Valencia: The Birthplace of Paella
The peloton may be forgiven for thinking that the route today offers a respite from the chaos that has plagued the last few stages of the Vuelta. After all, there’s a whole lot of flat territory in the middle of the route. But, alas, that is not to be! After a Cat 3 climb at the 30 km mark, the course plateaus for a stretch, hits a few bumps, and gently descends to a flat-line until the 126 km point. But then, oops, wake up everyone, there’s a treacherous Cat 2 climb to the top of Alto del Desierto de las Palmas! And you can’t have a crushing ascent without a terrifying white-knuckle descent to follow. All this just 6 km from the finish which, in a real departure from previous stages, ends on a flat. A day for the sprinters, you say? Not so fast! We’ll have to see which ones might survive the cruel climb with enough gas in the tank to contest a sprint finish. Normally I’d say this was a stage tailor-made for the likes of Peter Sagan, who is pretty good in any terrain. But since his withdrawal after a dust-up with a motorbike, the stage may go to another decent climber/sprinter, John Degenkolb. Vamos a ver . . .
Of course there are other delights, especially the culinary kind, awaiting the visitor to Valencia. Widely acknowledged as the birthplace of paella, it also gets high marks for its seafood specialties as well. As for wine, the DO Valencia produces more whites than reds, with most dry specimens made from an obscure grape known as Merseguera. Moscatell is behind the proliferation of fortified dessert wines known as Mistelo, common in this part of Spain. If you’ve ever tried Pineau de Charentes from France, its style is similar to Mistelo.
Red wines here, as with neighboring regions, tend to come from Monastrell/Mourvedre, and can be a bit on the rustic side. However, there is some interesting Rosado/Rosé made from a grape called Alicante Bouschet, known here as Garnacha Tintorera. Granted, finding it in the U.S. will be a challenge, so for today’s Vuelta Vaso recommendation, I say grab a bottle of your favorite Rosado/Rosé and pretend you’re strolling on one of Valencia’s gorgeous beaches. (P.S. It goes great with a plate of paella!)