Archive for February, 2012

At this time of the year people are either getting over Christmas or planning their holidays.  Here in the wine region it is almost the same.  The grapes have been picked, wines processed and festivals planned to celebrate the harvests.  In the fields the rows of vines are being pruned and checked for problems, the ground fed and tidied.  So most of the Cellers are closed for a breather whilst preparing for the coming summer and harvest.

Living in Catalunia’s wine region is a bit like being on holiday, lots to do but only a short period to do it in.  However, as those of you who follow my writing will know I have been looking into not only the wines but the history of Cellers and villages in the regions.  I live on the edge of the Priorat region, and have visited some of the Cellers there, but behind my Finca to the west lies the Terra Alta Region, the high country.  This is the area which first started me on my journey into the wines of Catalunia, so, with visitors gone and the pruning of the olive trees under control, I turned my face westward, hitched up my wagon and headed out…

Well, perhaps not this far

I decided to visit Gandesa which is the heart of the region, and has one of the Wine Cathedrals, a beautiful Celler built by one of Gaudie’s followers, and an architectural monument to fine wines.  As you are driving West out of Mora D’Ebro you notice the road begins to climb, gently at first in a long gradual climb, then it becomes a more defined rise as you wend your way through the mountains towards Gandesa.

The first place you come to is Corbera D’Ebro, where a fierce battle was fought in the Civil War resulting in the village being raised, people left without food or proper shelter and bodies left lying in the streets.  The people, some of whom had fled to the countryside for safety, gradually returned and began to build their lives.  A new village was built at the foot of the old one and as this is a wine growing region a new Celler was raised out of the devastation.  I wrote about this last year http://bit.ly/qvGwGd  and mentioned that the old village is now a monument to all those who died, which can be visited and is a peaceful place where you can sit and contenplate both history and the scenery.

A further 5km on you approach Gandesa.  As you enter the town on the left hand side you will see a large hotel with a very good restaurant, the car park always has vehicles in it which here means the food is good.  Driving further into the town, the first thing you see is the Cellers wine shop then immediately behind this is the actual Celler.

I was delighted to see that the old Celler has been given a facelift with the outside fresh and gleaming in the sunlight.  There is a very strong leaning towards heritage  in the region and people are being encouraged to take care of and where possible restore their buildings.

This is the building I shall be visiting to find out the history of the wines and Celler in March, which is something I am looking forward to.  There are some fine wines and Cava sold here, yes I am still on the Cava trail but there is a whole year for that.

On the opposite side of the road is the  Civil War Meseum. You can park in the main road on the right hand side for free and usually outside the museum.  Now I have not been this far for nearly a year maybe more, so I was very pleased to find that the museum was now open again, as it had been shut for renovation. This was not the only thing to delight me, the old Wine Cathedrel has been restored.  It now has a nice new facade but work inside not yet completed.  So as is my want history and wine combined I first visited  the museum and found a light and spacious interior displaying artifacts of the Civil War from both sides, here there is a distinct bringing together of history, no taking sides too many lives were lost, just memories of a peoples war.

I have therefore made the Meuseum my first article which I hope you will enjoy reading the article and visiting both the Meuseum and Celler.

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Mitty and Donald

Mitty and Donald.

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This is what we should have seen

So today we were supposed to have snow, did we? Well let me tell you what happened.

This all started around Friday. We had been looking at the weather chart for our area and getting rather excited because according to the predictions we should have been in for some rain then snow.  Oh we fall for it every time.  Friday arrived bright and sunny if a little cold, so we decided to get some wood and even sat outside drinking coffee in relative comfort. However as the afternoon drew in we had 6 flakes of snow.  The nights here have been really cold and on Friday morning I found a bucket of water was literally a lump of ice.

On Saturday it was a sports day Rugby 6 Nations on the tv so I made my mind up it was to be a jimjam day in front of the fire. But again the weather was sunny so we went wooding again. In the forest further up from us are 4 very large pine trees which were blown over about a year ago, this meant they were just right for burning, so along with the chainsaw my wife and I set to work. Now you would think that two humans and a very noisy chainsaw would frighten the birds, don’t believe it. As fast as I was sawing and my wife taking the wood to the road this big fat Robin with a brightly coloured chest was bossing his way around the area, looking for whatever he could find.  I had left my wife searching for small bits of wood while I took a load of wood home and on my return I was surprised to see not one but several Robins busy sifting through the sawdust and discarded tree bark for tasty morsels.

Well with wood stored and firewood in house I reverted to my original idea and settled in front of the fire and tv to see both games and of course England win the Calcutta Cup. The night got really really cold another look at the weather chart suggested that sometime during the night we might get snow.

This morning however we woke to a rather watery sky and the cold, made a cup of tea, lit the fire and returned to bed where it was warmer. Then the hunters arrived bringing with them a grey sky and lo it RAINED! Needless to say two very upset and bedraggled hunters returned to their car bemoaning the weather man.  My wife dashed to the weather chart and it showed rain which SHOULD have been around the 2mm mark and there were also lots of large snowflakes showing. Oh won’t we ever learn? It must have rained for about 20mins, we got all excited brought extra wood in got the camera ready and waited….  Suns out and yep you’ve guessed it we are still waiting, but one day………..

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Every year in January the town of Mora L’Nova holds an olive festival which includes an ‘esmorzar’ – breakfast to you and me – and something we would not miss.  In the past we have stood outside with friends eating and drinking red wine on grey days, cold days, sunny days, but always winter days. This year it was chilly but sunny here’s my view of it.

This is the breakfast. Half  a small cob loaf which has the inside scooped out, BBQ’d onion, garlic, tomatoes and a large sardine plus a bib.  This is how it’s made.  Into the hollowed out loaf you place the onion tomatoes and garlic then add the sardine cover with olive oil, replace the inside of the loaf, open mouth and eat….  Believe me,  it is one of the best breakfasts I know.   It is eaten standing at tables on which are plates of black olives, olive oil and red wine.  We were there with friends and met others also enjoying the morning.

You could eat as many olives and drink as much wine as you wanted. Refills of both were readily available, but no one drank to much. We went to the cafe just across the road for coffee, and sat in the sun before wandering to the hall to browsing the olive oil stands and see who had won what.

Imagine my surprise and delight when I came to the winning stand. This is the co-operative in one of the surrounding villages  where we take our olives to be pressed. I know the oil is of good quality and was very pleased to see they had won first prize. You can contact them on accitese@teleline.es or visit www.accitesescode.com   well done Francisco.

Inside the hall there was a ‘Moli de Oli’ competition to see who could make the best olive oil and garlic paste.  There were two rows of tables set out and both men and women took part.  A lady won but two men took second and third places,  one up for the lads.

The Moli de Oli

The Judges

The above photographs are in the following order: moli de oli, judges, winner, second place and third place.

Also at the breakfast were Dena and Keith.  Dena runs holiday apartments on the river front at Mora D’Ebro, and is a mine of information on activities, fiestas and such.  You can find out more by contacting her on  enquiries@riverebroapartments.com.

I have listed below more pictures of the fira I hope you enjoy.

So there you have it  from the bonfire, through the BBQ’s to the finished meal and the wine stand in between.  Bon Apertite.

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