Azagra's Taverns 1920s

Azagra’s Taverns

"… this wine was intense, heady, but better than any water at the end of a long day’s work."

Back in the Navarre villages of the 1920s, men worked the fields from sunrise to sunset for three pesetas a day. And after work, where would they go to meet up, play cards, tell stories and have a sing-song? Where but the tavern? These tiny places were usually located on the ground floor of someone’s house and the only drink of choice was wine. But it wasn’t the wine we know today; the crianzas and reservas of tastings and fine dining. Rather, this wine was intense, heady, but better than any water at the end of a long day’s work.

In Azagra, you could get two glasses of wine for five cents. Such a deal needed no advertising, however, because these men, who had cut their teeth on the land, lived and breathed what we now call ‘wine culture’. Just like in English, many Spanish proverbs mention wine and according to some of these phrases, wine is the solution for both a bad mattress and the common cold. So it’s no surprise that these men of the land chose to end their day with this beverage. And neither is it surprising to hear that the village was plenty familiar with seeing them stagger home after a night of homage to Bacchus.

“There is nothing which has yet been
contrived by man,
by which so much happiness is produced
as by a good tavern.”

Samuel Johnson 1709-1784

Strangely, though, they would never got lost. This was partly because Azagra is small and its inhabitants, then as now, know their hometown like the back of their hand. But it is also because everyone had their ‘local’: a particular place they knew well and where everyone knew them. A place where they could sit, usually on the floor and on some hay if they were lucky, with the familiar long-spouted bottle – called a porrón – full to the brim, waiting to be savoured. A night in the tavern was meat and drink to these men, nourishing their bodies and perhaps more importantly, their souls before it was time to rest ahead of another hard day’s work in the fields.

Spanish wine Azaga's Taverns
Original text ©Luis Sola Gutiérrez © of the translation Helen Jones | Illustration ©Pilar Sola