Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Spanish wine’

006 (640x480)[1]

Well another week with the weather people promising rain and not delivering. Mind you all around us its been pouring, and my wife even did the washing in the hope it would rain but it was all dry before the clouds got here and no still no rain.  Oh well at least the drop we had during the Tuesday night watered the garden, and yesterday afternoon it got so hot and humid that I really thought we were in for a storm, but even though the clouds gathered nothing came of it as they decided to bog off somewhere else mind you I did my impression of ‘The Flash’ as I dodged the six drops of rain that did fall.

001 (640x480)[1]

Now this picture of me working at the airport is about as near as you’ll get to me in class.  Last day at school today and we got our certificates to say we can speak and understand Spanish (oh yeh??).  Oh yes and here’s something you did not know Walthamstow has moved to Ireland, they had got me down as Irish…I do so love these people. Mind you its not as if they don’t know me I spent two years trying to learn Catalan Oi Vey…..

009 (640x480) DSCF4736 (640x480) (566x363)

I found this old photo of the tree outside the house so I put a few together to give you an idea of how things have changed.    From an overgrown lump to a clear space for the birds water bar and ‘Sam’s’ garden, with a new wall plenty of bulbs plus the odd plant.  You can also see the beginnings of the new flower bed (just in front of me) this was taken through the netting of the fly free zone and the grape vine which this year has taken off.

 

DSCF4908 (640x480) 20150331_084728 (640x480)

DSCF4915 (640x480)Now the reason I have included this last picture is because a friend of mine will appreciate it,  This is the tree I have been pruning and managed to pull my shoulder muscles – and no Pat NO chain saw…  So the result is that I shall be missing the petanca competitions this year but no matter there is always next year.

Right we are off on a road trip. I have always wanted to see the white horses of the Camaguey and as France is just up the road we are off for three days.  Now it should be an interesting trip as once we are on the E17/AP7  it goes all the way there but I bet we get lost we always do so cars filled up clothes packed maps at the ready hit the road Mike…….

 

(c)  Michael Douglas Bosc

Read Full Post »

“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.

Read Full Post »

The village of Corbera D’Ebre is in the Terra Alta wine region around 3 kilometers from Gandesa.  It is here that the last battle of the Spanish Civil War in this region was fought. This is not only a story of war but also a story of wine, regrowing out of death, destruction, and hardship. Of the people’s struggle and determination to regain their lives, to produce the wines that are enjoyed today, it’s about a village, a co-operative, a band of brothers, a celler born out of austerity.

It is July 15th 1938. The Republican armies have stormed across the river Ebro in small boats, all the bridges having been destroyed by German bombers practicing their skills for the blitz on England.  The fighting was fierce.  It ranged across mountainous terrain, through the valley’s and passes. The infantry based attack pushed the Nationalists back inland onto the flat ground of the Terra Alta. Here, Corbera D’Ebre is sited in a perfect defence position built on one of three hills, good all round views overlooking land that funnelled towards Gandesa.

The battle was intense and total, the village destroyed, most of the people had left for Aragon or Miravet to escape the destruction. Today the remains of the original village are tended as a memorial to those who fought and died, a monument, a grim reminder of war and death. The original church stands proud against the skyline a marker to the memorial.

Today the people have started to restore it using it as an exhibition and cultural centre if you look carefully you can still see the bullit holes made by heavy rounds.

The battle of the Ebre lasted four months, destroying Republican forces and effectively ending the Civil War, although the war continued until April 1939.  Many people left Spain, entering Southern France as stateless refugee’s. But their suffering was to continue with the fall of France and a Vichy government.  These people were eventually deported to concentration camps in the east as slave labour, some survived…

On your way to or from the church you will pass this plaque, a remembrance to those who died, a wall of small plaques each with the imprint of a child’s hand a poignant reminder…

Ernest Hemingway was a war correspondent and reported the battle at Corbera D’Ebre for the North American Newspapers being one of the last to cross back over the Ebre. George Orwell was among many who made up the International Brigades and fought for the Republican Army which were all disbanded shortly after, this was the longest and bloodiest battle of the Civil War, a final loosing throw of the dice.  It is quite likely that both these men drank and enjoyed the local wines.  After the battle people began to return to Corbera beginning to pick up their lives again, replanting fields that were destroyed,  finding unexploded bombs or shells which cost lives. Replanting where needed, tending olive and almond trees, but more importantly the vines.   The village built the co-operativa brick by brick, dug the large holes to contain the concrete tanks to hold both olive oil and wine. The people who whilst this was being done still produced their wines in the traditional way.

The celler kindly allowed me to use these pictures, they can tell this part of the story far better.

                                        The Begining
 

 
 
 
Today

The Celler like others in the area has underground vats which can hold 450 ltrs of wine, plus a few above ground which are still used today for the wines they produce on site.  Because these vats are naturally insulated by the earth they allow the wine to stay a constant temperature thus many years ago the vintners were way ahead in the green stakes. Also found in the celler are the maturing barrels, stacked here and there.

They have also used some of the underground vats, opened them to make a wine celler.  Here because of the temperature, they can store bottles and barrels.  The vaults are constructed from a few of the underground vats which have had arches built into them, the walls cleaned, to make the perfect celler.

In the next building are the stainless steel vats. From here this wine is placed into tankers and carried to the Celler UNIO where it is blended and bottled.  Celler UNIO is a large celler. Corbera supplies bulk mature wine for bottling, this is available in Tesco’s, and many restaurants in the Barcelona area.

My wife was shown round the celler by two young ladies Montse and Elizabeth.  Montse works in the main office of the Celler and it was she who showed us the pictures.  Elizabeth speaks English so she accompanied them answering questions, she is also the Wine Blender. Then there is Carlos, he is the man in charge of the Celler. Nice people who love their work and take a pride in it.

As you enter the co-operativa, you will find facing you barrels which contain the wines. This is where you can take your own containers, have them filled with your preferred wine, something which I think is most civilised as does the village.  In the display you will also find the Olive Oil sitting as they should be side by side as if at the dining table.

The local wines sold here are Mirmillo and Mas del Tio, both of which are pleasent to the palet and very resonably priced. These wines are mainly for local consumption, and can be found in bottles or it can also be purchased in bulk from the barells in the entrance  hall.  Yes we do go there for some of our wine, we are made welcome and they know what we like.

Read Full Post »

El Celler Cooperatiu Del Pinell de Brai

I was wondering what to do today as it was one of my wandering days. The sort of day when you want to do something but don’t really know what.  I have been trying to get to El Pinell de Brai, a small village in the Terra Alta region of Cataluna, amongst some of the finest wine makers in the region.I was actually trying to visit the Co-opratieva there. This is a grand building which hides within its walls vast concrete vats. However when we arrived it was the wrong time and day so we have an appointment for tomorrow morning.  As we were leaving the building, my wife spotted a small cellar opposite and we wandered over to have a look.

Celler Serra de Cavalls

What we found was a little gem just like those small vineyards in the champagne region of France, excellent wines without the hype. This vintner uses five growers to produce excellent wine in the traditions of their ancestors but using modern equipment. The results, although with a limited production, are some very fine wines which, I might add although having drank them and been delighted with their flavour, I never for a moment thought I would find the cellar. The wines are, for their quality, reasonably priced from a very good 5€ up to  an excellent 12€.  I have not tried the Blac Barrel but it is definitely on my list. I now know where some of my Petanca friends go for their wine.

The vines used are Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, white Garnatxa and black Garnatxa all of which are grown naturally, no chemical sprays, hence the distinctive taste and bouquet. However you will not find vast hillsides of vines, this is not the way we do things here.  Instead you will find small farms (fincas) dotted around with vineyards who, when the time is right bring their grapes to be pressed. It is  very much a farming community, and they are true to their history they speak Catalan which, as we have found out is a very hard language to learn, but if you live in the countryside (Campo) you have to speak the language.

The Shop

So this morning I returned to Pinell de Brai, to tour the La Catedral del VI, the co-operative cellar to you and me.

This Is Where The Tour Begins

After a beetle invaded the vines and caused untold damage, leaving farmers with little or no income. Some left and went to the cities, others decided to stay replant new vines and start over. Then they got together and decided to form a co-operative, they would grow the grapes and decided that someone who knew how to make the wine would run the cellar. This did two things: First it left the farmers free to concentrate on growing the grapes and second with someone who know how to make wine in charge of the co-op there would be no falling out. So they began to build..

Concrete Vats Each Holding 30,000 Ltrs

They installed concrete vats that held 30,000ltrs of wine, with four rows of these vats about 8 vats long and 2 deep. You can walk across the tops under the beautiful carved vaulted ceilings.

The Vaulted Ceiling

Where the caps of the vats sit like lids on the floor, and the railing which abound everywhere carry water for cleaning them.  The cellar was started in 1918 and finished in 1922, and built by a student of  Gaudi, Cesar Martinell i Brunet, who was passionate about the co-operative movement. The Spanish government was to pay for the commissioned buildings but as the bills got bigger and no money arrived the hand decorated tiles which Brunet had ordered were stored away so that no one could say the builders had been extravagant.

Further Vats and Arches

A Vat Lid

Then during the Spanish civil war, it was badly bombed but when it was rebuilt  the hand painted tiles were taken out of store and placed along the front at long last.

The Tiles In Place

As for the wines they are few but enjoyable. The Tinto is a pleasant fruity country wine with a slight sweetness. The Vi Aperitiu is a pleasant vermouth, with the distinctive taste.  There is also a cooking wine definitely not for drinking, and a white that is not exactly sweet but not sharp. The Mistela is sweet, warm and very drinkable.

It is an unfortunate fact but these days olive oil is the main product at this press with only the listed selection of wines produced. But this is a village that prides it’s self on it’s artists crafts and produce.  If you are ever in the Terra Alta region of Catalunia take a look at this Co-op it is well worth the visit and long may it be so.

 

(c) Michael Douglas Bosc  author

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: