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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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“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

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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

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When I knew I was coming to England, I thoight it would be interesting to visit one of the local vineyards of Hampshire.  The one I chose is situated on the rolling Southdowns of Hampshire  just behind Portsmouth and not far from the place where Eisenhower, Churchill and Montgomery laid their plans for D Day.  Tucked away down a typical English leafy lane, small and crammed to the gunwales with their wines but very busy getting their orders out.

As I arrived after the harvest, the machinery; de-stalker, press, conveyor belt etc.,  had been cleaned and was now waiting to be put away for another year.  But I was able to see into the small building where the vats stood. It was a bit like being let loose in a grown ups world but without one being there.   Opposite was the bottling room with its racks of bottles waiting to be labeled then racked plus boxes of their wines being prepared for delivery to customers.  In a steel cage were some of the pink sparkling wine waiting their turn in the process. The staff here were very helpful and informative.

So here is a short history and story of English wine both normal and Sparkling, born out of the Romans love for it.

The history of wine making in England began when the Romans arrived.  They found they could grow grapes in this strange country, and as we know from history how fond of wine they were, the logical step was to make it so they did.  The proof that wine was being made here by the Romans, was found during the early 1980’s, when some Roman wine containers were discovered on the site of the vineyard. It was one of the reasons why the Wickham Vineyard was created, so when in 1984 after further investigations into the suitability of the area were carried out, 6 acres of vines were planted. This has since increased to 18 acres and as there are 40 acres in a total I understand that further planting is in the planning stage.

You can almost imagine the Romans making their way towards London from Portsmouth stopping off to sample some of the excellent local wine before continuing their journey.

English history was as perverse as anything so when, as history informs us, Henry the 8th decided the monasteries had too much wealth and power he destroyed them, unfortunately in doing so the art of English wine making declined as well. But it is thanks to one or two of the aristocracy the vineyards did not completely die out. Plus King Charles the 2nd was hiding in this area on his flight to France, who knows he might have tasted the wine whilst waiting for his boat and escape.

In 1984 Wickham vineyard was planted by John and Caroline Charnley, and thus began a small but busy vineyard making sparkling wine alongside reds, whites and beer.

The vineyard is planted on gentle south-facing slopes, a necessity in the northern hemisphere. There is a large English oak tree in the centre, standing like a natural guardian over the vines.  These are encouraged to grow upwards before they extend their shoots like arms which drape gracefully downwards allowing the grapes to hang like earrings from elegant ladies. This system is called the Geneva Double Curtain, which is perfect for growing vines that are of low yield,  because it can increase the yield by around 50%.   Having visited this vineyard when we lived in England I have memories of the grapes ripening on the vines.

As you can see from these pictures the bottling and shed is packed to capacity.  The bottles waiting in the metal rack have had yeast added then a bottle cap is used to seal them whilst the process continues. They are then tipped so that the bubble can be drawn after which they are topped up, corked, labeled ready for storage and sale as sparkling wine.

Opposite this area is another building which contains the vats and other equipment for the processing of the wine, whilst outside we found boxes of wine on their pallets ready for despatch.

There is as with all vineyards and Cellers a shop which sells their products and a wide range there is too.  The red wines are just as I like them not to dry, but perfectly balanced for sipping, although I think they would complement a meal nicely.  As you can see from these awards the wines are doing very well and helping to promote English wine.

I have to say that these are not handed out willy nilly, so the fact that there are 5 on the shop wall dictates that here is some fine English wine, worthy of investigation.  I will add though, that since I live in a wine growing region the pleasure I get is from sipping wine.  I look at it like this; if I can sit and sip a wine that is to my pallet’s liking it is good.  If it is a little drier than I personally like, then drunk with a meal it will be fine.  And yes, I think that Wickhams Sparkling Wine can give Champagne a run for its Euro’s.

This vinyard grows 10 different varieties of grape including Pinot Noir, Triomphe, Dornfelder, and Rondo, are used for the reds, whilst the white is made from Reischensteiner, Wurtzer, Kerner,  Bacchus, Faber, and Schoenburger.  The soil here is a mixture of chalk, gravel and clay, ideal for growing vines because of the excellent drainage plus mineral content, and is the same soil as the Champagne region, hence it’s perfect for their sparkling wine.

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