Posts Tagged ‘traditions’


Today is St Georges Day, both here and in the UK. St George is England’s patron Saint although you would not know it, he is also Catalonia’s Saint and this is where the difference can be seen.  In England the 23rd of March usually passes without a notice let alone a mention of tv, which basically says a lot about the Church of England and Government.

The Church of England for what ever reason does not actively encourage the people to remember their own Saint. Perhaps they are more concerned with offending others, why I cannot say but there is no big mention like there is on St Davids day.  As for the Government well, we could have a National Saints Day if only to prove we are English and England is our country, but I doubt if any of them are THAT patriotic.

However here St George is celebrated in true style.  Today is the day when the men give the women they love a red rose and the women give the men a book.  It actually says quite a lot about tradition and pride in your country. The rose which was blooming and white was drenched in the dragons blood when George gave it to the fair maiden he had saved hence the red rose.  The book for St George was, I presume, a token of gratitude which like the book and in all true traditions became a token of love.  There is also a tradition of giving a yellow rose to friends so it is possible for everyone to get a rose.

As for me well my wife has her garden of roses she writes poems and I write books.  Our hallway has a book case and I don’t want another book but I expect I will buy her another rose.  We have the red rose of love, the yellow rose of friendship, the white rose of purity and several shades in between.  I have what I want we have been married for 49 years this year ups and downs like everyone else  so I think the rose garden covers everything oh yes and there is a Peace rose in there I can tell it by its perfume and colour they were bought to celebrate peace.

Happy Saint Georges Day Everyone

© Michael Douglas Bosc




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We were at Club Nautique again last Saturday for their Muleta Regatta, but it turned out to be much more than that, it was a celebration of tradition.  This was a day of races in boats that worked this river for centuries, bringing goods from the sea up into the heart of Northern Spain. These are the traditional working costumes of the Sirgadoors, the men who pulled the Muletas up river.

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The Muletas are the original boats that worked the river.  They were moved along with oars made from  timber which have handles carved into one end and flats carved on the other.  If you look closely at the boats you will see there are posts on the gunwales these are what the oars are tied to so they can be rowed.

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We were treated to a demonstration of Muleta towing. As you can see this was hard work even with the Muleta being rowed, but men had to do it as in some places along the river the path was so narrow only men could walk. Their ancestors used Concha horns to let other river users know they were either towing up river or rowing down, there are places along the Ebre between the mountains where these horns must have echoed loud and clear for several kilometers.

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People often forget that for many many years the Rio Ebre was a major trading artery. If you take a look on every high point along it’s route you can find the ruins of Templer castles like the one at Miravet. Eventually the Templars became rich enough to tempt Popes and Kings to take it from them.  However, the people who actually generated this wealth were the Sirgadoors, who as they dragged the cargo boats up the Ebre against the fierce flow, paid taxes to these Knights for safe passage.

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It also used to flood quite regularly, but today the river has been tamed. Dams and weirs have been built with hydro and nuclear power stations along its banks.  Where it flows past Club Nautique there are quiet back eddies where the fishermen sit watching their lines waiting for the catfish or carp dreaming of the big one. On the bank Club Nautique sets out its tables and chairs so we can enjoy the summer and watch the young people training and making preparations for their regattas.


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We arrived to find the club a hive of activity, boats being made ready, people picking their tables whilst others were chatting to friends. looking up the road we could see people sitting on the river wall watching the events unfold. I managed to find a table at the top of the slope leading down to the hard, from here we could see everything which was perfect. As we looked around we could see there were chairs set out on the hard over looking the pontoon. These were ready for the arrival of the Carnival Prince and Princess, and the band which accompanied them. This band is made up of young people and they really can play.

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They arrived walking down the street wearing their traditional dress and followed by the band playing and took their places on the hard with the young band seated behind them. This was a relaxed event and everyone settled down to enjoy themselves.  The band played at the beginning of each race to send the boats on their way down river to the bridge where they turned then raced back again.

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Then we settled down to watch the races.  The boats set off from the club and had to row down to the bridge turn and row back against the flow.  They had a really hard job of it but everyone  enjoyed themselves.  Here are the start of the races and some of the boats.

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They ended the regatta with watermelons  being thrown into the river and the youngsters swimming for them.

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The ambulance actually had a customer he had hurt his wrist and all the police had to do was watch and enjoy, such a nice day.

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As always at this club people enjoy themselves. It is a club that is family orientated with activities for all ages.  There is a football area, a small swimming pool besides the sailing.  Looking after us all this weekend were these tired but happy people.

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Oh and this young man was still working after the event and yes that is a happy smile on his face, wonderful.

(c) Michael Douglas Bosc

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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

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Whilst reading through posts from my friends on Facebook I came across one from El Brogit Guiatges which interested me. They are keen to get people involved with the countryside, vineyards and Cellers to promote the great wine of the Monsant region.  You can go on various walks taking from a half day to three/four days, they also aim to promote the natural history and beauty of the Monsant Mountains. So loving wine, being interested in nature and in need of some exercise I decided we would join them on their walk to this Sunday.

Look at the map of the roads in the Monsant and Priorat regions and they appear as thick lines some not as thick but only slightly wiggly.  In real life however they are very wiggly! On a beautiful sunny morning, we took the road from Falset into the mountains along a very sneaky snaky road. Round bends that bent, corners, twists and turns to the top of the pass, from where the view of the valley was encompassing. From here it was a meander into the valley and Porrera, passing people in the fields picking hazelnuts, before taking another road upwards and onwards to our destination in Cornudella de Monsant, where we arrived around 10.00am.

On arrival we were greeted by one of our guides Meritxell a pleasant young lady who spoke good English and introduced us to Sergi our other guide.  After we were all assembled and been handed our tickets for the Celler we set off up through the village and out into the countryside.

I did say walk didn’t I? Well for me it was more of a hike but a very spectacular one.  Walking out of the village we began to climb towards the fields and the top of a ridge. The beginning was about a 30dgs climb, I am not used to this degree of exercise so it was head down one foot forward. Wow! look at the views Siurana to the east, with its lake glittering in the sunlight.

Now the climb was getting steeper, and the younger people were getting ahead of me but they paused to wait for my wife and Meritxell to catch up photographs had been taken.  So turning again we started upwards, it looked so steep and the mesa looked very high, no wonder they have a climbing centre here.  Then we reached a field just below the ridge and stopped for something to drink and a rest.

The views from here were even more beautiful.  Off we set again on the last part of our climb then as they say it was all down hill towards the hermitage of San Juan.  This is an old chapel used by the Cistercian Monks, but even they did not like the long climb so halfway up there is a shrine which they used. As for the farmers, they were so poor that they could not afford a chapel so they made do with a large rock ‘rock of prayer’ where they went to pray when in the fields.

Arriving at the Chapel we found there was a spring and after filling water bottles we wandered round to the front. Here we were divided into two teams and played a game of charades, everyone taking part with laughter.

We had just finished this when a Pirate appeared and handed the two team captains an envelope for the treasure hunt so off we went down towards the lower fields in search of treasure.

Once in the fields the captains opened the envelopes and looked at the treasure map, somewhere in amongst the 60 to 70-year-old vines were two keys which when matched with pictures would reveal the prize.  Well we found the keys and grapes, now what? then we saw a monk walking towards us carrying two bags. He welcomed us and said the captains should match their keys against those on the bags, when they were opened one had a bottle of wine inside the other had pieces of paper one with a mark on it so whoever picked it won the wine.  A young lady won to cheers and laughter (there was a lot of that) we took group pictures then made our way down to the Celler Baronia del Monsant.

These walks are not only interesting but fun. You see the countryside, meet people and generally enjoy a good walk.  If you are interested, you can contact Meritxell or Sergi on www.elbrogit.com/home.html    Happy Walking


The Celler

The Celler was a big surprise. Most of the Cellers we have visited were large, but this one is small and like a pocket Venus, small, but perfectly formed.

As you enter there is the shop selling the 6 wines they make here and displaying their prize certificates for their wines. Behind this is the area where in the harvest the grapes are brought to be processed. A young lady called Laura was our guide round the Celler, very helpful and informative.  Unlike other areas, tractors cannot harvest these fields so all picking is done by hand, and because of the weather up here grapes can take longer to ripen.  So they are brought to the Celler in grey boxes not trailors, then processed in the electric machines that like the Celler are small but perfect.

There is the machine where the stalks are separated, next to that is the crusher from where the grapes are pumped downstairs, all on castors so they can be moved around for storage.  Just to one side of the celler door is the bottling unit, and from here 90% of the wine is sold abroad.

Down stairs you find around 14 stainless steel vats, and to my surprise they use the open top method. Here the grape skins float to the top and form a crust which is kept damp by spraying grape juice over them thus preventing bacteria from forming and spoiling the wine.   From here the wine is placed into Oak barrels to mature.  These barrels are made from either American oak which gives the wine a vanilla note and French oak which gives the wine a spicy note.  It is only when the wine has matured that it is blended, until then each variety of grape is processed on its own.  The barrels are dated when the wine is put in and then the date when they are ready for blending is placed near the top so the blender can see when it is ready.

Then we came to the tasting of the 6 wines produced here. The first from the Garnatxa grape was ‘flor d’englora garnatxa 2009’. This wine I enjoyed immensely it was light and a little on the sweeter side which, in my opinion, was perfect for sipping at the end of the day sitting on the terrace watching the stars.  The other wines that followed became increasingly drier, ideal in my opinion, to be drunk with well hung beef or game, the last was a softer blend. But I have to say that my personal preference  was for the flor d’englora garnatxa.

This is an interesting Celler which needs further investigation so I am hoping to visit it again soon. This time to delve more into its history and the blending of the wines. If you would like to taste some of these wines and savour the flavours or match them with various meals you can find them on www.baronia-m.com  or reach them on engloria@baronia-m.com .

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The Musicians

It is the time of fiestas, and one of the special nights in this country is the Correfoc, the night when by tradition the town drives the devil out. This  takes several forms, sometimes there are dragons or devils which are pushed around with fireworks attached to them, each with its own group of devils who then dance and chase their way round the streets whilst holding fireworks on long poles.  These are accompanied by drummers who beat out their music for the devils to cavort to.

The Devils

Each group has a different costume, all of which are fireproof. Their have long poles are in the shape of a 2 or 3 pronged fork, to which the fireworks are attached.  Next there is the man who lights the fireworks, he keeps watch on what is going on.  As the fireworks go out they are replaced with fresh ones lit and off they go again.  The procession dances through the streets chasing people, who run laughing and squealing out of their way.

and Us

You will see children and adults dancing under the fireworks covered up and enjoying themselves. Before they dance though they all make themselves wet at the fountains so their hair does not singe (and it can).  There is a lot of revelry but it is well organised and contrary to opinion it is safer than a bull run.

So tonight we went to El Masroig  again and had some fun.  We arrived just before the group started their display, and were very glad we came. It was fun, with lots of noise  and we were even chased by the devils.

There was a group of young people who played medieval sounding music on wind instruments similar to medieval flageolet and accompanied by a drummer. They follow the devils but stay behind the trolley carrying the fireworks as so do those of us who are not brave enough to get under the fireworks with the devils.  So here are the pictures, some smoke riven but I hope you enjoy.

This them getting ready for the off.  The man with the light in his hand is  the one who lights the fireworks, All the Devils wore thick red gloves.


Ok so they have taken us up and down the streets, chased and danced their way round the church square and are now grouped together, they are plotting something!

This was the final bit a devils tower, but no!  I noticed there were cracker strings being laid out round the square with blue lumps dotted here and there.  Then the little devils lit the blue paper stood back and the loudest noise ever erupted, so loud it rattled the windows. We all had our hands over our ears whilst laughing.  They had mixed bangers in with the firecrackers, if you look carefully at this last picture you might just see what I mean.

We have not been to El Masroigs Devils Night before but will be going again, we really enjoyed ourselves.  Not a Health and Safety bod in sight to spoil the fun long may it stay this way, this is one tradition I sincerely hope never goes away.

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