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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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“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.

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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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