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Day 6 – May 7th
Today we headed out to explore the monasteries of Yuso & Suso. Suso, meaning “upper,” and Yuso, meaning “lower.” We visited Suso first, up in an extremely picturesque hill overlooking the village of San Millan de la Cogolla and the monastery Yuso. San Millan was a patron saint and the monks were inclined to create a place of worship by his gravesite. The monastery was built around his cave and gravesite. The guide told us that it took only three years to erect. As we stood outside, about to enter the monastery, we saw casks made of stone. She explained to us that these were burial sites for queens and monks of higher status. Basically, she explained that to be buried inside you have to be considered sacred, like San Millan, and if you were of the next class (monks and queens) you were buried outside the doors of the monastery. The rest of the poor people would end up buried in the grounds outside the monastery and in later years, due to mudslides, human bones would be found and placed inside. We were lucky enough to get to see these bones, which added a touch of realistic history to the stories. You could also see that when the monastery partially burned down, it was rebuilt in a new style. There are three styles of vaulted arches in Suso, with the most structure being in Mozarabic.
Next we went down the hill to see Yuso. This monastery was much larger and had many more tourists. Our guide told us the massive number of people who came daily, but I forgot the exact number, somewhere in the thousands. Yuso was built in 1067, when the King decided to devote a new monastery to San Millan. The devotion for this simple saint was palpable in all the art and structures. We started our tour by learning that the first Spanish words were written here. We saw a scroll of Latin with Spanish side notes. We also saw up in Suso the first poem that was ever autographed, the first intellectual property! We toured the monastery and were impressed by the size of it. Columns that didn’t match and gold plated structures were everywhere. We even got to stand upon a monk burial site. Finally we were able to go see Cilengua, our sponsoring Spanish teaching course in Rioja, which was based there in Yuso. We were told that a massive project was underway, that a dictionary was being written. Every subject, from animals to skin diseases (which our teacher Marta was assigned!) was being transcribed. It blew me away how one could take upon such a huge task but it seems so interesting to be a part of something so important.
Day 7 – May 8th
Today we went to the University of Rioja. We met Javier, our enology and viticulture professor. He is a very intelligent
man and we learned a lot about the grape varieties and methods of wine making in Rioja. After the class, we went to a tasting of some of the universities wines, Vina Granjera. We tried a Tempranillo Blanco, which we learned was discovered by accident when an “albino” strain of tempranillo was discovered! That was truly fascinating for me. We also got to taste the Tempranillo Blanco fermented in acacia barrels. It was an interesting wine, but not what I would prefer to drink. We tried Tritium Garnacha and a Vina Granjera Graciano and Mazuelo (monovarietals). I thought that the Tempranillo Blanco was my favorite out of the tasting. We also had the chance to try a Mazuelo that hadn’t yet been out of the lab!
We ended the day at the university with a language lesson with Marta. Today she focused on what the Yuso monastery was working on. We learned about their massive project they have undertaken and were taught a little bit of what she does. She takes the Latin word (her department of study is skin diseases) and finds the correlations, or the way that the word evolved. This class was great but also very confusing for some of us and it was funny to see people try to make sense of the words. We ended the class reading a scripture in Latin by converting it to Spanish, which was fun, like a puzzle.
Today was a short but very informative day. It really made me realize that I would like to further my education and knowledge in viticulture and enology. I think that I felt more complete learning about the production side of wine in addition to what we are learning at FIU. I am really appreciative to have had the chance to hear someone like Javier speak.
Journal written by Nicole Lindares vindepresse.com
Nicole Linares is a student at the Florida International University’s Chaplin School of Hospitality, USA, an active member of her schools Wine Academy and budding wine writer