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Archive for May, 2012

Well it has finally happened, wagon was hitched and with a shout of yee haaa I headed west into Terra Alta country in search of fine wines.  My first stop was Gandessa which is to the Terra Alta region what Falset is to the Montsant and Priorat regions.  When I visited Gandessa earlier in the year I found they had given the outside of the Celler a face lift but it was the inside that has received a spectacular transformation.  This old celler has been lovingly restored, cleaned and turned into not just a working wine producer but also a museum.  So here is its story:

The Celler was built by Cesar Martinell, disciple of the architects Antoni Gaudi and Puig i Cadafalc. When in February 1919 Josep Maria Serras, the founder and first president of the cooperative, accompanied by board member Jaume Fontanet, invited Cesar to oversee the construction of the Gandesa Cooperative cellar, which in those days was called “Cooperación Agrícola de Gandesa”. The modern cellar which was  to house the winemaking facilities was completed in January 1920, and the incorporated Oil press being installed and finished the following November. This was a simple but important project which included ceramic artwork by Nogués, which were tragically destroyed in the civil war.  This Cathedrel style of construction was an experiment for the architect César Martinell, and he was very satisfied with the result. It is characterised by a great simplicity, but its classic beauty is never out of style.   It was this idea which Martinell had given to the members who had contacted him a year earlier.

The first thing that strikes you on entering is the vastness of the building.  The walls, ceilings and equipment have been given a make over and the impression is that of a light, clean and airy work place, the pristine concrete vats look at home next to the stainless steel vats.  The original presses are given pride of place they show how things used to be done before the process evolved.  These three are very impressive, the amount of work and energy needed to turn the handle once the grapes had been inserted would, I think, be quite something.

All the wood has been cleaned and where necessary repaired, the brickwork has had the same treatment and you can see the skill that went into the arches it all looks as though it was done yesterday, which is an indication of the detail that was applied to this restoration.

 

The bottling plant and most of the stainless steel vats are across the road, on the day I visited the Celler they were bottling samples of wine.  Just round the corner from that you find yourself in a large area with barrels, this is where the sweet wines are matured they use American oak as this gives an added flavour to these wines, it is here that the fermentation and maceration in the stainless steel vats takes place.

You have heard me tell of the wine being sold in plastic 2 ltr containers. This is quite normal here and in France, so I thought I would show the bottling section for these wines.  One of the things I found most intriguing when I sailed to Normandy, was the ‘pump’ way of buying wines.  Here you bring your own container to the Celler and they fill it with your chosen wine, you pay by the ltr, the same thing operates here which I might say, I think is an excellent to buy local wines.

 

The area Gandesa covers is made up of vallies with fields of alternating vines, olives and cherry trees. The mountain sides are terraced and turn a lovely shade of green in early spring providing a lush and vibrant vista to passers-by and locals alike,  however it is, as I have discovered, a 7 day week for the growers.  This all goes to produce some of the finest wines around and we have often lunched on the coast and found that the wines served are Terra Alta, the one thing Catalans have in common with French growers is they will not drink anything that is not of good quality. So now to the wines.

Terra Alta wines can be found in restaurants both in New York and London. I am quite sure that if you go to an independent wine seller, you will also find them there and hunting them down will be well worth the effort.

So where to start, ah, before I do let me explain that Terra Alta wines cover not only Catalunia but Aragon as well, so I have included my personal favourites from both regions.  As I have said before I am neither a wine snob nor expert, just someone who enjoys wine and likes writing about it, so I will start with a wine that I think is perfect for drinking with friends and would not disgrace a decent wine club.  It is however not a Catalunia wine but a Aragon wine.

The Winery is  Enate,Vinedes y Crianzas del alto Aragon, from the D.O. Somontano.

The grapes used are Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which give this wine its ‘companion’ label although when you try it you might just want to keep it for your ‘me’ moments.  It is a cheerful wine easy to drink and very enjoyable, with a deep intense cherry colour and is fermented in steel vats.

Its nose is of fruits entwined with a creamy aroma, which leaves a linger soft taste.

The price of this little gem is 4.75Euros.

The Winery is Celler Pinol   from D.O. Terra Alta     The grapes used are Garnacha Tinta, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Tempranillo and Syrah giving this wine its elegance.

This is a family run winery which uses organic farming and follows traditional winemaking techniques and also Hungarian oak barrels giving this wine a very intensity. The colour is a deep, dark but bright cherry with deeper reflections and good tears.

Its nose is aromatic but with a hint of sweet jam and berries. Again there is the creamy note which helps this wine achieve a subtle balance.

As for the Flavour  it is well-balanced and a wine that would go well with most meat dishes definitely  in my mind one for the table.  This is a wine that deserves more exploring.
The price of this engaging wine is 7.60 Euros.
Terra Alta is known for its white wines and here I defer to my wifes palalet.  She picked just one which, I am informed, is perfect for those sunny day lunches…
The Winery is  Celler Barbara Fores  in D.O. Terra Alta   the grape used  is Garnacha Blanc, this is a perfect grape for making sipping whites as it has its own sweetness and speaking from a red wine position perfectly able to stand on its own merits.
This wine has the colour of straw with golden hints it is delecate, clear and bright with nice tears.
Its nose is a mix of fruit subtly mingling with honey flowers and a hint of tropical aromas.
This is a wine that will suit most palates, being well balanced but not too acidic.  There is however a slight after taste of bitterness but the sense of toasted nuts soon looses it, leaving a mmmm let’s try some more appeal.  This one my wife gave a 9, saying it was definately a sipping wine and chilled it was perfect and would go well with a nice crisp salad.
The price is 12.75 Euros

I hope these wines encourage you to try them. There is such a range of Terra Alta wines all with different tastes that pinning one down is very hard, which explains the Aragon wine.   You can order your wine from the Cooperatieva just Google Terra Alta Wines and Terra Alta’s your oyster.

(c) Michael Douglas Bosc
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We decided to have a morning out and go to the market at L’Hospitalet de l’Infant on the coast.  The day was sunny and warm around 21dgs which for March is wonderful.  As we drove through the Darmos mountains, my wife mentioned that the road was quite steep and was wondering  how lorries managed.  Now I am not saying anything, but from the time you turn onto the road you start to climb it is a mountain pass after all, bless.

We  like this market because it has a wide range of things for sale but more because it is just above the marina which is surrounded by beaches so you could go shopping then spend time on the beach.  After we had walked round the market and bought what we wanted, we drove a little further down the road to a beach we like.  Here we  parked had a coffee and enjoyed the sun.

The little restaurant we had coffee at is one we’ve visited before.  Today there were tables and chairs laid ready for lunch inside a tented area, and whilst we sat drinking our coffee’s the place began to fill up, so we decided to take a walk to the beach.

 

The town has a backdrop of dramatic scenic mountains which give the impression there is no way in land it is surprising how close they look from the beach.

This beach has soft sand and stretches round the bay towards the point and the resort of L’Ametlla de Mar beyond. Today the sand was warm, soft and golden, so we took our shoes off and strolled along, unlike when in full summer then you need sandles or else you get a hot foot.  

We strolled past palm trees which line the curbside giving some shade with a walkway on the edge of the sand which runs over a ‘run off’ dried river bed so when it rains the town does not get flooded

Whilst we walked along we noticed a speed boat leaving the marina passing the dredgers who were working in the marina entrance getting things ready for the summer, there are some large boats that go in and out of there so keeping the marina from silting up is always an on going job. 

 We watched for a while then took a last look at the scenery landscaped to perfection.

Then we returned home my fix of sea and boats taken for today, ‘Once a sailor always a sailor’, but I’m getting to old for all that now, I find it much easier being an author, or do I?

(c) Michael Douglas Bosc

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Who’s Got The Fairy?

Who’s Got The Fairy?.

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