Posts Tagged ‘grapes’

Part of our garden, rocks, shrubs, herbs and olive trees not to mention the pines – some of which grow mistletoe or have squirrels drays in them.  It is in this environment that my wife insisted she had a garden of sorts. Lack of water decreed that it should be mostly bulbs and drought loving plants so here’s how we go along.

Lots of weeds, an angle of the forest  and a couple of sculptures..

As most of you who follow me know we live on a small olive in the middle of a forest with wild boar, wild goats and other animals. This is not a great problem for me but for my wife and her small flower beds it’s a bit like painting the Fourth Bridge you get to one end and have to start again at the other.

The garden is only one part of life up here the olive trees and the odd almond tree not only keep me busy but tending the olive trees is a full-time job.  I have plenty scattered through my bit of forest but around 30 on fairly flat terraced land which I can easily reach and look after.  Being in my 70’s plus not having agricultural water I have no intention of farming on a grand scale – it does not pay – but I look after enough trees to produce our own olive oil for the table for about 6/8 months of the coming year.  So I thought I’d talk about them properly from our perspective no quoting statistics or things like that, just observations on my own trees plus a bit of history. Thus forgetting about the commercial growing of olives this is how we grow and make our own Olive Oil.

On my little tractor to collect wood

The trees on the finca are very old, some are around 1,000 years old with bases that have, over the years and with encouraging new growth, been in the ground for centuries. It is well documented that the romans grew olives in this part of the country the fact that terraces were built along the side of the now long departed river that once used to sprout from the side of the masa and run down to the river Ebro. It also shows the ingenuity of their engineers and that they had slave labour as the terrace walls are not only still standing centuries later  but are deep and well-built.  Every now and then the boar will disturb one trying to reach grubs and the result is a collapse that offers an insight into history.

It was the same with the trees. Olive trees are an interesting subject, before we owned the farm I did not realise that they flowered. Every year the trees turn from a deep green to a creamy green as the flowers open.  There is no perfume but the bees are very busy, as the flowers die off you begin to see the olives forming.

Before trimming and Sam’s garden built round it this tree in all its glory

Today they have machines which can grasp the trunk of the tree and shake it collecting the olives in a large bag which then passes them into a truck a bit like you see the combine harvester doing.  Our trees however are to wide and solid for this plus the terraces are only big enough for a man and donkey.  The other point is years ago to get more olives from each tree and make picking easier they would do several things. First they would split the trunk into three so eventually they ended up with three trees instead of one.  Secondly they kept the middle of the tree open so light could get in there.  Thirdly the trees were kept to a certain height for ease of picking.  As time went on people let the trees grow a bit taller and made A-shaped ladders to reach the olives on the upright branches.


You can see here how large and tall they can grow if not farmed.  When we arrived here this tree was like a huge Oak tall with growth around the base so much so that we didn’t realise there were actually three trunks.  So I set to and lopped them halfway up then let the branches sprout leaving a few branches to produce olives.  I have to say that it still needs to be pruned again climbing a ladder to cut the branches so we can get at the olives is a risky business at our ages.

But olive trees are a hardy bunch, they have to be up here.  They put down long roots to find water  80 mts down is an underground river and I know that some trees put roots down a lot further than that.  So they have over the centuries found the water,  but they also have to fight the bugs that live in the ground some of which attack a tree from the middle eating it away they then turn into large black beetles which lays eggs in the ground near a tree and so it goes.  The result is that the olive tree will repair itself even when the centre is hollow and this can be a little daunting when hit by lightning, however  the roots may be burnt but the tree still goes on.

And this is just the start, so here

the introduction.

(c)  Michael Douglas Bosc  –  Author

Read Full Post »

20140503_175144 (640x480)

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.

20140503_162946 (640x480)


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.

20140503_163220 (640x480)

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.



20140503_163551 (640x480) 20140503_163607 (640x480) 20140503_163618 (640x480) 20140503_190925 (640x480)


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.

20140503_172605 (640x480)20140503_172610 (640x480)

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.

20140503_174334 (640x480)

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.


20140503_174031 (640x480)



20140505_103614 (640x480) 20140505_103555 (640x480)

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





















Read Full Post »

DSCF0667 (640x480)[1]

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.

039 (640x480)[1]

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.

020 (640x480)[1]

 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.


035 (640x480)[1]

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




Read Full Post »


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.

DSCF4457 (640x480) (640x480) (640x480)

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.

DSCF4464 (640x480) (640x480) (640x480)

DSCF4462 (640x480) (640x480) (640x480)

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.

DSCF4481 (640x480) (640x480) (640x480)

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.

DSCF4470 (640x480) (640x480) (640x480) DSCF4468 (640x480) (640x480) (640x480) DSCF4467 (640x480) (640x480) (640x480)

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.


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.


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





Read Full Post »

DSCF4408 (640x480)

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…

.043 (640x480)

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….

DSCF4409 (640x480)

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.

DSCF4410 (640x480)

DSCF4411 (640x480)DSCF4433 (640x480)

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….

DSCF4412 (640x480)

DSCF4414 (640x480)DSCF4415 (640x480)

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.

DSCF4427 (640x480)DSCF4425 (640x480)

DSCF4424 (640x480)

DSCF4423 (640x480) DSCF4421 (640x480) DSCF4418 (640x480) DSCF4417 (640x480)

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.

DSCF4428 (640x480) DSCF4429 (640x480) DSCF4431 (640x480)

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.

DSCF4432 (640x480)

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

Read Full Post »

DSCF3328 (640x480)

Ahhh September! This is the time of year when we would normally be visiting the Cellers to see how their wine is made. But this year it has been a little difficult for me to do so. However things are back to normal now so I decided to take a look at some of my articles before once again setting off in search of more wines. So here are a few with their links hope you enjoy this stroll.

DSCF1604 (640x451) (640x451)DSCF1572 (640x483) (640x483) (640x483)

DSCF1593 (640x396) (640x396)

We have visited Mas Roig  http://bit.ly/1cUxVzG the little wine town near our home at their harvest time, and seen how the grapes are still picked by hand as not only are the terraces to small to get a mechanical picker on them, but some of these vines are bush style vines. Not grown in the straight upright lines you often see, but left to grow as a small bush like the Garnatxa grape. So because the grapes are hand-picked they come into the Celler in wagons lined with blue plastic so they do not lose any of their precious juice.

DSCF3307 (640x480)DSCF3301 (640x480)

DSCF3304 (640x480)

We have been In Batea http://bit.ly/Q3CkFm at their harvest time and seen first hand just how busy they are with the tractors bringing in the grapes and sometimes tankers taking last years wine off to places such as Lamancha, where it is used to either bulk their wine or sold on to other wine makers for blending.  Yes this does happen and there is nothing wrong in doing it. Lets face facts, if the excess wine was not used in this way it would result in ‘wine lakes’ which, unless you had a big straw and a huge thirst, would be wasted.

DSCF1603 (640x513) (640x513)DSCF3330 (640x480)

At this time of the year both the black and white grapes are full of juice, but it is the white grape which is slightly larger than the black that is used to make Muscatel a sweet golden wine.   Although this is a sweet wine, I would not class it as a ‘pudding’ wine.  It has a good body plus a fruity aroma which, so my wife informs me,  makes it very more’ish and I have only seen her ‘protective’ over one other non sparkling wine and that’s the red Garnatxa from Capsanis http://bit.ly/17hHJl0 which is more like a port but with a history.

DSCF3794 (640x480)

DSCF3785 (640x480)

Then there was the Pedrola Celler. This ia a small family run Celler http://bit.ly/100A1r5. on the outskirts of Miravet where they make a spectacular sparkling wine in the traditional way.  It might only be on a small-scale ’boutique’ style at the moment, but they have some good ideas and are quietly getting their wine out there. It is out in British market, so pay their site a visit and go find a treat.

DSCF3861 (640x480) (530x468)

DSCF3857 (640x480)DSCF3858 (640x480) (368x437)

Next is another small delight with big ideas that is doing well, the Pascona Celler in Falset http://bit.ly/199l7mJ  where some really fantastic reds are to be found.  This little known Celler is a well-kept secret at the moment but Toni and the boys are determined to make their mark with their wines grown in the three different types of  soil that crisscross this vineyard.

DSCF1882 (640x480)[1]

DSCF1891 (640x480)[1]

DSCF1884 (640x480)[1]

And finally a little Celler tucked away in the mountains of the Monsant region http://bit.ly/17hVHmS.  Here you will find a rather different wine called Castle Siurana Rancia plus again the history of a determination to bring fines wines to the world.

So with these varied and traditional cellers around I hope to be kept busy over the winter, re-visiting some and visiting other for the first time. I have not forgotten about Cava  I have given up the idea pointing my wagon in a certain direction, this time I intend to wander along the country roads and see what I find, it should be quite interesting.

(c) Michael Douglas Bosc

Read Full Post »

It’s a long time since I wrote about the local wines. Events and other things seemed to get in the way then as is often the case I was looking through the photographs and came upon this little gem. A small family run winery but with a statement all of its own, so being worth another look here it is hope you enjoy – cheers!.

DSCF3330 (640x480)

One evening I was going through my mail when I found an invitation to visit a small local Celler and see how they made their sparkling wine.  I was rather pleased as the invitation came from Judith who was kind enough to show us round the Co-operativea in Batea.  So I duly replied and on the following Saturday we set out for a Celler that was truly traditional  in every way.  This Celler which without knowing we have driven past over the years, has been here since the 1940’s providing wine for the local people of Miravet a well kept secret.

DSCF3759 (640x480)

When I pulled into the  yard I was pleased to see that this really is a working Celler that actually does things by hand.  Not here big machines that rattle bottles around to be filled then corked. In this Celler a small filling trough does the job filling 6 bottles at a time, then the bottles are taken inside where they are corked and labeled by hand.  Judith greeted me and introduced her husband Hose-Louise the wine maker, who was busy preparing the yeast for mixing with the wine. This is no simple job everything has to just right and the garvity of the yeast mix is checked before it is added to the wine. When this is done and the wine and yeast mixed well the wine is  bottled, capped then taken to the cellers for it’s 10 month fermentation.

DSCF3792 (640x480)DSCF3767 (640x480)

In the mixing room were the turning racks with bottles waiting to be de-caped then corked. These have been turned each day so the sediment arrives at the neck next the metal caps are taken of by hand no freezing the necks here, as we were to see first hand later on.

DSCF3774 (640x480)

DSCF3776 (640x480)

DSCF3775 (640x480)

Whilst Hose-Louise was busy Judith showed me round the small Celler. It is attached to her father-in-laws farm where the grapes are grown alongside peaches, apples, figs, pears and several other fruits.  The part of the Celler she took me to housed the vat of white wine which is sold to the local people of Miravet in plastic containers, or a container they may bring with them.  But she wanted to show me the ceiling which has been carefully restored down to the nails where tobacco was dried before the government decided to levy taxes so making it illegal for the farmers to grow their own.

DSCF3766 (640x480)

We then returned to see the wine being mixed in the vat. It is a process that is taken very seriously by both Hose and Judith, and with good reason the result is something rather special. These are two people with a passion for what they are doing and a vision of their wine being sampled by the world.

DSCF3797 (640x480)

DSCF3795 (640x480)

Then Judith showed us how the bottling machine worked explaining that the wine is pumped along a tube into the trough then the wine is fed into the bottles through feeder tubes when this is done they are taken to be corked or in the case of sparkling wine capped.

DSCF3771 (640x480)

Judith then fetched a bottle of sparkling wine which was ready to have its cap removed and be corked.  Holding it up to the light we could clearly see the sediment in the neck.  So following her outside to the area where the caps are removed she showed how it is done in the traditional way.

DSCF3793 (640x480)DSCF3794 (640x480)

It was wonderful to see the pride they have in the traditional ways of wine making.  They are doing a great job here both coming from the industry and villages that make some of the best wines around, they bring knowledge and ideas to their wines that are something else.

DSCF3780 (640x480)

Cami de Sirga: This is a smooth fresh and fruity wine made from Sauvignon and Macabeu grapes.  It is a wine perfect with fish, salads or chicken a wine I would pick for my table.

DSCF3790 (640x480)

Vi Dolc: This is a sweet wine made from Muscatel and Macabeu grapes.  There is the aroma of figs, almonds and honey, whilst on the tongue you get the hint of sultanas.  This wine is 16% vol and would go well with cheese.

DSCF3791 (640x480)

Vi D’Aperitiu: This is a rather good Vermouth, made by mixing Vi Dolc and red wine but no sugar is added giving this wine an aroma of fruit.  This wine is perfect over ice or as it comes.  This wine is 17% vol.

DSCF3788 (640x480)

Cavi de Sirga:  This is a sparkling wine that is something special. The grapes used are Sauvignon Blanc and Macabeu which give this wine its body and clean crisp taste. This is not a sweet wine but its smooth with a clear pale golden colour and small bubbles slowly rising the sign of a good sparkling wine which has a certain style of its own. My first taste seemed to indicate lemons but the next was smooth leaving a desire for more. I could happily have spent the afternoon sitting in the sun drinking this wine.

Although Hose and Judith produce white wines they have two reds that will give their white wines some competition.  Judith let me taste each of them to see what I thought.  The first a young fruity red with good legs/tears a light but solid colour. To my pallet it was perfect.  The other red was too dry for my taste and I thought it could do with maturing in a barrel, this was what she and Hose thought and the wine was from the barrel still busy working away to its final strength, which I am sure will be a very fine dining wine.

These two people have a passion for wine making and their heritage, resulting in some fine wines being produced.  They not only have passion but also a vision of their wines being drunk by the world.  You know what I think they will make it too.

If you would like to try some of these amazing wines  you can contact them by e-mail at  pedrola97@yahoo.com enjoy.

© Michael Douglas Bosc

Read Full Post »

I have been wanting to write about Cava for a long time now, but I was looking for something special, that magical touch, that feeling I cannot put into words but is most definitely there.  I was beginning to think that unlike the Cellers I have written about  it did not exist, until, that is, Josep M Ferret Guasch invited me to visit his Celler and see how he made his Cava.

So one wintry Wednesday afternoon found my wife and I driving to the Penedes region.  It is here in the foothills of the Pyrenees and bordered by the mystical Montserrat mountains to the northeast that Cava is produced.  We have passed by on our way to Barcelona but never ventured into the region until now.  At Villafranca we turned north and headed into the gently rolling plain, covered by vines now wearing their autumn colours basking in the last rays of autumn sun. Dotted here and there were pretty well-kept houses, each a producer of wine and Cava.   As we drove along the country road, we saw signs indicating various Cellers, some with old traditional presses on the road side letting you know they made wine.  In this relaxed way we drove on through two small towns savouring the sights untill we saw the sign we wanted and turned right.

We did not have far to drive, up a little hill, along a small road and there was the Celler facing us.  I parked the car and we looked around.  Here was a peaceful scene, houses set back in vineyards, the sun casting a wintry golden glow over everything, and joy of joys here was that feeling again.  We walked round to the entrance and rang the bell. Suddenly a big shaggy head appeared gave a deep woof then looked towards the office, from which a lady appeared and let us in once she had put ‘woof ‘ in his kennel, I do like dogs.

We were made welcome and shown into the courtyard first so my wife could take photographs. Whilst we were doing this and admiring the Celler and house our greeter left us to inform Josep we had arrived.  On her return we were taken into the reception where there is a large brazier with tables and chairs plus a small bar. On the walls are various pictures. One is of the Saint for Catalan farmers, another is a wall hanging from Japan. Josep is proud of this, Japan is one of the countries that buy’s his Cava.

Josep’s family began making wine in 1907, when his grandfather opened his small Celler.  In those days everything was done by hand and gravity, making for backbreaking work.

Then the grapes were brought to the hopper and fed into it by hand then two men turned the wheels crushing the grapes. Next they were placed into the large presses to get the maximum juice which then ran out of the press into channels and down to the vats below, more hard work.

In 1941 his father opened his own Celler and began to make wine and Cava. Here Josep worked and learnt his trade, but being the man he is he wanted to make his own label so in 1997 his took over his grandfather’s Celler and so began a labour of love.

When Josep first started out with his wife and two young children he was using the original equipment his grandfather used.  Everything was done by hand and gravity, it was backbreaking, but Josep held to his vision.  He worked hard transforming a vast vault of a Celler into two stories above the caves where the Cava matures.  On the ground floor you find the modern bottling plant.

Here just before it’s final corking the Cava is placed into an ‘ice ring’, here the neck is frozen then the bottles are placed on a belt that takes them to a uncapping machine. This first removes the metal cap then the sediment is drawn out, the bottle then moves to the next procedure where it is topped up with Cava from another bottle. After this comes the cork, wire cap then finally metal cover is added, once this is done the bottles are set to age.  You will note, that unlike Champagne, at no time is extra sugar added the grapes are sweet enough not to need it.

We also find the small caves which are named after his son and daughter each containing racks of Cava  several rows deep.  To make the Celler workable Josep placed begers across the celler  filled them with pots (concrete beams infilled with terracotta ‘pots’ typical way of building) creating a ceiling downstairs and useable floor space upstairs. Up here he has lovingly preserved the original presses and crusher of which he is very proud and you can also see the date that his grandfather began making wine. There is also a tasting room and storage area here.

Then it was back down stairs into the caves themselves.  Here Josep showed us the bottling machine where he bottles both his wines and Cava.  This machine is cleansed twice with hot water before it is used for bottling so that everything is sterile. Only when this is done will the wine be pumped down then he begins his work.

After the Cava has been bottled it is taken through to the caves to begin it’s maturing, depending on the type of Cava he is making the time will vary from between 9 to 33 weeks.  Here the bottles are checked and turned to prevent the sediment from settling and encourage it to gravitate towards the neck.  If you hold the wine to the light you can see the sediment as a musty line. These days Josep uses a machine that gently turns the bottles from horizontle to neck down thus ensuring the sediment is in the neck ready to be disposed of.

In the sample room are bottles in racks or lying on the table and Josep can tell you exactly which part of the cave holds the twin of a particular bottle. Beside this Josep has a small blending lab where he blends his Cava and wine to perfection.

We have just visited the final stages but now we are going to the beginning.  This is a small Celler producing high quality wines and Cava, so I was not surprised to see the same compact machinery that I have seen before.

Here you will find the vat where the yeast is added, this is left for around 24hrs then the process is stopped after this the wine is placed into vats to ferment.

In the room behind this one is the automated de-stalker and squeezed – this is most important – not pressed. This operation is run by a pump which when the pipes are connected takes the juice from there to the vats.

All this Josep has done on his own. The building, the blending everything, a true labour of love and a real feel for quality, no factory production here, just plain tradition with a dedication to quality. His son now works with him as well as his wife, and on Saturday’s his daughter holds classes in the reception, this really is a family business. Yes Josep has a small Celler but from it comes quality Cava, no large-scale manufacturing here, just wonderful, lovingly made good quality Cava.

As the wines and Cava’s here are of high quality, you will not find them in supermarkets, this is the Cava you place on the table at festive times or for parties when you want to ensure your guests are drinking something special. The Japanese like quality and know a good Cava when they taste it.  The first Cava Josep produced he called:

Grand RVA Brut Nature  VALLDEFERRET  it is a blending of both surnames of his wife’s family and his. Such romance.

The grapes used to make this excellent Cava are Macabeo, Xarel-lo, Parellada, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. This results in a soft golden wine where the bubbles rise to a crown.  The Bouquet is of light summer fruit with a hint of sweet spices.  The Taste: It has a light creamy taste with lingering aftertaste, bring memories of warm fires and good friends. This Cava spends 90 months aging.

Next comes Grande Reserve Brut Nature Sara  this Cava is named after his daughter.

The grapes used for this are: Xarel-lo, Parellada, Chardonnay and Macabeo, giving this wine a pale straw colour with just a hint of a green tone the bubbles are small and again form a small crown. The Bouquet there are tones of apple and pear with a hidden hint of flowers.  The Taste: Although this is a long aging wine – 48 months – it is fresh and light the Chardonnay giving it that something special.

Next is Brut Nature Grand Reserve

The grapes used here are  Xarel-lo, Parellada and Macabeo, giving once again a gentle straw colour with a greenish tint with bubbles forming a small crown.  The Bouquet: A gentle fruity aroma.  The Taste: Light and fresh with a gentle floral taste.  This one we drank one evening it lifted us back to the summer a perfect sipping Cava.

Now comes Brut Nature Reserve

The grapes for this are Xarel-lo, Parellada and Macabeo this wine has a light greenish colour fresh and clear.  The Bouquet: It is persistent light and slightly fruity.  The Taste: Fresh and young very much a super Cava after 30 months aging.

Finally Brut Nature Rose Grand Reserve

This is a spectacular Pink Cava. A beautiful pinky reddish colour with bubbles in abundance, that when they form the crown look classic.  The grapes used to produce this gem are Pinot Noir, Garnatxa and Trepat. The Bouquet:  You can smell the grapes here whilst there is a hint of age. The Taste: it’s fresh with a red currant lean plus persistent bubbles. It is aged for 36 months.

Well there you are, some of the most special Cavas I have tried.  I have to say that given the choice between champagne and Josep M Ferret Guasch Cava there is no contest this Cava would win every time. Try them contact Josep M Ferret Guasch on: ferretguasch@ferretguasch.com or visit www.ferretguasch.com  and enjoy A Cava Of Passion.

(c) Michael Douglas Bosc

Read Full Post »

DSCF3558 (640x480)

“Once upon a time in a monastery vineyard far far away, the monks were looking rather dour.  They had been producing wine for many many years, good wine, but always they felt something was missing what they did not know.  Until one day Brother Rene returned from a pilgrimage and told them how he had been overcome and a monastery in Catalunya  just the other side of the Pyrenees had taken him in and made him well. Brother Rene then went on to tell about this fabulous wine they made. It tasted wonderful, sparkled and was alive with bubbles that tickled your nose, but it made you feel rejuvenated, well that’s how he felt.

The wine makers pho-hoed him but Brother Rene insisted he was right, so two of the monks went to see for themselves.  They were away for a very long time and everyone thought they must have been set upon by robbers and  killed.  Then one day they were seen approaching the monastery gate riding a cart with what looked like grapevines in it.  Well the vintner monks were so happy to see they were alive that at first they didn’t ask about the cart, but eventually they did.

The Brothers took from their cart a carefully wrapped book and some flagons.  This book contained instructions on how to make CAVA and which grapes were best to use.  They then removed the flagons which contained some very nice wine – which disappointed the other monks as they wanted to try this CAVA – but there were no bottles of Brother Rene’s rejuvenating CAVA.  The two Brothers then explained that no matter how hard they tried they could not get the bottles to travel as every bump in the road shook them and they burst. However all was not lost,  the monastery had kindly given the Brothers some of the vines so the monks planted them and waited for them to grow.

Well the monks tried out the recipe following the instructions and sure enough they had CAVA.  One day whilst enjoying their wine a monk asked why it was called CAVA.  Brother Rene said that although it was made in Catalunya it was actually made in the Cava region so the monastery had decreed that should be its name. This news was a little disconcerting after all they could not have other monks saying they had stolen their wine, so they decided that as their monastery was in Champagne they would call their wine Champagne…..”

I was told this story by someone, whether it is true or not I cannot say, but I like to think it is. What I can say is that my visit to the Cava Celler of Josep M Ferret Gausch taught me a lot.  Again, here was a small producer, but his love for his product was not only audible but tangible you could see and feel it. Here was a man who produced a wonderful wine, I again had the same feeling that has followed me through all my visits to the Cellers of Catalunia. Hardworking vintner’s, with a good knowledge of wine, happy but throughly immersed in their belief of what they are doing, plus a true and soul felt delight in Catalunia wines.

You can go to the supermarkets and buy Cava such as Frexinet cheaply, but if you want quality Cava then you need to pay, just as you do for Champagne.  So why don’t people drink more Cava outside of Spain? The British do, they love Cava, but I do not think they know why. The reason is simple, Champagne has sugar added to it just before it’s final corking, in an attempt to reduce the acidity, but basically all that happens is the acidity just levels it out.  Cava on the other hand, does not need anything added, the grapes of the Cava region get so much sun there is no need to add sugar it’s already in the grapes, thus making the wine more natural, more gentle, more pleasing to the taste than Champagne.

I am so grateful to Josep M Ferret Gausch for allowing me the privilege of writing about his Celler.  All my articles have been about the wine and Cellers of Catalunia,  their pride, history, tradition and the love of what they do, the result has been something spectacular, untill now, this last visit is just superb…

The article will be out soon so make a note of the contact number and try some quality Cava……

(c)  Michael Douglas Bosc

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: