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Archive for September, 2012

Our daughter has been over for two weeks holiday so we eventually got to the seaside book and all.  Writing put away for a short while just relaxing eating out and generally enjoying ourselves.

The past week had been eventful, her birthday, a meal out with a friend and my wife getting stung.  In between this there was Petanca plus a club meal, then we had Sunday lunch at the beach, returned there for an afternoon and got rained on by a small cloud in full sunlight lol.

So on the last day of her visit  we went to the seaside again for lunch and a swim.  Now I know most parents show photos of their offspring or tell tales of ‘when she/he was small’….  Here’s a story.

Our daughter has always been an avid reader so it is no surprise to us that a book goes with her.  Whilst here she has been reading my books on the computer (including the ones in progress).  A long long time ago in a country far far away we took her sailing.  Unfortunately on our way out of the Medina on the Isle of Wight the propeller became dislodged.  ‘Over the side’ I said, she looked at me then her mother stood firm and said ‘I’ve read Jaws you go!’.  After some coaxing she went over and pushed the prop back, she has not let me forget it either lol.  So when we decided to go to the little seaside town my wife and I stayed at when we first arrived here, she donned her cossi grinned and said ‘don’t get any ideas this is for sun bathing, remember, I’ve read the book’.

We arrived at the coast on a sunny day found a good restaurant and sat down.  Muscels followed by paella, washed down with white wine, plus fresh bread green olives then ice cream and coffee. This was our choice of menu of the day eaten whilst looking out on the harbour. Well my wife and I were, you know who had her nose in a book.

From where we were sitting we had a good view of the harbour which is also a thriving fish port, Whilst we were lunching the Tuna trip boat arrived. This boat takes people out to the fish farms where red tuna is farmed and you can, if you so wish, swim with them.

On the beach I decided to brave the water it had turned a little chilly.  After a paddle I was joined by daughter, who stood looking left and right. ‘What you looking for?’ as if I did not know.  ‘Nothing just checking’ was the reply.

So we stood for a while letting the water surge round our feet.  It was then I noticed a swimmer coming along in front of us  ‘Jaws’ I said.  Well she decided retreat was the better part of valour then saw ‘Jaws’.  Well getting my own back now and then is quite fair. This was her last full day and we all enjoyed it very much.  Mum drove us home and to the airport the next morning.

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The Harvest has started and in true farming tradition the clouds are gathering.  Wildfires have ripped through forest and farmland alike, we need rain, desperately need the rain but NOT NOW! the grapes are ripe ready to be picked. So has begun the eternal race between man and nature to gather them before the rains come, and come they will.   Tractors with trailers piled high charge through country lanes like prehistoric beasts, dust swirling around them leaving a trail of their passing. Will it rain to fall on ripe grapes which then burst from too much moisture, or perhaps the evil of wildfires which devour homes, farms and crops alike could descend upon them?  Under these conditions the farmers are working day and night to bring the grapes in.  Who will win? who knows, but perhaps, just perhaps, here man and nature work together to produce their wines. Here again was that feeling, that presence, is This is the Wine of Magic lets find out.

I had made an appointment with Judith for 10am so on a slightly dull morning I turned my wagon west again and headed for Batea.  The roads into the town were busy with farmers rushing to get their grapes to the Cellers, as it had started to RAIN!!  When we arrived at the Celler all was hustle and bustle with tractors their trailers full of grapes arriving or now empty they were dashing off to bring more grapes. Amidst all this with umberella at the ready was Judith, waiting to show us around.

The first thing I noticed was that the three hoppers were each designated to certain grapes. The first was for the Merlot and Syrah grape, the second for the Macabeu grape with the last being for Garnaicha and Chardonay grapes. But before they are emptied into the hopper the grapes have to be tested for acidity, sugar and alcohol, so we walked along the celler to the testing window to see how they did this here.

Inside the building, up some stairs into a little room with some very modern equipment.  On the outside of the building where the trailers arrive, is a hose with a hollow screw on the end which is dipped into the grapes at different points. It then spins round sucking up juice which passes into a testing jar.  All the un-required juice and grape are sent back into the trailer to go to the hopper nothing is wasted. The selected juice is then passed into the machine for testing after which the farmer is informed of the results.

Once he has the information the farmer then takes his trailer to the appropriate hopper to empty it, including the juice. I understand that when the grapes are picked mechanically they are stripped from the vine during which some of the grapes get crushed producing juice, this is the reason the trailers are lined with tarpaulins to stop that juice from leaking out, and the covers on the top were to prevent rain getting in and this morning they were needed.

 

We followed the farmer back to the hoppers where he reversed up to the Merlot and Syrah hopper, got off his tractor pulled a platform up to the back of his trailer and undid the holding screws.  Then back onto the tractor to begin  tipping the grapes and juice into the hopper. Once the screw starts turning the grapes are carried to a smaller crusher then drop down into a ‘sorter’ where stalks are separated then the grapes and juice are sent across the road in underground pipes to the stainless steel vats to ferment.

All this was very interesting but I felt we were waiting for something special, again there was that magic feel.  Then up came a farmer with Macabeu grapes green fresh and sparkling…..

One of the reasons the wine is so successful is the treatment of the musk.  After crushing the musk stays in stainless steel vats for 24 hours then, at night when the stars are out, it is filtered, pressed then transferred into concrete vats where it remains fermenting for 3 weeks.  Here in vats which each hold 20,000 ltrs of wine, totalling 33 above ground plus 60 underground, it is left to work its magic.

As I wandered across the top of the concrete vats in the two at the end I found the ‘magic’.  This is where the clear must is placed then CO2 is added, it is then left to ferment but just before it turns into sparkling wine the process is killed. This leaves a hidden hint of sparkle and bubbles – this is the magic.  There is a hint of sparkle but no bubbles, that is what makes this wine something special.

The middle vat was working well, this contained the liquid from the stainless steel vats having spent 24hrs in initial fermentation. The liquid is then drained out leaving behind the skins, it’s then placed into its concrete vats with yeast then  left to ferment with the ‘scum’ being skimmed before it is syphoned into it’s maturing vats.

There is one more thing I found.  When the new harvest is beginning the wine from last year is loaded into tankers and sent to La Mancha, which is why I thought there was something I recognised about the wine we were drinking at the Petanca competition….

But that’s another story.  The wines from Batea are worth serious consideration, especially the white.  All these wines come from the  D. Origen Terra Alta, all are good quality and all are have a little bit of magic about them. I decided to pick three of the ones I personally like:

I will start with the White Vallmajor:  € 4.30

This wine is made from two grapes, the major grape is Garnacha Blanca 95%, with Muscatel being 5%.  The preparation is  24h in maceration, 55%  is then drained without any pressure, then fermented at 16 ° C. It’s appearance is a light yellow with a light almost emerald hue.  The bouquet is fresh and fruity, with delicate notes of flora and just a hint of citrus, which leaves the palate fresh, and tasty. This white wine is balanced and structured with just the right acidity I have to admit that I actually liked this wine,  served chilled its soft and moorish and this from a red wine lover.

Vallmajor Tinto  € 4.30

The grapes used in this wine are: Garnacha, Syrah and Tempranillo. The preparation: the grapes are macerated and fermented with their skins at 22-24 ° C. Then comes pressing and malolactic fermentation in the tank.  The colour of this wine is ruby-red with bright hints of violet almost amethyst. The aroma is of intense wild fruits with spicy notes, with the palate finding a meaty taste with a ripe fruit background and hint of licorice – a wonderful sipping wine delicious!

Both of these wines are young and should be drunk when young and at their best.

Next is  Aube at €23.00.

This is a smooth red wine  blended from the Merlot, Grenache, Syrah, Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon.  This wine is prepared by maturing in French Oak barrels for between 14-18 months.  It has an attractive dark cherry colour intense, but bright like a jewel.  The aroma is sweet and fruity, with hints of ripe fruit plus a hint of spice, then you get the oak notes in the background. As for the taste I found it to be elegant, concentrated with a good body which leaves a subtle and long aftertaste.

For those of you who would like to share this excellent wine with your friends there is a Magnum for €40.00. 

I would like to thank Judith for her time and help during such a busy time of year.  These really are wines of magic…

You can place orders with the Co-operatieva on  E-mail :  enolegs@cellerbatea.com   or Fax: 0034(Spain) 977 430 589.

(c) Michael Bosc

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Medical Discrimination Against Men?.

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I think we will have to stay mum when we are off out for a meal. The last time we travelled to a restaurant we had food poisoning http://bit.ly/ShfRCJ, that was in October 2010.  It is now 2010 and we had forgotten all about that other meal.

Our daughter had come over for a few days, so we decided to go out for a meal.  Now as it was our daughters birthday the Sunday before, my editor suggested we all went to a Chinese restaurant down the coast.  So we duly arrived to pick her up had a cup of coffee and a chat then off we went.  What we did not know was that a wasp had attached itself to my wifes jumper, she is allergic to wasp stings.  So a little while later as we were driving she gave a cry and found a nasty mark on her arm, she had been stung. Then she saw the wasp on the floor. Now we had a problem!

To start with her arm came up in a small hard lump, then as we headed towards the restaurant it began to swell and go red. At the restaurant we held vinegar over the sting and gave her antihistamine tablets, we had tried to squeeze the sting out and thought we had done just that.  All this seemed to stall the swelling and the redness began to go down.  We all then enjoyed a very good meal.

This restaurant is an ‘eat all you can for xx euros’, the food was laid out in a long buffet. So we started at one end and worked our way down the line.  From the salad bar through the sushi, very good as well with a selection of sauces.  Next came a selection of cold fish prawns, mussels, clams etc., followed by various paella, and noodle dishes.  Then came ribs, pork, beef, chicken and duck with rabbit as a back dish.  After this came a selection of small bits fruit and last but not least a whole section of cakes and puddings  lots of cream and chocolate  ohhhhhh…..

Although my wife seemed a little off colour we all thought she was fine. However, after lunch we drove back to my editors house and after a few minutes she wanted to go home ooops.

When we got home she was not well went to bed  and slept for 19hours.  When she woke around midday her arm was a little better and she began to get the sting out packing the hole with drawing cream, Her arm was red and sore but gradually it began to get better she has started taking antibiotics as friends and the chemist said she should have gone to hospital.  Never mind I am looking after her.

And the wasps? well they have joined the snakes  not near our house, we have both been stung over the years its not nice and I don’t like to see my wife suffer.

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Wine is a strange thing, to start with you either love it or hate it. This is not an uncommon attitude but one brought about the taste.  There is the type of soil to be considered plus the position of the terraces and vines to give the best amount of sun.  But it is the grape that rules, the grape + love and dedication to tradition that makes the difference, a blending of nature and man.

This will be a wine book with a difference, not the Gilly Cooper or Oz Clarke style just mine.  I am no connoisseur but I do know the sort of wine I like and there is an abundance of it hereabouts.

The articles I write on the various Cellers are written with enjoyment, and a certain amount of  excitement, as I am never sure what little gem I might find inside (http://bit.ly/KuRyC8).  My interest in the history, not just of the wines, but the villages and people themselves, makes me curious adding to my enjoyment of writing.

How the wines are made, the traditions and different methods of each celler uses, makes it possible to detect the area the wine comes from. Then there is the taste a Celler’s Blender applies,  making the wines slightly different from each other thus  providing some hard decisions when buying.

As you may have already discovered, if you have read my articles,  I do not use flowery expressions.  What I am aiming for is a simple description of how things are done to arrive at these wines and bring to your notice Cellers who produce some excellent Catalan wines for your table.

Take the vines, they are as diverse as they can be.  Here some are grown in straight rows of small bushy vines which can only be picked by hand, yielding around 5kilos per vine. This may not sound much but the wine produced from these vines is superb.

Next are the vines grown in long lines spaced wide enough apart to allow harvesting machines to go down the rows. These grapes are stripped from the vines and loaded into watertight (because there is a certain amount of juice created in this method) trailers then transported to the Cellers for processing.

Finally there are the Cellers themselves, some in the villages or small towns, others out in the countryside, in the mountains or in some cases in converted churches, all very different, all combining both modern and traditional way of production.   Put these facts together and, I am reliably informed, you have the reason the wines are so good.

The idea for this book began to grow after a visit to Pinell de Braí, now it is slowly but surely growing into a gentle wander through the wine region I am lucky enough to live in. So with the harvest approaching I am looking to be rather busy as here abouts daytime is not the only time they process the wine, here its a kind of magic…  This then is wine my way!

(c) Michael Bosc

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Well here we are almost at the end of the Petanca competitions, and back in Aragon at Mequinensa in sight of the castle next to the river for another day of bowling and catching up on things with friends.  However, because of the change in the weather, which thank goodness has cooled down, I found myself with difficulty in breathing due to a sinus infection (and I had two – yes 2 – flu jabs last December)

Anyway we started off playing well winning our first game easily, the second one was a bit of a battle but we won that. However, we had to wait for the other teams to finish their game before we could complete our third and final game.

It was at this point I became ill. I started coughing and being sick not the sort of thing you need in the middle of a competition, I needed my wife.  Because she was not playing she had wandered down to the river just below the courts, to take some  photographs, I could see her by the water’s edge so I made my way towards the river but began being ill again. Next thing I knew my wife was there helping me back to the courts sitting me down and getting me to relax.  Had I taken my anti histamine tablets that morning? I could not answer so she opened her handbag, produced two tablets, watched me take them then waited whilst I calmed down and breathed easier. (I am most thankful that she carries my tablets around, especially as when we are in a rush my mind is elsewhere on practical things I forget).  After assuring my friends I was alright  we resumed our game which we won.

I then joined my wife for a coffee sitting in the sun looking out onto the fountain which had a most soothing effect. Whilst waiting for the other teams to finish and the play offs begin, I sat drinking my coffee and looking round.  The hall where they hold the presentations is an airy spacious building, it sits at the back of the plaza with the fountain near the road. This fountain depicts a man holding a lantern in one hand with a long implement over his shoulder, here on competition days tables and chairs are set outside under the terrace. Inside the building you find the main hall large and spacious a tv is mounted over the bar with a kitchen and side rooms for meetings along one side, then off a small corridor you find the toilets, a must know for us oldies.

The other side of the hall is glass giving a fantastic view of the river, so you can sit watching both rowers and wildlife enjoying their day on the river.   Today however there was a long table set out with the prizes of large hams with a box of chocolates for the winners, large hams plus some excellent Maquinensa Olive Oil for the runners-up, followed by smaller hams for 3,4,5,6,7th then a bottles of wine with a dried sausage for everyone else.

The Play-Offs

The playoffs are held on a small court and an international course is laid out. This consists of two circles one at each end of the court with a spaced out measure of 8 strides in between (around 8ft).  In to the top circle a small red ball is placed (the bouletchi) then when a team’s name is called, the first bowler of that team stands in the bottom circle and bowls at the bouletchi trying to hit it or get as near to it as he/she can staying inside the other circle.  If they are successful then they score 2 points.  The next round is similar the second bowler tries for the bouletchi this is then replaced by a ball and the idea is that the bowler throws his ball at it trying to hit it, but, the bowlers ball must only land inside the circle before it hits if it does then that’s 2 points, but if it lands outside the circle then hits the ball no points.  The final bowler is the ‘picca’, he/she must throw their balls at the ball in the circle with the above rules applying. If it sounds complicated it isn’t really but it is hard to do.  The ground can slope one way or another or be slightly up or down hill, plus you only have 2 balls for each round.

To say that I was off bowling was an understatement to I was really surprised when after we had all bowled there was an announcement that a play off for second place between three teams was needed.  I did not do a very good bowl so it was up to my two team mates to rescue us and they did.  Perfect bowling and picking won us second prize. The Mayoress and other dignitaries presented the prizes, so here we all are at the presentation, brilliant players and an old duffer.

First prize of a ham and chocolates went to Ramona, Seraphi and Eunesio from Asco

Second prize of ham and olive oil went to Salout, Serrano and me from Mora de’Ebro

Fourth prize of a small ham went to Roca, Mohamed and Rayner also from Mora

After the presentations, my wife was asked to take group pictures of everyone so first, because the winners are in there came Asco hams and all.

Then came Tivissa who insisted Mora joined in so here we all are with hams and wine a good day had by all.  Cheers!

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