The large Spanish food pavilion is in the style of Arab historical monuments, similar to those still seen in Toledo. It is made of brick and stone. The Spanish coat of arms dominates the central pavilion. The crest is finely cut. It was executed by Mr. Melida, architect, in charge of the restoration of Spanish historical monuments. It couldn't be better.
The pavilion of the colonies, located opposite, is due to a French architect, Mr. Pluimin. It was thanks to the deputy of Havana, Mr. de Batanero, that this exhibition was able to be installed, whose site was refused at first and which, by dint of representations and efforts, finally obtained about 700 square metres, through the intermediary of Messrs. Alphand and Berger.
Let's enter the Spanish Pavilion and visit the cellars, located in the basement. We reach them by a beautiful staircase made of Huelva marble and granite. This Huelva quarry was used for many of the decorations in the Exhibition. The cellars are spacious, perfectly light and airy and are only cellars in name.
There are endless rows of bottles, containing wines of all colours, from the clearest white wine to the
to the thickest and most heady red wine. A few well-polished barrels complete the resemblance with the famous Spanish bodegas.
M. Sempé's book on the wines of Spain will serve as a guide through these countless samples.
The very dry climate, the stony and tormented soil of the peninsula, combined with the fertility of many valleys, are perfectly suited to the vine. In the north, in the centre, in the south, there are vines almost everywhere. Spain's present and future fortune lies in its wines, which it neglects too much. She exports about 300 million francs worth of wine annually. It could easily double its exports. Wine is so abundant and water so scarce, that it is quite common to see wine replacing water in the most usual works; to mix plaster, for example, it would be necessary to go and fetch water much too far away, for it seldom rains in Spain; this is why the Moors understood so well from the beginning the necessity of obtaining water, and especially of making good use of that which they had. In many provinces there are strict regulations to avoid wasting water. It is probably because of this principle, that one generally does not know how to enjoy all the good one has, that Spain is one of the countries where the consumption of wine is lowest. I'm talking about the wine-producing countries, of course. Thus, in the peninsula, 123 litres per inhabitant are produced annually, almost as much as in France, and in Portugal 100 litres, while each inhabitant consumes only 65 litres in Spain, 74 litres in Portugal and 115 litres in France. It follows that only in France do we know how to appreciate the quality of our wine, which, it must be said, is infinitely better cared for.
If phylloxera does not wreak too much havoc, Spain has a bright future, from the point of view of wine production and above all of exports, because little by little it is making greater and greater improvements in the preparation of its wines. The vine in the peninsula is much more alive than anywhere else. After a hundred years it is still in full production. The plants are planted up to a metre or more deep. But the difficulties of communication and a deplorable tax system are still serious obstacles to this production and its export.
Annual production is about 22 million hectolitres, harvested from an area of about 1,200,000 hectares. The provinces providing the most, in descending order, are: Barcelona, Zaragoza, Tarragona, Cadiz, Valencia, Logrono and Malaga.
And now let's start the review of the wines in the basement of the exhibition, always turning to the right. The first exhibition is that of the Chamber of Commerce of Logrono, which includes light wines, with a rather pronounced taste of the land, which do not keep well; however, the more alcoholic wines of Navarre keep better. The wines of Aragon: Priorato and Corinena, keep fairly well. The wine of Benicarlo (Catalonia) is very famous. The wines of Tarragona are light and pleasant. The wine of Ribera, harvested at an altitude of 600 metres, and others around it, when they age, are very similar to Jerès. It is also in this northern region that the well-known Rioja wines are produced.
After the union chamber of Logrono comes the province of Madrid, where many light, neutral wines of good colour are produced. The wine of Cuença is ordinary. The wine of Valdepenas is very famous, of a beautiful dark red colour, heady; it is said to come from vines formerly transported from Burgundy. Its reputation in Spain is very high. There are no banquets without Valdepenas. The wines of Tamelloso are quite pleasant white wines.
The Chamber of Commerce in Huelva mainly exhibits wines from the south of the peninsula. Here the wines are rich in sugar, as the temperature is very high.
This is the home of the famous wines of Jerez, Malaga, Alicante, the white wines of Cadiz and Huelva; the red wines of Valencia and Alicante. The preparation of the wines is also better cared for. The vines that produce Jerez wine are as well cared for as those that give us the great Champagnes. The grapes are picked grain by grain as they ripen. These vineyards occupy 600 hectares, almost all of which are in English hands.
The Jerez wines are divided into dry and sweet. Among the former, we can distinguish the dry Jerez proper and the Jerez amontillado. The latter sometimes has a less pronounced bouquet than the former. The darker and more alcoholic dry Jerez is what constitutes I Brown-Scherry. The Jerez amontillado has a finer flavour.
The sweet wines of Jerez are: Pajarete, of which Pedro Ximenès is a variety, and Moscatel or Muscatel, made with very sweet muscatel grapes. The Jerez can be kept for over a hundred years.
Other wines are Grenache, Malvasia, Rancio, Malaga, Tintilla, Rota, Manzanilla. Finally, the wines of Alicante are highly esteemed, they are neutral, tasty, well coloured, rich in alcohol and therefore keep quite well. Like our Roussillon wines, they should not be used too soon after the harvest, as they undergo a second fermentation.
In the centre of the cellars, there are showcases containing various mineral waters which are not yet very well known. Then there are exhibitions of corks and cooperage.
Let's go up to the upper floor, where we find the food products and some various industries. First of all, ceramics, which we have already mentioned in the article on Spain, wickerwork, wrought irons, soaps, enormous fine sardine fishing nets, then canned sardines in Santander oil, boneless anchovies from Barcelona, Moutauchez hams, which are the most famous, and sultanas, an important product for the country. They are prepared in two ways: in Málaga, the stem is cut three quarters of the way through and the bunch is dried on the spot; in Valencia, it is soaked in boiling water and then dried in the sun. The former are the best.
Chocolate deserves a special mention, as it is a national delicacy and is considered a perfect food, so great care is taken in its manufacture. Spanish chocolate is generally good.
Sweets, which are also widely represented, are very popular with Spanish ladies; one cannot imagine the quantity of candied fruit, glazed oranges, and sweets of all kinds, consumed in a theatre box during an evening.
Fruit preserved in syrup or brandy is also in great demand; this exhibition leaves nothing to be desired.
In the centre of the gallery there is a large silver-plated olive tree with large glass balls full of olive oil as fruit. This is mainly done in Andalusia. Spanish oil has a strong taste that is not to everyone's taste.
We should also mention saffron, jams, glassware, various mines which we have already mentioned in a special article, pasta, petits fours, and some purgative mineral waters, in particular Rubinat water, which is now well known.
On leaving the pavilion, we remain in Spain. To get to the Colonies Pavilion, which is opposite, we have to pass between several small kiosks offering various tastings: wines, liqueurs, Havana tobacco.
All of them are occupied by Spaniards of both sexes, in national costume. One of these little establishments is a great success. It is occupied by two young and pretty Spaniards, one brunette and one blonde, two real manolas. Théophile Gautier would have been overjoyed if he had been able to contemplate this type which has almost completely disappeared, he who has searched for it for so long and who has only seen it once in Madrid, wearing the black mantilla placed at the back of the head on the high comb and falling on the shoulders, a few flowers in the hair, the short skirt in bright colours showing the slender and well arched leg, the foot enclosed in small satin slippers. It seems that brunettes are more popular than blondes in Spain, and we, who are less exclusive, find these two little manolas charming.
To complete the illusion, if the sun is also willing, there is a stage on which musicians sing and play Spanish songs, accompanied by the inevitable tambourines and castanets.
Let's enter the Colonies Pavilion. On the right, the Philippine Islands exhibit various natural products: rice, pineapple, coffee, cassia, turmeric, tamarind, indigo, and camphor wood. Then a whole collection of wood for furniture.
There are above all nine chairs or armchairs in carved wood, with mother-of-pearl and ivory inlays, of marvellous workmanship. This furniture is made of Mavodangon wood.
A display case contains an embroidered man's shirt, the fabric of which is made from pineapple thread. The finest batiste is certainly not more beautiful than the fabric of this shirt. There is also a child's shirt of the same fabric. Finally, the fabrics of Tinalap, still made from vegetable fibres, absolutely imitate our silks or surahs. The fabrics, made of lapaca thread, are also very interesting.
There is also a beautiful exhibition of turtle sponges and tortoiseshells.
Cuba and Puerto Rico exhibit their cocoa, coffee, sugar cane and their rums, which are as good as English rums.
The whole left side of the pavilion is devoted to Havana cigars. There are cigars for all tastes, big, small
There is something for every taste, big, small, fat, long, twisted, cigarettes for men or ladies. How tempting it must have been for the smokers to walk around the display cabinets!
The Spanish exhibition is by far one of the most varied and successful of the foreign exhibitions.
©Livre d'Or de l'Exposition - S. Favière.