The Dream of a Spanish King

The Winery At The Real Cortijo Of San Isidro

Ana B. Remos

The dream of a Spanish king.

The Bodega del Real Cortijo de San Isidro (Winery of the Royal Estate of San Isidro) was constructed in 1782 by decree of His Majesty, King Charles III of Spain. Located in the vicinity of Madrid, it was built underneath the Royal Estate of San Isidro, making it the only subterranean winery of its kind in the entire world. It remained the property of the Spanish Crown for more than a century under four different monarchs, until the reign of Isabella II (1833-1868).

The Estate was declared a historic monument in 1983, and since it has become a highly respected meeting place for the Spanish elite to celebrate weddings, galas, elegant dinners and wine tastings. The complex is simply stunning. It consists of a winepress and a huge cave that forks into two underground cellars through monumental doors made of apiary stone, situated next to a charming, intimate French garden. Up above there is a gazebo, built specially for the Royal Family to contemplate the gorgeous sunsets of the area in privacy and comfort.

The winery occupies 10,000 square feet with neoclassical arches and vaulted brick columns. The underground cellar is much larger. With a surface area of 27,000 square feet, it runs almost half a mile underneath the town. Noble wines are stored in 187 alcoves, where once rested the large clay pots used for fermentation. These vessels were filled using smart waterproof ductwork made with tree trunks and suspended from the ceiling on a slope that carried the wine. The chamber where King Charles III sampled his wines is located nearby.

The royal architect Jaime Marquet, who achieved a beautiful blend of haunting, hypnotic aesthetics, built the impressive complex, which exudes a sense of amplitude and beauty. Roaming the underground chambers recalls the sensation of walking into a cathedral, or even the ancient pyramids. Inside you can almost hear the cellar’s heartbeat, its silence, and the faint whisper of history.

Besides the hospitality nature of the business, the bodega also stores and ages the wines produced in La Losa, an estate situated south of the city of Cuenca, boasting 144 hectares of vineyards. Seven of the best and oldest vines are selected (5 of the Tempranillo grape variety and 2 of Merlot) to make truly exceptional vintages. Given the extraordinary conditions of Charles III’s winery (absence of climactic variations, acoustics, and humidity), the limited production wines from La Losa are transported to the bodega for aging. They remain there for a minimum of one year in French and American oak barrels, with weekly sessions of decantation. Later they are bottled and stored in the underground vaults until they are labeled in the third or fifth year of aging.

These wines are sold under the label Real Cortijo, and can be purchased directly from the winery. Guided tours and tastings at the bodega feature clean wines of cherry-red color, with the strength characteristic of prolonged aging inside the bottles. The smell is full and candid, with aromas reminiscent of red fruits, as well as mature fruits and licorice that are attributed to the strands of the Tempranillo and Merlot grapes. Some lactic notes are also found alongside the fleeting aromas of vanilla, cedar, tobacco, and a light smoke that comes from the barrels used for aging. Our palate opens to the wines softly and with complete balance and elegance.


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