poor to the city. Construction of affordable housing failed to keep pace and increased political instability discouraged economic investment in housing in the years immediately prior to the Civil War. Anti-clericalism and Catholicism lived side by side in Madrid; the burning of convents initiated after riots in the city in May 1931 worsened the political environment. However, the 1934 insurrection largely failed in the city.

Madrid was one of the most heavily affected cities in the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939). It was a stronghold of the Republican faction from July 1936 and became an international symbol of anti-fascist struggle during the conflict. The city suffered aerial bombing, and in November 1936, its western suburbs were the scene of an all-out battle. The city fell to the Francoists in March 1939. Francoist dictatorship

A staple of post-war Madrid (Madrid de la posguerra) was the widespread use of ration coupons. Meat and fish consumption was scarce, resulting in high mortality due to malnutrition. Due to its history as a left-wing stronghold, the right-wing victors toyed with the possibility of moving the capital elsewhere (most notably to Seville), such plans were never implemented. The Franco regime instead emphasized the city's history as the capital of past imperial Spain.

The intense demographic growth experienced by the city via mass immigration from the rural areas of the country led to the construction of plenty of housing in the peripheral areas of the city to absorb the new population (reinforcing the processes of social polarization of the city), initially comprising substandard housing (with as many as 50,000 shacks scattered around the city by 1956). A transitional planning intended to temporarily replace the shanty towns were the poblados de absorción, introduced since the mid-1950s in locations such as Canillas, San Fermín, Caño Roto, Villaverde, Pan Bendito, Zofío and Fuencarral, aiming to work as a sort of "high-end" shacks (with the destinataries participating in the construction of their own housing) but under the aegis of a wider coordinated urban planning.

Madrid grew through the annexation of neighboring municipalities, achieving the present extent of 607 km2 (234.36 sq mi). The south of Madrid became heavily industrialized, and there was significant immigration from rural areas of Spain. Madrid's newly built north-western districts became the home of a newly enriched middle class that appeared as result of the 1960s Spanish economic boom, while the south-eastern periphery became a large working-class area, which formed the base for active cultural and political movements. Recent history

After the fall of the Francoist regime, the new 1978 constitution confirmed Madrid as the capital of Spain. The 1979 municipal election brought Madrid's first democratically elected mayor since the Second Republic to power. Madrid was the scene of some of the most important events of the time, such as the mass demonstrations of support for democracy after the failed coup, 23-F, on 23 February 1981. The first democratic mayors belonged to the centre-left PSOE (Enrique Tierno Galván, Juan Barranco Gallardo). Since the late 1970s and through the 1980s Madrid became the center of the cultural movement known as la Movida. Conversely, just like in the rest of the country, a heroin crisis took a toll in the poor neighborhoods of Madrid in the 1980s.

Benefiting from increasing prosperity in the 1980s and 1990s, the capital city of Spain consolidated its position as an important economic, cultural, industrial, educational, and technological centre on the European continent. During the mandate as Mayor of José María Álvarez del Manzano construction of traffic tunnels below the city proliferated. The following administrations, also conservative, led by Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón and Ana Botella launched three unsuccessful bids for the 2012, 2016 and 2020 Summer Olympics. By 2005, Madrid was the leading European destination for migrants from developing countries, as well as the largest employer of non-European workforce in Spain. Madrid was a centre of the anti-austerity protests that erupted in Spain in 2011. As consequence of the spillover of the 2008 financial and mortgage crisis, Madrid has been affected by the increasing number of second-hand homes held by banks and house evictions. The mandate of left-wing Mayor Manuela Carmena (2015–2019) delivered the renaturalization of the course of the Manzanares across the city.

Since the late 2010s, the challenges the city faces include the increasingly unaffordable rental prices (often in parallel with the gentrification and the spike of tourist apartments in the city centre) and the profusion of betting shops in working-class areas, leading to an "epidemic" of gambling among young people.


Travel to Madrid

*taken from Lonely Planet*

Madrid is a beguiling place with an energy that carries one simple message: this city really knows how to live.

Few cities boast an artistic pedigree quite as pure as Madrid’s: many art lovers return here again and again. For centuries, Spanish royals showered praise and riches upon the finest artists of the day, from home-grown talents such as Goya and Velázquez to Flemish and Italian greats. Masterpieces by these and other Spanish painters such as Picasso, Dalí and Miró now adorn the walls of the city’s world-class galleries. Three in particular are giants – the Museo del Prado, Centro de Arte Reina Sofía and Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza – but in Madrid these are merely good places to start.

Rising above the humble claims of its local cuisine, Madrid has evolved into one of the richest culinary capitals of Europe. The city has wholeheartedly embraced all the creativity and innovation of Spain’s gastronomic revolution. But this acceptance of the new is wedded to a passion for the enduring traditions of Spanish cooking, for the conviviality of the eating experience and for showcasing the infinite variety of food from every Spanish region. From tapas in sleek temples to all that’s new to sit-down meals beneath centuries-old vaulted ceilings, eating in Madrid is a genuine pleasure.

Madrid nights are the stuff of legend, and the perfect complement to the more sedate charms of fine arts and fine dining. The city may have more bars than any other city on earth – a collection of storied cocktail bars and nightclubs that combine a hint of glamour with non-stop marcha (action). But that only goes some way to explaining the appeal of after-dark Madrid. Step out into the night-time streets of many barrios and you’ll find yourself swept along on a tide of people, accompanied by a happy crowd intent on dancing until dawn.

Madrid may lack the cachet of Paris, the monumental history of Rome, or Barcelona’s reputation for Modernista masterpieces. And no, there is no equivalent of the Eiffel Tower, Colosseum or La Sagrada Família that you can point to and say ‘this is Madrid’. But Madrid has nothing to be envious of. Spain's broad sweep of architectural history provides a glorious backdrop to city life, from medieval mansions and royal palaces to the unimagined angles of Spanish contemporary architecture, from the sober brickwork and slate spires of Madrid baroque to the extravagant confections of the belle époque. Put simply, this is one beautiful city.


Must See Sites

Plaza Mayor; Madrid's grand central square, a rare but expansive opening in the tightly packed streets of central Madrid, is one of the prettiest open spaces in Spain, a winning combination of imposing architecture, picaresque historical tales and vibrant street life. At once beautiful in its own right and a reference point for so many Madrid days, it also hosts the city's main tourist office, a Christmas market in December and arches leading to laneways out into the labyrinth. Ah, the history the plaza has seen! Designed in 1619 by Juan Gómez de Mora and built in typical Herrerian style, of which the slate spires are the most obvious expression, its first public ceremony was suitably auspicious – the beatification of San Isidro Labrador (St Isidore the Farm Labourer), Madrid’s patron saint. Thereafter it was as if all that was controversial about Spain took place in this square. Bullfights, often in celebration of royal weddings or births, with royalty watching on from the balconies and up to 50,000 people crammed into the plaza, were a recurring theme until 1878. Far more notorious were the autos-da-fé (the ritual condemnations of heretics during the Spanish Inquisition), followed by executions – burnings at the stake and deaths by garrotte on the northern side of the square, hangings to the south. These continued until 1790 when a fire largely destroyed the square, which was subsequently reproduced under the supervision of Juan de Villanueva, who lent his name to the building that now houses the Museo del Prado. These days, the plaza is an epicentre of Madrid life. The grandeur of the plaza is due in large part to the warm colours of the uniformly ochre apartments, with 237 wrought-iron balconies offset by the exquisite frescoes of the 17th-century Real Casa de la Panadería. The present frescoes date to just 1992 and are the work of artist Carlos Franco, who chose images from the signs of the zodiac and gods (eg Cybele) to provide a stunning backdrop for the square. The frescoes were inaugurated to coincide with Madrid’s 1992 spell as the European Capital of Culture.

Templo de Debod; Few people would ever guess that a 2200-year-old Egyptian temple exists in the center of Madrid. Yet the Templo de Debod is in no way a Vegas-style replica of an Egyptian monument — its origins trace as far back as the 2nd century BCE to the ancient city of Meroë on the east bank of the Nile. Dedicated to the Egyptian goddess Isis and the god Amun of Thebes, this temple is believed to have been the sacred site where Isis gave birth to the sky god Horus, according to some authors of myth and legend. The Temple of Debod was a gift offered by the Egyptian government to Spain as a token of gratitude for its assistance in restoring the Abu Simbel temples in Upper Egypt. It was transported from its home next to the Nile and rebuilt stone by stone in Madrid’s Cuartel de la Montaña Park, northwest of Plaza España and right by Parque del Oeste and Casa de Campo. As one of the few standing ancient Egyptian monuments that can be seen outside of Egypt, it's a must-see attraction in Madrid.

Palacio Real; Spain's jewel-box Palacio Real is used only occasionally for royal ceremonies; the royal family moved to the modest Palacio de la Zarzuela years ago. When the alcázar (Muslim fortress) burned down in 1734, Felipe V, the first of the Bourbon kings, decided to build a palace that would dwarf all its European counterparts. Felipe died before the palace was finished, which is perhaps why the Italianate baroque colossus has a mere 2800 rooms, just one-quarter of the original plan. The official tour (self-guided tours are also possible and follow the same route) leads through 50 of the palace rooms, which hold a good selection of Goyas, 215 absurdly ornate clocks, and five Stradivarius violins still used for concerts and balls. The main stairway is a grand statement of imperial power, leading to the Halberdiers' rooms and to the sumptuous Salón del Trono (Throne Room), with its crimson-velvet wall coverings and Tiepolo ceiling. Shortly after, you reach the Salón de Gasparini, with its exquisite stucco ceiling and walls resplendent with embroidered silks.

Palacio De Cristal; Hidden among the trees south of Parque del Buen Retiro's lake is the Palacio de Cristal. Built in 1887, it's a magnificent metal-and-glass structure and El Retiro’s most beautiful architectural monument. Art and photo exhibitions are sometimes held here.

Basilica de San Francisco El Grande; Crowning Madrid’s oldest neighborhood of La Latina is an architectural and visual masterpiece that is the Basílica de San Francisco el Grande (Basilica of Saint Francis the Great) — as much a place of Catholic worship as it is a temple paying homage to Spanish art. Its several marble and gold inlaid chapels and sacristy are home to an impressive collection of paintings by Spanish masters, the most famous of which is Francisco Goya’s St. Bernardino of Siena preaching to Alfonso V of Aragon. With a diameter of 33 meters and height of 58 meters, the Basilica’s great dome is the largest in Spain and the fourth largest in Europe, after those of Saint Peter’s Basilica and the Pantheon in Rome, and the Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence.


Must Try Food & Drink

Gambas al Ajillo; Gambas al ajillo is a popular Spanish appetizer consisting of shrimps that are sautéed in a pan with minced garlic, lemon juice, paprika, and olive oil. The dish is usually consumed as a tapa. It is recommended to garnish gambas al ajillo with chopped parsley and pair it with some crusty bread on the side, which is useful for mopping up the flavorful sauce.

Setas al Ajillo; This garlicky Spanish invention is commonly served as a sizzling tapa in a clay-dish. It consists of mushrooms that are sautéed in olive oil with garlic. This tapa is typically enriched with the addition of white wine, and it is garnished with chopped parsley before serving. It is recommended to use pieces of bread for soaking up all of the flavorful juices once the mushrooms have been consumed.

Soldaditos de Pavía; Soldaditos de Pavía is a traditional Spanish dish that's a staple of Madrid's tapa bars, but it's also often found in Andalusia. The dish consists of strips of battered and deep-fried cod that are served with a strip of roasted red pepper wrapped around them. Before the frying, the cod is typically marinated in a combination of pimentón and lemon juice. The name of the dish means soldiers of Pavía, referring to the fact that the dish resembles the orange-red uniforms worn by the Hussars of Pavía regiment.

Rosquillas de Santa Clara; Rosquillas de Santa Clara are Spanish doughnuts traditionally prepared for the feast of San Isidor. They consist of a round-shaped, anise-flavored dough that is generously covered in a powdered sugar glaze. The dough is wrapped into a circle, leaving a hole in the middle. Rosquillas de Santa Clara are baked in the oven, and when chilled, they are coated in a thick glaze made with sugar and whipped egg whites. These doughnuts are traditionally associated with Madrid, and they are a staple on the feast of San Isidor, the city's patron saint.

Bocadillo de calamares; Bocadillo de calamares is one of the best-known bocadillo sandwiches in Spain, and a most beloved bar snack staple in the country’s capital, Madrid. It typically consists of a crusty Spanish-style baguette called barra de pan, which has been sliced in half lengthwise and stuffed with fresh and crunchy fried calamari rings. The calamari are usually dipped in flour and fried in olive oil, while the sandwich’s filling may be enhanced with a touch of olive oil or alioli (garlic mayonnaise) or a drizzle of fresh lemon juice. This simple sandwich makes for a filling breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a mid-afternoon snack, and it is traditionally washed down with a small glass of ice-cold draft beer known as a caña in Spanish. In Madrid, where calamari sandwiches can be found at any corner, people usually enjoy this sandwich on the spot, standing in the bar where they bought it, or for a more pleasurable experience, they often eat it al fresco while sitting on one of the benches on the Plaza Mayor.

Paella; Widely acclaimed as the most popular Spanish dish, paella combines saffron-flavored rice with a wide array of additional ingredients, such as seafood, vegetables, or meat. Although the original paella was created in Valencia, where it was made with seasonal vegetables, poultry, and rabbit, in modern-day Spain, the name is used to denote all rice dishes prepared in a paellera or paella - the traditional shallow pan that is used both for cooking and serving. The exact additional ingredients used in paella have long been a matter of dispute, but what everyone agrees on is that each paella should have a subtle saffron flavor. Another crucial element is socorrat, the crispy layer that makes the base of every paella. Because paella is prepared in a wide, shallow pan, the rice is evenly cooked in a thin layer, allowing the grains to caramelize and become crispy. The importance of socorrat is best seen in the fact that it is one of the elements by which paellas are judged at the Valencian paella competition. Always served in the pan, this Spanish classic can be found everywhere in the country, in an endless number of combinations. It should be noted that modern-day restaurant interpretations are often mass-produced and can significantly diverge from the authentic versions that demand time and skill. Traditionally, paellas are cooked over an open fire, and the most common option is to use orange wood.

Arroz con leche; Arroz con leche is a flavorful dessert with a long history, dating back to the period when Spain was under the Moorish influence. Today, this rice pudding is popular in Spain (especially in the North) and throughout Latin America, always consisting of a few key ingredients: cooked rice, milk, sugar, cinnamon sticks for flavoring, and either lemon or orange peel. Some are baked in the oven, while the others are made on the stovetop. The dessert can be served warm or cold, and it is recommended to garnish it with some ground cinnamon on top.

Sangria; Sangria is a fruity Spanish cocktail made with red wine and chopped fruits such as pears, peaches, berries, apples, nectarines, or pineapple. The beverage is often combined with sugar, orange juice, sparkling water, and even brandy. It is believed that the predecessor of Sangria is hippocras, a beverage made with wine, sugar, and spices. Hippocras was prepared by early Greeks and Romans, who used alcohol to make the beverage drinkable, as water was typically filled with bacteria and was unsafe to drink. The name Sangria means bleeding in Spanish, referring to the red wine used in the preparation process. Even though no Sangria is made in the same way, it has been traditionally prepared with Spanish Tempranillo and similar wines from Rioja. In the 1700s and 1800s, Sangria varieties were prepared in France and England, while the American varieties have been prepared since the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City. Nowadays, European law states that the authentic Sangria must be made in Spain or Portugal, and it must contain less than 12% alcohol by volume. Although Sangria is regularly served at bars and restaurants, where it is served in tall glasses and garnished with an orange slice, especially during summer, it is said that the best versions are made at home.

Tinto de Verano; Similar to Sangria, Tinto de Verano is a cold wine-based cocktail that originates from Spain. It can be translated as Red Wine of Summer, so it is not a surprise that it is mainly consumed during summer as a refreshing drink that can be made at home or bought in supermarkets, where it is often readily available. Tinto de Verano is made with equal parts red wine and gaseosa, which is a general term for mild-flavored sodas and carbonated drinks. The beverage is traditionally mixed with a lightly sweetened lemonade called La Casera, but it can be replaced with Sprite or 7-Up combined with sparkling water. While the classic recipe consists of only those two ingredients, rum can also be added to the cocktail for a unique aftertaste. In some varieties, red wine is replaced by rosé, while lemon-based soda can be substituted with orange-based soda. Tinto de Verano is typically served on the rocks in a tall glass with a lemon slice garnish.

Rioja; Rioja was the first Spanish appellation that received protected status. This renowned Spanish region is located in the north of the country, on both sides of the river Ebro. It is best known for its red varietals and blends, and while Tempranillo is the dominant grape, blending varieties include Garnacha, Graciano, Mazuelo, and Maturana varieties. Some amount of rosés and whites are also produced. The region is vast, and it is divided into three subregions: Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa, and Rioja Oriental. Aging guidelines categorize it under the generic label with no aging requirements (also known as Joven), Crianza (aged for two years), Reserva (at least three years of age), and Gran Reserva (five years of age and a minimum of two years in a barrel). The entire area is impacted by two different climates—Atlantic and Mediterranean—but specific microclimates and different types of soil, together with different winemaking techniques and maturation, generate various styles and greatly influence the final character of Rioja wines. They can range from light, fruity, and approachable styles to more complex expressions that often showcase rich notes of dark fruit and spices. Most styles will have firm tannins that are balanced with bright acidity. Pairing suggestions mostly depend on the style and the age, but most examples work well with pork, lamb, and spicy dishes. Aged varieties may also be a good match with game. The new classification system that allows the use of village and municipality on the label tends to encourage producers not to rely exclusively on oak-aging as the sign of quality.


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