MADRID ENOTURISMO CULTURAL ROUTES
Even though many towns enjoyed royal favour, the route from Navalcarnero to Aranjuez is the one that best traces the transition from the Austrias to the Bourbons.
The fact that the House of Habsburg, also known as the House of Austria, ruled over half the world is documented in the annals of European history. At the beginning of our era the Romans disseminated their culture throughout the Mediterranean, but with the dynasty of the House of Austria Spain, armed with a sword and a cross and accompanied by an army of expert navigators, spread her language and customs beyond the seas.
The Roman Empire introduced its culture wherever its legions could penetrate, and the Habsburgs, in their imperialist ambition, applied the same methods on each and every one of their territorial incursions. Those were days of light and shadow and now, reconsidered from different intellectual standpoints, they still arouse heated discussions.
Beyond the seas, gold was loaded on caravels to finance the new military operations that would enable the empire to expand and preserve its power. Meanwhile, in Spain farmers began to introduce exotic produce brought over from America: potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, corn, bananas, cocoa and tobacco started an agrarian and gastronomic revolution difficult to imagine today. However, the lands of the New World had no drink like wine to offer Spain. The court of the House of Austria, that had been moved from Toledo to Madrid by Philip II, would continue to fill its pantries with European wines: those produced on the Rhine were their favourite, although the rest of the court drank wines from Pinto, Valdemoro, Somonte and Torrejón de Velasco.
Navalcarnero was the town chosen by Philip IV, the Planet King, to celebrate his marriage to his niece Archduchess Mariana of Austria in 1647, barely three years after the death of his first wife, Isabella of Bourbon, daughter of Henry IV of France. After more than two decades waging war with half of Europe, in 1659 he named Luis Méndez de Haro, nephew of the Count-Duke of Olivares, favourite, and entrusted him with the arduous task of ending interior conflicts and making peace with Europe.
After several decades of slumber once the prestigious Jesuit seminary that had drawn novices from other regions to Navalcarnero had been moved to Madrid in 1600, the town was glad to welcome the monarch’s wedding ceremony. Having separated from the city of Segovia and obtained its own jurisdiction in 1627, on this important occasion and as acknowledgement of the help provided for the event, the king promoted it to the rank of Royal Town.
Barely one year later, Velázquez, who had just returned from Seville to the court of Philip IV, painted his famous canvas The Triumph of Bacchus, also known as The Drinkers, one of the masterpieces of Spanish painting and an allegory of the culture of wine seen from both a mythological and a profane angle that can today be contemplated in the Prado.
Those paying their first visit to the town will be pleasantly surprised, for Navalcarnero has much to offer: a beautiful town square, a wine museum, an interpretation centre in which to explore the city’s past, two wine cellars open to the public, restaurants in which to taste its famous stews and roasts, and accommodation to provide well-deserved rest.
Although Navalcarnero did not acquire the status of town until 1499, its surrounding lands were deemed favourable for the cultivation of vineyards by the city of Segovia, which asked five residents of Perales who farmed the land to establish themselves in Navalcarnero and thus found a new settlement. The consumption of wine in the court of the House of Austria had been growing year by year since the reign of Philip III, while the economy of the kingdom, decimated by the European wars, tolerated looting and corruption among the guards of the clay vessels in which the palace wines were stored, who stole the contents to secretly sell them outside the palace in an effort to help preserve their status due to their scant income. In 1654 Philip IV ‘ordered his servants to close their taverns’, which in case of disobedience would be subject to ordinary justice.
The House of Austria did not manage to eliminate corruption among its administrators, and in this setting of economic scarcity the wines made in more southern provinces, which were slightly cheaper, caught on. We shall cross secondary roads in order to evoke days gone by in which the monarchs journeyed in horse-drawn carriages, and the common people either walked or travelled in carts drawn by mules. Long journeys required a significant number of stops, many of them held at the ventas or inns that flanked the roads.
The origin of El Álamo is the so-called Venta of Toribio Fernández Montero, Lordship of Chacón since Isabella the Catholic gave these seignorial lands to her major-domo two days after her coronation. The town, which now boasts almost ten thousand inhabitants, was rechristened El Álamo by Gonzalo Chacón himself.
Wineries: There is one wine cellar under the Wines of Madrid D.O., although it is not yet included in the Madrid Wine Routes.
The road that links the Royal Town of Navalcarnero and the Royal Site of Aranjuez crosses two sub-areas of wine production, Navalcarnero and Arganda, but it also covers lands to the south that remain between the two and which had been important wine-growing centres, such as Pinto or Valdemoro.
In the age of the Habsburgs the saying ‘to be muffled in Pinto’ was in common usage, meaning in colloquial terms to be drunk, while the phrase ‘to be between Pinto and Valdemoro’ seems to derive from a tippler who leaped from one side of the stream separating the two towns to the other shouting ‘now I’m in Pinto, now I’m in Valdemoro’, until a fall into the water led him to exclaim ‘now I’m between Pinto and Valdemoro’.
In those days, the wines of Valdemoro were of extremely high quality, so much so that many of the traders who bought Toledo wines wholesale would take them to Valdemoro to be sold retail as local wines. The white varieties o Airén and Malvar are quite likely those depicted by Velázquez in his portrait.
The end of the route known as The River Tajo and the Wines of the Order of St James lies in the vicinity of Aranjuez, the former settlement of Aranz extended by the masters of the Order of St James where the Catholic Kings found an ideal place for recreation and amusement in the palace situated on the banks of the River Tajo.
The title of Royal Site was granted to Aranjuez by Philip II, as a result of which further settlements were forbidden until the reign of Philip VI in the mid-eighteenth century, when the town began to grow. Over time, it would be filled with wooded avenues, fountains and gardens such as the Prince’s Garden, inside which Charles IV ordered the building of the Farmer’s House, the Sailors’ House, Godoy’s palaces and the palace of the Dukes of Medinaceli.
In 1561 Philip II, the most outstanding promoter of architectural works of the Spanish Baroque, commissioned Juan Bautista de Toledo and Juan de Herrera, the architects of El Escorial Monastery, to build a palace in Aranjuez. After suffering two fires, in 1600 and 1667 respectively, the works remained pending until well into the eighteenth century. So, the first design dated back to the mid-sixteenth century, the present layout was conceived in the early eighteenth century, the façade around the middle of the eighteenth century, the two side wings and the public chapel date back to the age of Charles III, who was popularly acclaimed ‘the best mayor of Madrid’.
It was precisely during the latter’s reign as King of Spain, Naples and Sicily that minister José de Gálvez set up the Economic Societies of Friends of the Country, thereby boosting the agrarian reform that would lead to a fairer distribution of the land. Another initiative of his reign involved the industrialisation of the production of luxury articles such as the Buen Retiro Porcelain Factory, La Granja Glass and Crystal Factory and the Martínez Silversmith’s, by El Retiro Park. Madrid’s Cibeles and Neptune fountains, the Royal Botanical Garden, St Charles Hospital (which today houses the Reina Sofía Museum) and the Prado also stand as a part of the royal legacy.
The route features the impressive wine cellars of the Royal Country House of San Isidro in Aranjuez, unique in the country. The other winery open to the public is found in the El Regajal – Mar de Ontígola reserve, a protected natural space that has a number endangered local species of butterfly and other features of extraordinary botanical value. All this goes to prove that Aranjuez is one of the foremost towns on the list of World Heritage Cultural Landscapes drawn up by UNESCO, since it first appeared listed in 2001.
7.6 km | 13 min
Through Griñón: Calle de la Amistad & M-224
48.4 km | 48 min
Towns: Navalcarnero, El Álamo, Aranjuez.
Wineries: V de Valmores, Bodega y Viñedos Gosálbez Orti (Qubél), Bodegas Orusco
Distance Madrid: 35.1 km | 29 min.
Length: 55.7 km