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Posts Tagged ‘Spanish wines’

The first article I wrote on my exploration of the wines of the regions was about the Cathedral of Pinell de Brai. This was the first time I came across the original concrete vats used for the fermenting and maturing of the wines.  So when we were in Cornudella de Monsant in October I saw a small ornate building which to me, warranted further investigation.

Built in 1919 by architect Cesar Martinelli i Brunet who was a disciple and admirer of Gaudi, and who’s major work was designing wineries using traditional materials and techniques, has made for one of the wonders of the wine world in Catalonia.  The wines I found in this small delightful traditional Celler are to be savoured.

However, that is for later.  When I was driving to Cornudella de Montsant I began to wonder if my writing and the wine were worth it.   The road to Cornudella de Montsant is a tortuous one, a real mountain pass with bends so tight you can only drive in 3rd gear, and that is on a fine summers day.  So take last Friday.  The day in the valley was grey, overcast, cold but clear when I turned off the road from Falset to start the climb over the mountains.  But as I drove on the higher I went the more the clouds came down, until I was driving in ‘fog’ with visibility that was not good.  Now and then a vehicle would suddenly appear round one of the bends so that I jumped, to say it was un-nerving was an understatement. I had thought that when I descended into the first valley my visibility would improve, wrong!  With bends so tight and a road that snaked it’s way round the sides of the mountains it was hard going.  But  eventually I arrived on the valley floor and headed for my destination in, would you believe, beautiful sunlight.

Now the village of Cornudella Montsant is located in the high valley of the river Siurana in a Park Natural being around 550 meters above sea level, whilst resting in between the Montsant and Prades Mountains. On all sides are the vineyards, now turning subtle hues of reds, browns through to orangey yellows.  The old vines standing proud and free just as they have done for hundreds of years, producing grapes that take time to ripen thus producing some of the best wines around. Truely  a wonderful vista to be greeted by.

On walking through the entrance, one of the first things you notice is that the Cathedral still retains the original wooden roof tiles and concrete vats. Whilst pillars and arches are so expertly pieced together they seem to defy the laws of gravity. Add to this the use of fine ceramic tiles with motifs in their decoration,  and you have all the marks of a lovingly built work of art, where fine wines are skilfully blended to be sold and enjoyed everywhere.

So it is no surprise to find asiles of arched beauty, that take your eye down their length making you want to know what else is hidden down them.  Here you find more of the concrete vats of interesting structure and size, they can and do hold anything up to 400 to 430 litres of wine.  As is usual for this type of building,  wine was being made here before its construction was finished, with the original capacity of one million kilos of grapes.  If you take a careful look at these photographs you will see marked on the vats their litre capacity.

The vats can be round or square, these ones are large round concrete structures, and are still being used as they were originally designed to be.  Their main advantage  is that they maintain a constant temperature regardless of the time of year, and it was here that I saw exactly how they worked.

What you can clearly see here are the tops of the vats with the vent grills. But take a look at the ‘channel’ to one side of them, here the grapes are pumped along the gully untill they reach their allotted vat, then they are sent down a tube which is connected to the ‘pipe’ you can see sticking out of the side, all done in the traditional way. The wine which comes from these particular vats is white made from the Garnache grape. Up here on top of these giants you are in the secret world of the vintners.

The wines from these vats are turned into some of the very drinkable reds that are produced here.

Castle Siurana Rancio

From the tops of the concrete vats we walked out on to a flat part of the roof, where 20-liter glass bottles were arranged in rows.  These were around 1/3rd full and it is how this particularly tasty wine is produced. It is a mellow wine obtained from a high-alcohol rosé wine, which is made from the Grenache grape giveing it its sweetness.  These are then left on the roof to ‘sun and serene’ the natural oxidation process takes around about a year so the process is done about every 6 or 7 years. After this time it goes to mellow oak vats where it is mixed with around 5,000 liters of the oldest rancid vintages in the barrels, then it goes on to follow the solera system, and is finally put into oak barrels, where it ends its aging before being bottled.

They also use the Carbonic Maceration technique, only here the vats are upright instead of on their sides.  There is only a small amount of this special wine made, but it is definitely special.

The grapes grown for the wines produced here are  White Grenache which accounts for around -70% and the Carignan grape accounting for about-30%, both of which are from ancient gnarled vines with a very low production.  The vineyards are located below the Montsant mountain range along the rocky terraces near the ancient village of Siurana, which is an old village sitting on a mountain ridge a tourist spot with spectacular views. Here the grapes mature slowly, so  great wines with unique personality are obtained.
The Wines

Castle Siurana Premium 2004

This wine has hints of coffee and balsamic with notes of black fruits that start to appear after de-canting.  This is a wine that can be bought and laid down a good basis for the start of your own celler, as it can be kept around 10 years.  It is an ideal companion for such dishes as stews and cheese, but more to my liking it is perfect for enjoying alone or with good company.

Les Troies Les Trois

This is a young red made from equal amounts of the Grenache and Carignan grapes, planted to the south of the town, which has been an ideal place for grape growing for centuries.   There is an intense red color with hints of red and black fruit, which has a pleasant freshness.

The Black Codolar

This Semicriança wine is made from the varieties Grenache and Carignan which are selected from the vineyards in Montsant Cornudella. This wine is made in the traditional manner with a maceration of 12 days.  It is then aged in oak barrels for between 4 to 6 months.  It has an aroma that is both intense and elegant, with notes of vanilla, toast, eucalyptus. The taste is pleasant, and is yet another wine ideal for sipping, another of my personal likes.

El Codolar Rosat

This is a wine made from the Grenache and Carignan grapes the blend percentage being around 60/40. It is left to macerate with the skins for 24 hours until a color sufficiently intense and beautiful is produced.  Then they bleed the juice and let it ferment at a very low temperature for about 1 month. This helps to keep the fresh and fruity aromas of the grapes, and produces a lovely ruby ​​red color, this is one for my wife.

Castle Siurana Mistela

This is made with the juice of the Grenache variety, which is left to macerate with the skins for 24 hours then ‘s’encapçala’ with alcohol to prevent fermentation, thus they maintain their sweetness. Later the juice is put into oak barrels, where it will remain for at least one year.  This is a sweet wine perfect for after dinner sipping.

Siurana Grenache Red Castle

This wine is made totally from the Grenache Red grape, of which only a few strains remain in our village. These strains are usually found amongst the vineyards and are harvested separately at the end of October. The wine is fermented in its skins for 12 days and this stops the fermentation. Next it is put into oak barrels, French and American, for 12 months, after this it is bottled unfiltered, then left to age in the bottle for at least a year.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Wines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mistela blanca:

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

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

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

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

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