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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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This is the second visit in the El Masroig Celler trilogy.  There is so much about this celler, its, wines and other products that one story is not enough. Each one is an interesting insight into our local wines, their production, characters and international acclaim. This then is another story of El Masroig.

The Celler it’s self arose from a ruling that there could only be one celler per village.  At that time there were two cellers in Masroig, so it was decided to merge them and produce the wines in the main one, the 1917. Then they used other for maturing the wine in barrels which at the moment have to be taken back and forth via forklift.  This however will soon change the new building – the 2011 – will house the barrels making it easier with the fermentation.

Then came the next addition in 1974, when the second building was added as the Celler advanced with its production and the wines became known all over the world.  The last addition was in 1997, where the shop is housed and the various wines are on display and sale.

The Concrete vats of the 1917’s were sunk in the ground and so maintained a constant temperature that both above ground and underground concrete vats are still in use in the 1974 building.  The result is that where as the temperature of the stainless steel vats is controlled by pumping cold water round the skins, the concrete main their temperature so are environmentally friendly and cost-effective.

The wine here is produced in both the traditional and centrifugal ways.  In the traditional way the grapes are stripped from the stalks then crushed,and placed into the fermentation vats.

With the centrifugal way the grapes are placed whole in to horizontal motorised tanks, where the turning of the tanks causes the grapes to burst,  then the residue is taken off, emptied onto an archemedies screw which carries it to a separator. The grape juice is then syphoned off into the fermentation vats.  These vats are cooled by water jackets so a constant temperature is maintained.  The resulting wines are superb, and sold in restaurants all over the world.

The Wines

There are around 15 different types of wine produced here, made from the 2 native grapes Greenache and Carignan of which more than 50% id the Carigana.  The ltrs produced total around 1,700.000 plus 600.000 bottles. This does not include the wine boxes, I have listed  the wines below with comments attached.  If you wish to try them please contact Inka on www.cellermasrog.com It will be well worth it.

I will say one thing before I continue, with regards to the white wines I leave the comments to my wife, they are her personal opinions. Where she says best served chilled it is her prefered way to drink that particular wine, not all are chilled.

Solà Fred blanc:  I am not a great one for white wines, however my wife is and she thinks this one is fresh, fruity prefered served chilled.

Solà Fred:  This is a young ‘Tinto Joven’  red wine of deep colour, aromatic, full-bodied delicious taste.

Les Sorts blanc:  Nice golden colour, full-bodied, fresh, delight to drink.

Les Sorts rosat:  Delightful rosy colour, with a fresh sweet fruity taste.

Les Sorts Jove:  A fruity wine with a creamy depth, a smooth red wine, a pleasant experience for your taste buds.

Les Sorts Sycar:  This is a dark cherry red wine, with the hint of fruits, spices oak matured full of depth and character.

Les Sorts Vinyes Velles: Another dark cherry coloured wine, with a deep warmth and complex character, delightful.

Castell de les Pinyeres: This wine has lots of flavours with hints of spices a traditionally made wine.

Mas·Roig: This wine is superb it is aged for 2 years, intense colour, warm, potent with a complex of flavours.

Mistela negra:  This wine is matured for 1 month well worth the wait.

Mistela blanca:

Mistela molt vella:  This is based on a 40-year-old wines perfect for drinking anytime, well my wife thinks so and I will defer to her on this.

Bag in the Box Jove:  A really nice cherry coloured wine, smooth, falvoursome and one of my favourites.

Bag in the Box Crianca: Deep cherry colour to this one rich fruity taste, another of my favourites.

Well there are some of the wines from the celler, which I have had the pleasure of trying. Yes I do enthuse about them all , but to be honest I have not found one that I do not like.  I do hope you will try them you will not be disappointed, restaurants all round the world have discovered them enjoy.

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