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Well it has been a long long time since I last wrote quite bit to catch up on so here goes with the first instalment. First though  HAPPY NEW YEAR PEEPS.

2014 had been a scrappy year what with one thing and another and my major visit to the doctor in the UK looked like finishing it off in the same style.  However I have a good doctor and when he told me I had diabetes 2 he suggested that all the travelling stressed me out and affected everything and that it might be better to find a doctor over here.  So after Xmas I visited the pharmacy over here (they are trained doctors) had a diabetic test and everything was ok  NO DIABETES 2!!!!    So that was the first thing to please me.

Next came the new car.  We have had our old one for years and the rattles were getting louder and louder so that you heard us coming before you saw us.  The trip to the UK was the last she made we treated ourselves to a new one – which was on the cards for our 50th anniversary in December this year – an year early anniversary/xmas pressie.  Its warm, quiet and more importantly comfy for us oldies (as well as being mas baratt) lol.

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I don’t suppose you remember the time we won the Christmas Raffle, but ever since we have been here Ramon has made us welcome and we look on him and Eleanor as our friends who we share our petanca triumphs and where we go to enjoy typical Catalan food.   Normally we do not do anything for new years eve but this year we decided to join Ramon and others for just that.  The food was excellent, company was great and we were having so much fun making noise and laughing that the clock had chimed three times before we realised the new year was upon us.   Then being the only English there we sang old Lang sign then listened as it was sung in Catalan a wonderful end to an excellent evening.

 

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Then yesterday I had a nice surprise my books are selling in Germany, if the year keeps this up it should be a good one.

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One of the things that has been over looked is the olive harvest.  They do not start pressing the olives until the second week of November and that is usually when we are travelling so I have started on the pruning of the trees to bring them back on line for this autumn in the hope that we can pick the olives and have our own oil again.  Some of the trees are over 700 years old and one or two – so we are told – are 1000 years old.

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Talking of which the annual Olive Oil fira in Mora l’Nova is on soon so that’s one breakfast we will be going to. The olive oil on sale is something else, really nice for the table.

Ok that’s the first one done. Lots more to tell you but that will come later with – I hope – the picture of the flat bott badger……..

©  Michael Douglas Bosc

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This is something of a wonderful cross between SiFi and fine wine, that I was neither expecting or prepared for.  So where to start?  well let’s go with a little bit of history.  Marca is a small village tucked away under the Darmos mountain range on the outskirts of Falset, in the Montsant region quietly going about the serious business of making wine.   It is a small Celler, with a French Wine Blender called Eduard (from Burgundy) who went to Australia to learn the new technology then came to Marca and the Celler Portal del Montsant.

The Celler’s history is one of pure Catalan wine making, dating back to 1194 when the Cartusian monks of the ‘Sant Bruno of Cologne’ order settled in the Priorat region and became the founders of the viticulture.   In 2001 the areas including Bellmunt, El Molar and El Lloar formed the ‘Wine Property Project Clos del Portal’ under the eye of architect Alfredo Arribas. The Cooperativa of Marca was merged with Falset presumably for economic reasons and the building fell into disuse.  Then in 2003 along with Ricard Wolfes Alfredo founded Portal del Montsant and located it in the old former Cooperativa building.

This building has been dedicated to the production of wines since the 1900’s.  In 2007 the eminent enologist Stephen Pannell joined the project bringing his expertise and creativity into play.   The  narrow terraces where the grapes grew  had been abandoned  because modern machinery could not operate there. These were cleared, restored then planted with an assortment of cloned vines of very low production but high quality interspersed with the traditional varieties including some experimental ones.  This vineyard follows a modern organic way of growing grapes which is in line with the cutting edge way the Winery works.

The make up of the soil in the region is a combination of calcareous, clay, and sand, add to this the directions the fields face plus the altitude and you have a unique mix of the old Carignan and Grenache once again covering the land where the first vines were laid down. By the way, these varieties take  their names from the founder of the Cartusian monks, some of these modern vineyards are over 65 years old and grow the ‘bush’ type vine.


So thats the history part now for the SiFi bit and the fine wines.  When we arrived I expected to find a small Celler in the style of a Cathedrel, the outside giving this impression.  But wow!  when you go inside it is like a Tardis compact yet huge!  Eduard first showed us the vats from the main level where he has his office and the wines are displayed.

From this window  you look down on shining stainless steel vats with French oak barrels ranged around the sides along with the concrete vat.  He then took us down to the first level and that is when you see the size and scope of this ‘wine Tardis’.


Eduard showed us how they kept wine stored oak barrels at an even temperature by covering them in plastic whilst using a small heater to warm the air.  Also here is the original machinery that was used before the introduction of the modern equipment, it is in working order and kept as a heritage piece to explain how things were originally done.


The modern equipment is small compact and efficient, but some of the original vats were not only small but unusual.  Take the egg shaped vats which are used for fermenting white wines.  It was also the first time I had seen egg vats made from concrete which not only keep the temperature even, but because of their shape they allow the wine to continue moving inside and makes for an excellent dry white wine, whilst the squarish vat is for the red wine.



There are barrels behind the ‘egg’ vats which contain fermenting white wine.  Every other day Eduard removes the bung takes a long metal rod with a flat end and stirs the wine until it goes from a clear liquid to a milky one.  This stirring makes sure that the wine stays alive and the sediment does not remain at the bottom of the barrel and turn the wine.



As we came down the stairs to this level we came face to face with four maceration vats, which are used for making special wine. Then just as I was thinking things could not improve I found them.  The Darleks are here!!! there facing me was a row of vats shaped like Darleks, not the scary ones of Dr Who, same shape vats.  These are used for the cold maceration of their excellent rose wine.  This cold maceration process allows the grapes to remain in their skins whilst they are chilled then they are pressed and fermented in cold conditions thus maintaining a constant temperature for the whole process.

Out side is this refrigeration truck which is used to store grapes for 24 hrs before beginning to process the wine using the cold maceration technique this helps with the juice concentration which makes fantastic wine.

Then it was down to the underground where the large old concrete vats have been cut through to reveal recesses  where the barrels are stored in a constant temperature of 14c. They are left to mature in the .  All the barrels are stacked by hand on curved racks.  Some are marked with the individual names of vineyards then left for around one and a half to two years for maturing.


Some of the old concrete vats are still in use and Eduard showed us the inside of one which had just been painted in the traditional manner, this is done to ensure that nothing leaks or air can get in.

The majority of the wine is red but they do make an excellent Rosado and a pleasant dry white.  I will list the wine in their  grouping, but remember these opinions are strictly mine according to my pallet which as we all know is different from others, my preference being for reds with a slightly sweet to dry but not so dry as to kill my pallet.

I will start with the BRUNUS, a wine I have drunk and really enjoyed.

The Rosado is a clear ruby colour crisp with an aroma that hints at cherries and raspberries with a hint cinnamon whilst there is a light flowery hint just hiding the sense of another fruit. Whilst this is the bouquet the taste is something else.  It is smooth slightly on the dry side but there is a body to this wine that would not disgrace a red.   This chilled would be a perfect afternoon evening drink on the terrace.  The alcohol content is 13% and made solely from the Grenache grape.

The Red this is a red that gives off a definite sparkle when in the glass.  The aroma is of flowers, cherries, currants and that hidden fruit again, but this time I got a feel of something different which I put down to the various minerals that are in the ground.  To my pallet it is slightly smoky with a spicy hint but a very full body slightly on the dense side.  It has an aftertaste that makes me look for more.  The alcohol content is 14% and made from 45%Carignan, 35%Grenache and 20%Syrah grapes. This, like the Rose, is also a wine you could drink just for the pleasure.

Santbru Blanc Montsant  This a white with a pale translucent gold tone. The aromas of honeysuckle with tones of pear and peach whilst being a difficult but interesting impressive taste there is a subtle aftertaste.  85% White Grenache and 15% Grey Grenache   with an alcohol content of 13.5%

Santbru Red  This wine has a regal deep purple/black colour and well defined tears. The aromas that issue from the glass are spices, berries, anise, thyme plus that certain taste that defines the region.  As for the palate, it senses a deep wholesome fruity flavor.  The alcohol content is 14.5%  and made from 65%Carignan 20%Syrah and 15%Grenache, a nice wine to go with the a meal.

BRUberry Red  Here is a wine that has a vibrantly clear deep red colour.  The aromas are of roses, fruit, soft spices with a country background.  The pallet finds a smooth velvet texture, with the taste of raspberry reminding you of jellies. Yet there is a subtitle smoothness that puts it in my sipping class.  The alcohol content is 13.5% and is made from 60%Grenache, 30%Carignan and 10%Syrah.

The above wines are superb and if you would like to try them you will find the Celler on http://www.portadelmonsant.com  and alfredoarribas@portadelmonsant.com  enjoy.

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“The two tractors pulled up side by side, two elderly farmers discussing the harvest, and the effect of the weather on the grapes.  Their trailers, one full, one empty, who’s grapes were already being crushed and filtered finished their conversation and departed on their John Deer tractors.  Now is the important time of year, grapes picked by hand under a relentless sun, the pickers sweat flowing into the dry soil, this is harvest Catalan style, this is what makes such excellent wine.”

We arrived at El Masroig Celler to be greeted by Eulalia, a cheerful young lady who is in charge of the marketing for the Celler and a daughter of one of the growers. She told us she had been helping her father with the harvest on her day off, something she has been doing for a long time.

We started our tour with a visit to farmer Josep Tost and his son Marc who were busy picking Syrah grapes in the traditional method – by hand.  When we arrived the sun was beating down, but these cheery hardworking farmers along side their pickers were working away.  Their grapes were also suffering from the lack of water, it has not rained since the middle of July, normally we have a few storms in late August early September  but this year nothing.  But the grapes were sweet and yes the wine will be of good but short on moisture. The people here are very aware of their heritage and traditions and the land dictates that these will survive.

 

When we returned to the Celler we were introduced to the Wine Maker Carles, who was a mine of information on both the wine and history of the Co-operativa.

Masroig is in some ways a microcosm of Spain, during the Civil War there were two Co-operativa’s, some were supporters of the Republicans others of the Nationalists.  Nothing is ever clear-cut always a mixture, then the two Co-operativa’s joined together, a small village re-uniting, coming together again. They decided to use one of the Cellers for production and the other for storing the barrels whilst the wine was maturing and ageing. Working together they have invested and grown, no grand Cathedral of Wine here, but every few years, as they have grown so they have built another section.

This year 2011 they will open the latest, a large bulk storage and bottling plant. It is a new modern building which looks rather strange beside the original ones, but inside there are concrete vats beneath the ground, traditional techniques are still being used. As well as modern stainless steel vats, are French Oak Barrels,   seeing the creamy coloured barrels in this setting looks somehow comforting even though they are brand new.

So it is the 14th of September, 11.00am and we are now going to take you on a journey as we see exactly how the grapes are processed.

We started the tour where the tractors bring in the grapes. First they drive their trailers to a small platform. Here a young man took a long metal pole with a juice sampler on the end, and plunged it into the grapes.  He turned it then took it out, then plunged it in again, this was done several times. He then took the liquid to a table where it was analysed, showing the sugar content and likely alcohol level.

Next the tractor and trailer are driven onto the ‘weigh bridge’ where the weight is noted, the farmer has to stay on the tractor whilst this is done, he then drives the trailer to one of the hoppers.  There are three of these: one for the Carbonic Maceration process, the other two are for the traditional method where the stalks are separated and taken for fertilizer.

There were two trailers waiting to unload their grapes. One was at the hopper on its way to the traditional processing the other was at the hopper for Carbonic Maceration, so I will start there.

First Carbonic Maceration:

At the hopper the grapes, complete with stalks, are emptied onto a conveyor belt which takes them to the large rocker tanks. When these are half full they are sealed and CO2 is pumped in removing all the oxygen.


These vats lie on their side with a motorised chain attached which rocks them back and forth while the alcohol ferments inside the grapes.  When they start to burst the vats are emptied into a conveyor which carries grapes and juice to the press.  Here the skins are removed, and the juice pumped into the underground concrete vats to mature, whilst the skins are conveyed to a large container which once full is loaded onto a lorry and sent for recycling into alcohol.


The traditional method:

Here the hopper was full of the Grenache grape with another trailer waiting to unload.  The hopper is started and two screws push the grapes into the crushing chamber where the stalks and grapes part company.  From here the Wine Maker sends the grapes down long plastic tubes to either the large cooled vats for fermentation, or to the open top vats.

Open top method:

This is something new to the Celler, but it is also a traditional way of fermentation, those familiar with the Australian way of wine making will recognise it.  The grapes once crushed, are placed in an open topped vat which is kept cold by a water jacket and left to ferment. The skins float to the top and forms a ‘crust or lid’ which keeps out bacteria preventing them from going off.  Every so often they are sprayed so that the grapes on top are dampened down preventing bacteria from breaking through. This process takes around 10 days, then the juice is transferred to barrels for maturing and ageing.

The main grape here is the Carignan then comes Grenache and Syrah with small amounts of others. The fields we visited were growing Syrah.

The red wine is aged for between 12 to 15 months depending on the type of wine being made. The white wine made from the Grenache grape is matured in French Oak barrels for around 6 months.  Personally I prefer what we refer to as Vino Tinto which is a red wine slightly lighter than a Negre which has a deeper colour and more body. I have two favourites from the Celler:

Tinto Joven: This is a pleasant young red, smooth with a cherry colour with a hint of soft fruits. It is made from carignan, grenache and tempranillo grapes, and the process used is 80% traditional fermentation and 20% carbonic maceration.

Tinto de Crianza: This wine has a deeper colour, and I find this a full flavoured wine to drink, with for me, a smoothness that I am sure comes from maturing in oak barrels.  It is made from carignan and red grenache grapes, and the process used is 100% traditional.

My wife likes the white wine made from the grenache grape which spends 6months maturing in the barrels.

There are a lot more wines from this Celler as I mentioned in my last article ‘An Age of Wine’, if, like me, you would like to try some, and I  can recommend their Cava, you can contact Eulalia on celler@cellermasroig.com you will not be disappointed.

I would like to say thank you Eulalia, Carles and the staff of El Masroig for taking the time to show how their wine is made and to Josep for letting us interrupt his harvest.  I hope you have enjoyed the tour as much as we did, and gained a small insight into the fascinating world of wine making.

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Nestled in a valley in the hills  that is home to the Guiamets reservoir, is the village of Capcanes in the DO Monsant.  The Celler is most famous for its Kosher wine. Although the wine it produces here for export and local consumption is equally well known albeit that in the UK it is sold under another name in M&S and Oddbins.  If you look for the origin Monsant DO you will probably hit the mark.

The Celler dates back to the 19th century but during the early 20th century the vineyards were devastated by the disease phylloxera.  Later in 1933, 5 families got together to form a co-operativea.  Here they made their wines and sold it under the name of Capcanes wine.  Modernisation took place in the Celler in the mid 1990’s, with the whole village taking a share in the co-operativa making a total of 80 members.   Of these, 15 have a 75% share and make the decisions, which have turned this into an internationally known Celler.  Although this was a large leap for many, their belief in their wine has paid off.

This is the Celler at Capcanes. It may seem small in comparison to some of the Cellers, but inside it is a bit like the Tardis.

Spacious, with underground storage for the oak casks in large cool cavernous rooms, lit by pale green lights.  There these giants sleep, whilst turning their contents into some of the most delicious wines of the region. Here they are tended and cared for until the wines they hold have reached maturity and are bottled.

As you enter the Celler you come into a wide room, where the various wines are on sale and display.  Along one wall are bottles, with two large vats opposite from which you can buy red or white wine.  Then there are the oak casks which contain vermouth, wine both red and white, Garancha Dolce, which can be bought in 2ltr bottles.

They have and use, the concrete vats both underground and free standing. Again there is the green lighting in this area, this is where the wines for the commercial and local market are produced.

But it is the Kosher wine that they have become famous for, making it in the traditional way.  Every seventh year after the first harvest,  the fields must lay undisturbed, and nothing can be planted in between the rows of grapes. All the ingredients yeast etc., used in the production of the wine have to be Kosher.  From the beginning of the harvest only Kosher tools can be used.  The equipment, must be cleaned with hot water several times in some cases, to ensure that nothing remains in either the vats or on equipment.  Once the harvest has begun only Jewish males are allowed to come into contact with the wine. It accounts for 2% of the total wine produced here.

The vats and crushers used in the making of this wine, once cleaned are sealed until the next harvest.

Likewise the vaults where the wine is stored in casks and bottled.   The Glass doors are locked and the metal grill gates are sealed. Behind them you can see the long corridors with the arched storage rooms for the casks and bottles.

You can buy bottles of the Kosher wine just like the other wines. I would like to say that although expensive it is well worth the money. The grapes grown here are Garnacha, Carinena, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Tempranillo,  and Syrah with the white wines being Garnacha Blanco and Macabeu.  These produce around 1.1 million kg of grapes from roughly 250 hectares of vineyards.


Mas Collet Blanco
Has a lovely herby nose which is fresh and slightly lemony, with some oak. I am not too sure it is for me, but I would buy it.

Rosat
Reminds me of boiled sweets with a slight hint of blackberries. This is a very soft drink, just right for a sunny afternoon.

Mas Collet
A slight hint of liquorice and fruit with a shade of oak wood at the end.  very pleasant.

Lasendal Garnacha

This is a typical Garnacha, sweet with a hint of something savoury and a ghost of spice that you just can not place. I like this wine.

Costers del Gravet
This wine is made from three grapes Cabernet Sauvignon, Garnache and
Carignan. It is aged in new oak, giving a liqueur-like quality, with again the liquorice bouquet.  Nice drink with your meal.

Flor de Primavera – Kosher wine
This wine is full bodied, with a rich spicy bouquet. A wine which is both delicious and intense. Well worth the money, and another one I like.

Cabrida
This wine is made from the Garnacha grape off the old vines.  It is a deep red full bodied wine, almost on the port side. This is a wine I find rather rich, but my wife is very fond of, drunk like a port it is superb. An alternative for the Christmas table.

Garnacha Dolce

Both my wife and brother-in-law like this wine.  It is bought from the Celler’s shop from the cask.  Again it is like a smooth port, good body warm taste with a deep colour.  My brother-in-law says that when he buys a wine that is a bit on the tart side, he decant’s it and adds some of the Garnacha. He says it improves the wine no end,  he also guards the Garnacha, he’s most impressed.

You can order your wines from www.cellercapcanes.com

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