The importance of water in Ollauri
Water has always been related to the history of Conde de los Andes
Ollauri retains a link to water that is lost in the mists of history. Starting with the most visible, we should mention the river Zamacas, a tributary of the nearby Ebro.
Two old mills are proof of its importance in the past. The river winds down towards the neighbouring village of Gimileo. Further on, it branches out into narrow streams that, to this day, provide irrigation for the numerous vegetable gardens dotted along the last stretches of the Zamacas as far as its outfall, in the village of Briones.
The water not only flows in the open; the subsoil of Ollauri is constantly hydrated by countless watery seams. The area's distinctive sandstone geology favours filtration and constant dripping. Many walls in the Conde de los Andes cellars seem to be wet and shiny, but that's not because we are constantly wiping them down. The most picturesque example is at the end of Calao de los Gallegos, where the gallery is abruptly interrupted by a small fault in the terrain. It might be difficult to appreciate in the image, but small trails of water descend on the surface of the rock to form emerging stalactites.
Until about 60 years ago, as we pointed out, the houses in Ollauri had no running water. The neighbours used to obtain this basic resource from the fountain in the square, but some houses, the wealthiest ones, had their own well. This was the case of the Paternina family, who centuries ago, in a show of power, dug a well inside their calados, in what is now the underground Conde de los Andes cellar.
During our tours, visitors actually walk over this well, which is now covered by a glass lid, as you can see in the picture below. For some time in the 1950s, the then tenants of the winery allowed the community to collect water from the said well. The neighbours -particularly the women, who were charged with carrying the water- were spared the trouble of walking down to the fountain and back up to their homes with the water on their backs. These were months of real joy.
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