MADRID ENOTURISMO CULTURAL ROUTES
The first chapter in the history of Madrid's wine-growing industry was written under the influence of the Roman Empire, and the region's wines became a sign of wealth and distinction.
Before the arrival of the Roman Empire, the Iberian Peninsula lacked political unity and was a melting pot of tribes characterised by scarce development of farming and stockbreeding activities. Taken over as a consequence of the superior organisation and militarisation of the Romans, these rudimentary peoples would also be subjected to the cultural influence of the empire.
The first incursions made by Roman troops in what is today the region of Madrid (then known as Carpetania) date back to the early second century BC. The alliance policies with indigenous tribes developed by Sempronio Graco traced the frontier between the River Tajo and the Central Mountain Range, preserving peace in the area for years to come. With the outbreak of the Lusitanian War in 147 BC, military operations moved back to the centre of the peninsula, although the Carpetani still remained outside of Roman control. By the end of the war, following the death of Viriato (leader of the Lusitanians) in 137 BC, the frontiers would advance past the Central Mountain Range and Carpetania would be incorporated once and for all into the territory of what was then the Roman Republic.
The only settlement that would subsequently hold the title of Town would be Complutum (today Alcalá de Henares), which would be surrounded by other smaller settlements and, above all, by agriculture and livestock exploitations of varying size, known as villas. What was known as the 'Mediterranean triad', i.e. grain, olives and vines, probably took root in the lands around these small towns, giving rise to the production of bread (panis), liquid gold (oleum) and nectar of the gods (vinum).
Alcalá de Henares
Many visitors will be surprised to discover the impressive remains of the Roman city of Complutum at a distance of thirty minutes from Madrid. A visit to the actual site reveals one of the neighbourhoods of a town that spread over fifty hectares, known as Regio II. The Carpetian town of the same name was founded on the San Juan del Viso hillside, although the scarce advantages offered by its position meant that the population would end up moving to the new Roman settlement in the fertile valley of the River Henares.
The forum was the most important part of all Roman cities. Rectangular in shape, the chief public buildings were located around it. On 6 August 306 the children Justo and Pastor from Tielmes were executed against the huge wall that still stands in the centre of the premises when they refused to give up their Christian faith.
The fact that the Romans definitely introduced the cultivation of vines for making wine (a symbol of wealth, distinction and civilisation) in the Iberian Peninsula is proven by the mosaic from the former House of Bacchus, now kept in the Regional Archaeological Museum in the town centre. The museum also houses the Pátera de Titulcia (Titulcia Dish), a Carpetian ceremonial plate made of silver and gold dated between the fourth and the third centuries BC for divine offerings.
Alcalá de Henares—Camporeal
We begin our journey along secondary roads removed from traffic that will bring us into the surroundings of this route. Climbing up a hill of pine trees we come across the town of Torres de Alameda, where we discover another trace of the influence of Complutum on a Roman tombstone of the façade of the seventeenth-century Solitude Chapel. On the way, the landscape filled with olive groves announces our arrival in Camporeal.
The town gives its name to ‘Camporeal Olives’, one of the quality denominations Foods of Madrid, as the cultivation of olives is another of the influences of Roman culture on peninsular agriculture.
In the month of October farmers collect the olives by hand. This is done to avoid knocks to the fruit of the centenarian olive trees and is a painstaking task that will ensure the olives arrive on the tables in one piece, after being seasoned with a local herb. The oil presses and shops in the area that sell the olive oil will delight visitors in search of foodstuffs purchased directly from producers.
The path that crosses the plain leads us into the first town on the route that has a winery open to the public. Fields of holm oaks and pine trees, olive groves and vineyards reveal the ideal conditions of land and climate (with huge temperature differences between winter and summer) for the cultivation of these Mediterranean species.
Despite being first mentioned in a document dated 1190 and signed by King Alfonso VIII, all the territories in the fertile Tajuña Valley connected by the road that united Segóbriga and Complutum in the age of Roman rule could have provided appropriate places for the farming activities of city dwellers.
Today the town is surrounded by vineyards and a visit to one of the wineries will teach us the traditional methods and tools used in wine making, exemplified by the ceramic clay vessels characteristic of Madrid wines.
Another recommendation is the visit to the parish church of San Martín Obispo, one of the most interesting religious buildings in Madrid. Despite the deterioration caused over the course of time, its walls contain one of the jewels of Romanesque fresco painting.
We proceed our journey to Orusco de Tajuña in search of our first encounter with the River Tajuña, whose waters are chiefly used for irrigation. The landscape is now dotted with vineyards, where we discover one of the most interesting green routes in the south of the Madrid Community, the so-called Green Route of the Tajuña and the 40-Day Train, a beautiful itinerary that covers over sixty kilometres which can be visited on another of the trips in Madrid Wines Routes, The Age of The Railway. The journey to our next destination, Carabaña, will delight all bird lovers.
Home to one of the most important brands of horticultural goods produced in the region and sold in the capital, Carabaña lies in one of the most ferule enclaves of the Tajuña Valley.
Besides olive groves and vegetable gardens we come across vineyards, where new cultivation techniques are being tested with the Merlot, Tempranillo and Syrah varieties, although none of the local wineries belong as yet to the Wines of Madrid Denomination of Origin.
The journey following the course of the Tajuña passes by the Waters of Carabaña Spa. Well known for its medicinal properties, Water of Carabaña was sold in chemists all over Europe in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as one of the very few natural products to combat constipation. Visitors to the capital may contemplate one of the advertisements for the product on the tiles decorating Madrid’s phantom underground station Chamberí, known today as Platform 0.
From an archaeological point of view, Tielmes isn’t among the places in the Tajuña Valley that boast a high number of Roman remains (in proportion to remains from the Paleolithic, Chalcolithic and Bronze Ages). Its toponym is thought to derive from the term thermeda, that designates the birthplace of Justo and Pastor, the brothers aged six and nine respectively that were executed in the city of Complutum, where the present route begins, in the third century.
The winery that can be visited bears the same name as the original name given by the Romans to the River Tajuña.
Tielmes—Perales de Tajuña
This brief journey continues the course of the river by the green bicycle route. To the right, the huge cliff of gypsum begins to reveal the ancient pre-Roman settlement of Caraca, although visitors’ cars must be parked at Perales de Tajuña, a ten-minute walk away.
Perales de Tajuña
The number of pre-Roman settlements in the area is quite high. The fact is that the valleys of the rivers Tajuña and Tajo were and still are ideal spots for establishing colonies: the abundance of water and their climatic conditions make the lands extremely fertile.
One of the pre-Roman peoples, the Carpetani, would occupy the centre of the Iberian Peninsula for centuries; their towns, both on hillsides and plains, were characterised by the absence of architecture, for they preferred caves dug out of cliffs of gypsum that favoured seasonal mobility, as exemplified by the site known as the Cliff of the Caves.
After the tumultuous times in which Romans and Carpetani fought the Carthaginians, captained by Hannibal (third century BC), the establishment of the Roman Republic and subsequently that of the Roman Empire would have facilitated the expansion of farming activities, particularly that of vineyards.
Perales de Tajuña—Titulcia
We shall proceed along this route, descending the valley of the River Tajuña almost down to where it leads into the River Jarama. The presence of olive groves and vineyards in this landscape evokes the legacy of our ancestors.
A its name suggests, the fine Carpetian ritual dish made between the fourth and the third centuries BC, popularly known as the Medusa of Titulcia, was discovered in the last of the towns on this route, Titulcia, and is now kept in the Regional Archaeological Museum in Alcalá de Henares (as we saw at the beginning of our route). This is another of our ancestors’ favourite spots, a moor where the River Jarama meets its tributary the Tajuña.
As well as offering us the possibility of spending the night and taking part in wine tastings, the winery located in Titulcia offers a fine selection of local vegetable produce, no doubt the best reward at the end of our journey.
Alcalá de Henares—Camporeal
Through Torres de Alameda: M-300 & M-220
20,5 km | 30 min
Calle de la Amistad & M-224
10,7 km | 14 min
Through Orusco de Tajuña: Calle Cañada—Calle de la Atalaya
14,2 Km | 18 min
Calle de la Atalaya
7,6 Km | 8 min
Tielmes—Perales de Tajuña
Through Risco de las Cuevas: Calle Azote
4,8 Km | 8 min
Perales de Tajuña—Titulcia
Through Morata de Tajuña: Calle del Duende—Calle del Barranco—Calle de las Canteras
23,8 Km | 27 min
Towns: Alcalá de Henares, Nuevo Baztán, Pozuelo del Rey, Campo Real, Valdilecha, Carabaña, Tielmes, Perales de Tajuña, Titulcia
Wineries: V de Valmores, Bodega y Viñedos Gosálbez Orti (Qubél), Bodegas Orusco
Distance Madrid: 33 km | 30 min.
Length: 82.9 km