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This weekend saw the Falset Wine Festival, we missed it last year so made sure we got to this one.  We were pleased to find it was back on the main street of the town like it used to be, the last time we attended the fiesta was up in the castle which left the town virtually deserted.  I did not think this was good for either Falset, the cafe’s/restaurants or the vintners as it took people out of town and away from the wine Bodega’s that did not have stands but just opened their doors.  Anyway, we decided we would go after Petanca for the early evening when it would be cooler.  The first thing we had to do was find somewhere to park as all  the car-parks were full to over flowing, but behind the Co-operativa I managed to find a space so I was happy.

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We entered at the bottom of the main street and found the stands were arranged along the left hand side.  People were wandering around with their ‘glass in a bag’ – you bought this for about 20 Euros along with tickets that enabled you to sample the wines – or sitting at tables outside some of the Bodegas.

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There was also entertainment, I noticed a group of musicians taking a break whilst at the top of the street a ‘human tower’ contest was taking place. There were several visiting teams which included young and old alike but this was the winning team.

 

 

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We then went for a drink bumping into one or two people we know in the process. After a beer we decided to wander around to the main square which is hidden in the heart of Falset.

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Here we found the cheese stalls, passing small artisan shops selling coffee as well as the delicatessen wines, cheeses, cakes and breads on our way there.  Whilst in the square I found some really nice goats cheese so cholesterol is ok for a while.

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As you can see from the first photographs it was a packed street with people wandering around tasting wines or just standing discussing them, but I did manage to get fairly close to the stand of the Capçanes Celler, it is here they make the wine for the Jewish Church in Cataluña. I could see  they were busy as there was quite a crush there.

 

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But we did manage to get to the El Masroig stand to be greeted warmly and discovered they have re-branded, and produced a very light Roseada for the UK market.  I bought a bottle of their new young red and the Roseada to try at home as it was almost impossible to do so there.  But I have made an appointment to visit and find out more about these wines.  So to the New Roseada.  As I was informed this has been made for the UK market and the Celler was asked to make it lighter in colour as the deep pink we have here was not to the taste of the customers for that market. The result is a very drinkable wine almost a white with a pink blush which is perfect either cold or at room temperature, the Celler has this one spot on.   The red is a young wine and meant to be drunk young, this is not for laying down.  I found it to be pleasant and very drinkable and one for my shopping list.   So I shall be going into more detail about these and the other wines from El Masroig when I visit.

© Michael Douglas Bosc

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Well it is the first of May next week and that weekend heralds the Falset Wine Festival.   The last time we visited Falset’s Wine Festival it was held in the castle with around 50 stands from the Priorat and Montsant DO all displaying their wines, which for 8 Euros you could buy a glass and sample.

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We did not manage to get there last year due to family but we have been told that the Festival was back down in the main street where it was usually held, although there were not as many stalls at before.  Despite this it is a renown wine festival with other things happening besides wine tasting.  You can for instance, attend lectures on the various aspects of wine making and tasting.  I would like to try and attend a blending lecture as I find it rather fascinating how they manage to get the various blends.  My one problem is that I know what I like and find some of the reds a little ‘mouth pruning’.  Having said this I can honestly say there are few that I do not like or could drink.

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 I am not an expert but look at wine from the lay-mans point of view which is, if it suits my palate that’s fine.  But I have been taught so much about this art of wine making,  that I now know a lot depends on the blender and what he/she is trying to achieve. I have also learnt that the old ‘red with meat and white with fish’ is basically a snobbery thing.  People who not only grow the wines but make them will drink their produce be it Red, Blanco or Rosado with what ever they are eating.  In certain parts of France they drink red wine with fish, but then that is the wine they produce. So I am certain that a ‘wine snob’ is someone who knows what they like and sticks to it regardless.

 

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Some old friends and new ones exhibit here and it is always good to meet up again and learn what is new or different since we last spoke.  I will be looking to see if any Cava stands will be present.  This wine is very underrated and I feel it should be promoted a lot more as in my opinion it is far better than Champagne having no sugar added to it.

If you are in Cataluña do yourself a big favour and visit the Festival, you will not be disappointed and you can see for yourselves why I am so taken with the wines of this Country.  The Festival is on from Friday the 2nd of May until Sunday the 4th of May cheers!!!!

© Michael Douglas Bosc

 

 

 

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It is a while since I visited the Co-operativa in Batea, so once my life had returned to normal I contacted Judith and heard they had a new wine. This was a must visit so I hitched up the ‘Wine Wagon’ and on Wednesday morning headed off into the high country. The day was fine and warm which for this time of year was a plus. although there was a gusting wind which made driving through the mountainous terrain interesting.  The drive took me past the pink hue that are the peach and nectarine groves heralding the coming of spring whilst here and there farmers were doing some late pruning.  Although they were all wearing jackets I was quite sure they were pleased that the sun was out even if it was a little windy.  I arrived in Bata around 11ish and went to meet Judith in the showroom.

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This Co-operativa is an ever evolving entity, a place where new ideas are born and sure enough when I entered the bright and  spacious  showroom I found bath products such as Garnatxa bath oil and Cabernet Sauvignon soap for sale. This is something that I find interesting as it is a new way of presenting the various varieties of grape to people and I rather fancy a Sauvignon shower.  But these were not what I had come to see.

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Ranged along one wall are the various wines and liqueurs that are produced and sold  here in Terra Alta plus the odd bottle of Cava from Penedes.  Sitting on a shelf near the new wine was something that no kitchen or cook should be without – Ranci.  Here it is used in cooking by the older generation to add flavour to dishes and  has a warmth and bite that reminded me of  “cooking sherry” a perfectly pleasant drink just don’t let the cook near it.

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But this is the new comer,  the wine I had come to see the ECOLÒGIC. There are three wines in this collection one white and two reds. First to arrive on the shelf is the white. This is a pale yellow which if held against a white napkin gives a soft slightly lemony hue, with a hint of violets but certainly you can sense wild herbs on the palate. But this wine has a flavour of something which is just out of reach but oh so familiar, almost as if it’s teasing you to pin the ‘something’ down. It certainly made my palate want more if only to do just that, this is definitely a wine for summer and is certainly on my list.

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However the reds are to  follow.  Because of their time in the barrels the first Tinto not due till April, with the last due later in the year after spending around 12 months in the oak barrels. To explain this Judith took me to the barrel room.

 

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So I will explain the blend. The barrels on the left contain white wine which is blended with the red in the barrels on the right to produce the Ecologic reds. The first red to arrive spends 3 months in the barrel and is blended with white wine from the Garnatxa white around 10% to three barrels of red.  The Other red which will be a slightly deeper colour is blended with Cabernet Sauvignon at 10% to four barrels which gives it its distinct flavour.

The White is particularly good so I am looking forward to the red later this month.  Judith also informed me that they only use the oak barrels for around two years then these are off to make brandy, or perhaps somewhere to sit, sip and contemplate the art of wine making.

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Cheers!

© Michael Douglas Bosc

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Terraces

These are some of the vineyards that nestle in the valley behind Darmos next to Celler Aibar 1895.  As it’s name suggests this family run winery has been producing wines since 1895, when like a phoenix, it raised itself out of the ashes of the wine industry following the devastating phylloxera epidemic which destroyed the vineyards.  Gradually the grandparents of Jaume Pinyol began to restore the vines and passed down their knowledge using the technology of the day to produce some very good wines.

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You can see from this photograph that it was a cold wintery day with a watery sun shining.  But the warm welcome we received from Jaume was worth the visit.  Jaume was very pleased to tell me something of his family history and how his wines are made.

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His grandparents worked very hard to rebuild the winery after the phylloxera epidemic, and were keen to use the modern equipment that came along. Unlike many of the Cellers we have visited there are no concrete vats here any more. They were replaced with stainless steel ones last century and Jaume has installed small modern vats which have airlocks in their lids, plus some larger ones with jackets that keep the temperature constant. Those of you who are home wine makers will recognise the method with the airlock.

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From here the wine is placed in French Oak barrels and left to mature, where it stays for between 3 to 9 months or 3 years depending on the wine in question. The barrels on the bottom row have the 3 year wines. Today the Celler produces around 40,000 bottles of seven different wines, mostly young fruity reds plus some full bodied reds and their white wine is excellent.

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So about these wines, I tasted 3 of the 7 so will start with:-

PARELL BLANC                                                                                                               

White being my wifes favourite wine I will let her describe it. This is a clean young white wine with a crystal clear moderately pale colour. Its aroma is very floral I could sence roses, fruits and just a hint of violets.  In the mouth it is very soft and fresh, but there is a good body to it which lets the taste linger long after you have tried it. This is a wine well worth drinking if only for the sheer pleasure, and like the others it is designed to be drunk young.  The Grapes used in this blending are Muscatel Alexandria and Macabeu in a  60%, 40% blend, and spends 3 months in the barrel.

PARELL ROURE:

This is a red wine also designed to be drunk young its has a fruityness but also a slight complexity.  There is an intense red colour which is both clear and vibrant almost bordering on the purple.  In it’s aroma you can detect the barrels where it has matured this makes for a very rounded wine.  The grapes used are  Garnatxa Negra, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and  Merlot in a 40%, 20%, 20%, 20% blend, and spends 9 months in the barrel.

XYZ TRIDIMENTIONAL:

Now this wine is for savouring. It is full boddied with a moderately intense cherry red hue which is both brilliant and deep.  It reminded me of wild fruit whilst lurking in the background was a hint of cinnamon, its warm, cosy and one of the nicest reds I have tried.  It’s taste is soft, warm and a little complex, with a lasting after taste that makes it very moorish.  The grapes used are  Garnatxa Negra, Syrah and Merlot in a  60%, 20%, 20% blend. This wine can spend between 3 months to 3 years in the barrel.

I have covered the three wines that most impressed me but there are a lot more to this range that are worth drinking. however, this is not the only thing this Celler produces. There is some excellent Olive Oil produced here and the original building, which was in decline, has been lovingly rebuilt with the equipment on display plus a diagramme of the working machinery. However that is for the next story of this Celler.

I would like to thank Jaume for his time and allowing us to look around his Celler.  He is very proud of what he produces and rightly so, exporting his wines to the Nederlands, Estonia, Switzerland, Sweden and Girona. I am surprised that America has not taken these wines, they don’t know what they are missing.  I do hope you will try them you can contact Jaume on:-  celleraibar@agricoles.eu .

(c)  Michael Douglas Bosc

 

 

 

 

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Last weekend we decided to visit a Christmas Fair in Tivissa, so around midday we left home and headed down our little mountain valley along river road and out on to the main road.  We parked the car where we normally park for petanca and walked into the town. The first things we saw were a roundabout and bouncy castle, but where we wondered was the fair?  Now I should explain that when we say ‘fair’ in England we mean rides and stalls. However here it covers everything, so you never know what you will find at one.

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We wandered round until we found a street closed off. So being us we walked up it and found ourselves in a small square with several stalls. There were the usual cheese and craft ones including some wood carvings which were rather good. Then turning another corner and following the street we came upon the donkey rides. Then once more turning a corner we found the spot where Santa would be sitting on his chair ready to hear what the children wanted for Christmas. He hadn’t arrived at that time as he was still loading his sleigh for Christmas night.

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We carried on passing a very cold looking lady who was minding the blacksmiths stand who informed us the next demonstration would be around 5pm. From here we found a cheese stall and whilst my wife stopped to buy some I carried on to the next corner and lo and behold I had found the wine square…..

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Here were three stalls displaying their wines and one particularly caught my eye, it was from Darmos a little village not far from home, so my wife made an appointment to visit the following week. Now when we have been playing petanca at Tivissa my wife has often talked to the Alcalde (Mayor) about the local wines and this is one of the Cellers he mentioned, so I am looking forward to our visit.

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This week sees the annual Wine Fira in Gandesa, so we are off to visit and possibly try some wines.  I say possibly as it is not yet decided who will drink and who will drive, but I expect it will be as normal.  Decision made the one who picked driving will do the tasting and the one who picked tasting won’t drink so will drive. That, as they say, is the way we roll…

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When I last visited the Celler at Gandesa they had just renovated it, setting the three large presses in pride of place. The traditional concrete vats were lovingly restored, cleaned and the outsides painted white. All this was done by traditional methods using craftsmen and the result is stunning. This being one of the Gaudie inspired ‘Cathedrals of Wine ‘ the vaulted ceiling has been lovingly cleaned, restored and where necessary repointed.  We wandered over on Friday but because it was a national holiday the fira was not open till 6pm, so we decided to spend Saturday evening there. As we were leaving we saw a diagram hanging on the wall which led us to believe the fira was in the Celler itself. As usual we should have put our glasses on….

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So today being Saturday we are off to the Fira.  The day dawned sunny but cool so as we decided to go in the late afternoon, we wrapped up a little.  We headed west arriving in Gandesa just as the Mossos (police) were waiting for the early revelers to leave. Parking was a little bit difficult but we managed to find a spot in the road behind the Co-operativa and walked into the main street.  On the other side opposite the Co-operativa was the pavilion tent and inside set out along each side were the exhibiting Cellers.

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It was a surprise to find that compared with say Falset or Mora la’Nova there were not many stands in the tent.  However, we wandered through and found three cellers that need a second look.  Vins del Tros, V Altavins and Aiguardent de Prat Comte, the last of which makes some excellent liqueurs. Do you see what is next to this stand? an original still…. oh I just love it.  Batea was exhibiting some of their excellent wines which meant their stand was very busy. But this gave us an opportunity to take a look at these three Cellers, we will take Vins Del Tros first. My wife is looking forward to this visit as they make an excellent Grenache Blanc Wine, with its light-golden or straw-coloured juice Grenache Blanc is increasingly produced as a blend wine, its use as a softener when blending is quite common. It will be an interesting visit. Next we will take a peek at V Altavins:  This Celler is in Batea and produces a range called Pretty Wines now they sound interesting.  The last Celler is not your usual winery it produces some rather lovely liqueurs. Aiguardent de Prat Comte is something of a mystery so it will be an adventure I do so love wine mysteries….

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With these in mind we wandered out into the street to find cheese sellers and the doughnut sellers, then on into town. At the corner of the street is a shop selling bags and things, today they were also displaying the local wines. Then just round the corner looking at a Halloween window where these two young charmers in traditional costume keeping a proud mum and dad busy.

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Then into the square where we found they were roasting chestnuts and sweet potatoes whilst a giant mother, baby and two lads on their bikes were entertaining everyone.

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Then we wandered off to have a beer at a local bar. Now the look on my face says who’s that? – I don’t know any pretty young girls. We have not seen this pretty young lady for nearly a year and she has grown up in that time. It took a few moments and the question to place her, the daughter of one of my petanca partners.

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We finished our beer and wandered back through the tent and made our way home. Not before stopping to buy some wine I might add. As always there is more to these wine fairs than just wine, three Cellers to visit and new wines to talk about, I do love this time of year.

(c) Michael Douglas Bosc

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It’s almost the end of October the time when I gird up my loins and visit the local Agricultural Fair. It’s strange really because I have not liked fairs since I was in the RAF and visited Marlborough Mop. Here I walked in at one end with a wallet and out the other without it. But these fairs are different. They are a mix of fun fair, stalls, bars and farming equipment spread out around the streets of Mora La’Nova, and who knows we might just have a go on some of the rides….

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We wandered in and came to this little ride.  We stood and watched it being loaded  “do you want to go on it?” I asked my wife “yes but I want to see what it does first” she said.  Am I glad she did!  As you can see it looks lovely and calm with the arms down, but once it got going it not only went up and round IT BOUNCED!!!! ohhhh I could see us both throwing up.  It was fun for the youngsters they squealed and laughed then a big sigh came as the machine stopped and the lights went out, next minuet it started going again BACKWARDS.. bouncing, spinning in the dark, well we may not have been on there but just watching was fun.

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We went to have a look at the horse shed and this little chap caught our eye.  Although they are all together there is plenty of room and lots of hay in the racks.  None of these horses were undernourished, the one thing the people here are fond of are their horses. In fact I would say they were a little over weight. It’s just that with the wire fence – to stop people being kicked – and a horses bum nudging him he did look fed up.

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There were quite a few makes of tractor on display but I noticed that John Deer did not seem to be represented. Now this is strange as last year they had quite a display.  But then I noticed tucked at the end of the line two Lamborghini’s, the sports tractors of the tractor world? Where are Top Gear when they are needed….

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Just opposite the tractors were the various bits of equipment needed to farm here. Compressors, sprayers, rotivators generators, tree shakers and much more.   I am not sure what the large machine is but as you can see it is rather like and octopus with its 8 arms.

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We walked on and came to some rides we thought we could go on. This was a particular favourite unfortunately we were to big but there was no lack of fun for the youngsters.  One of the rides was mechanical bulls.  Three abreast and could seat around 6 people, it started up moving back and forwards then it gave a lurch and the riders all fell off onto the cushioned floor.  The laughter never stopped. So being two big for the rides we wandered off to the other side and the wine section.

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We visited the hall where dried meats, stalls for household stuff were on display and in the middle of these I found ‘Celler Maset Del Lleo’ and yes I hope to visit.  Then out into the balmy night and the entrance to the wine section.  People were crossing the bridge to this area to buy their tickets – which includes a glass – so they could taste the various wines of the exhibiting Cellers.

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I went to visit Pascona’s stand but unfortunately could not get near enough to talk or take a picture as they were busy selling their reds.

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We could see Batea was in the same situation and were reminded that Gandessa Wine Fair is on this week, so more visits. Such a wide range of wines here.

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Now with the harvest just finishing – due to the cool weather at the beginning of the year – I had visited El’Masroig and learnt they have two new wines for export being launched soon.  So when we arrived at their stand we had to wait as people were busy tasting and buying wines.  It is so nice to see old friends and even better when you find they have won awards. The nuclear plant in Asco had given them 4 awards for their wines, wonderful.  There is another visit on the cards so I am looking forward to that.

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To reach the wine area you can either cross the bridge or, as we did, walk round past the church. Here we found some craft stalls and a few more tractors.  Also spread out along the street were traditional wood burning fires, plus new ones especially for burning the new pellet type of fuel which is made from the husks of almonds and the residue of the olives. Here you also find a small bar with it’s tables and chairs set out in front and across the road next to a stall selling Iberian Ham and cheeses. It was to here we came after walking round and decided to have a couple of glasses of wine whilst trying some of the ham and cheese.

It was fun sitting there watching as people came and went moving the tables and chairs to make bigger seating areas. Once or twice friends would turn up invite others join them at their table. So without hesitation table, chairs and drinks would up sticks and march to join the party, I do love this country.

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After this we decided to head home so took a leisurely stroll back to the car park.  I noticed how few people were around although this large eatery was doing very well. When we reached the car the reason was made clear, when I turned the engine on the clock said it was just past midnight.  So although the Agricola section was shut the fun fair, bars and eateries were going strong.   Here’s to next year.

(c) Michael Douglas Bosc

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