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TIVISSA

This time of year sees the local towns and villages having their Christmas Fairs, Tivissa is no exception. So last Saturday evening  we set off for the town. When we arrived we found a parking spot and followed the sound of children singing until we reached the old part of the town.  Here the narrow streets were packed with various stalls selling christmas decorations, perfumes and soaps as well as pottery, wines, cheese and other food goodies.  But it was as we entered one of the squares that the smell of christmas hit us  Freshly baked bread and local sweat meats, Michael had to drag me past but I got my way when we passed the square as we left.  Michael was a happy bunny he found a Barcelona grotto with the La Lega and Champions Cup had his picture taken as well.

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It was a wonderful evening lifted our spirits and we saw quite a few of our Petanca friends.  I bought some wine, bread and goats cheese.  But the best part was when we were directed to the church by one of our friends to listen to a children’s  choir and orchestra. Trying to describe it is difficult but their rendering of various songs in both Catalan and English brought tears of joy to my eyes and it was very hard NOT to sing along  a truly wonderful evening hope you enjoy the pictures.

 

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Mora L’Nova

Sunday found us just across the river at Mora l’Nova’s Christmas fair  it was here that we saw their King and his two helpers giving presents to the children and taking and placing the children’s wish letters in a large post box to send to Santa.  Here because there was a large Moorish population before El Cid, they use the Three Wise Men (Kings) as Santas and celebrate the 6th of January as the day they say the three Kings gave their presents to Jesus.  So there is a lot of tradition here and in the large community hall there were baton twirlers and drummers marching round the stalls escorting the King and his helpers to the stage.  Then a long que of children with their letters for Santa who received a bag of sweets then had their photos taken with the King.  Here’s the photos:

 

 

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So We then wandered round the stalls and I found a yellow poinsettia so bought that and it came with its own Nadal Donkey  then we were looking round and as our 51st wedding anniversary was the following Sunday Michael bought me a lovely artisan necklace it was gift wrapped and yesterday I wore it when we went out.

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We had a really lovely evening at both fairs.   Merry Christmas everyone may it be a happy and peaceful one.

 

(c) Michael Douglas Bosc

 

 

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Last weekend we decided to visit a Christmas Fair in Tivissa, so around midday we left home and headed down our little mountain valley along river road and out on to the main road.  We parked the car where we normally park for petanca and walked into the town. The first things we saw were a roundabout and bouncy castle, but where we wondered was the fair?  Now I should explain that when we say ‘fair’ in England we mean rides and stalls. However here it covers everything, so you never know what you will find at one.

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We wandered round until we found a street closed off. So being us we walked up it and found ourselves in a small square with several stalls. There were the usual cheese and craft ones including some wood carvings which were rather good. Then turning another corner and following the street we came upon the donkey rides. Then once more turning a corner we found the spot where Santa would be sitting on his chair ready to hear what the children wanted for Christmas. He hadn’t arrived at that time as he was still loading his sleigh for Christmas night.

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We carried on passing a very cold looking lady who was minding the blacksmiths stand who informed us the next demonstration would be around 5pm. From here we found a cheese stall and whilst my wife stopped to buy some I carried on to the next corner and lo and behold I had found the wine square…..

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Here were three stalls displaying their wines and one particularly caught my eye, it was from Darmos a little village not far from home, so my wife made an appointment to visit the following week. Now when we have been playing petanca at Tivissa my wife has often talked to the Alcalde (Mayor) about the local wines and this is one of the Cellers he mentioned, so I am looking forward to our visit.

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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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You will remember I wrote about The Hungry Horse/Farmhouse Inn in Portsmouth, well I’m back there, and what a difference. The last time I was here they were closing the restaurant/pub side for refurbishment, well its completed.  This pub has an affiliation with Portsmouth City and now displays its history with pride. So let me tell you about our stay.

We arrived around 7pm tired and not having eaten since early morning starving, so went to book in.  Small problem, a room! We had not booked over the internet and the place was basically full. The only room available was a ‘executive suite’ so we are now in a spacious suite with work space and ideal for that cosy supper (yep even at our age) and impressed with the whole thing. It is clean, warm and just what we wanted.

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The bed is in a wooden scroll style with a comfortable mattress, there is a pine wardrobe and dressing table/desk where I can write, bedside tables and adequate lighting.

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In the front part of the room is a comfortable leather settee with a coffee table facing a wall mounted television and a table with two chairs where I sit to use my laptop on the free WiFi. This room on the ground floor at the rear of the hotel is quiet except for the owl, his hooting made me feel quite at home but no pictures yet!!

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So now to the refurbished bit and WOW!  As we walked along the corridors to the Hungry Horse I noticed the walls were hung with new art work interspersed with pictures/paintings of  ships, sail boats and scenes of Portsmouth in times gone by.  Then there in the midst was a ‘hand bill’, looking for 3 men to crew a ship, the other was a Naval announcement of Nelson’s victory at Trafalgar with lists of those lost. It made the walk a wander as we stopped several times to look at the photographs and study the hand bill, then we passed through the doors into the new dining area.  What a difference. It was nice to find the ‘crew’ back on station plus a few new faces all with big smiles and very very busy.  This is the one thing I have noticed here they ALL smile, have time to talk and joke whilst getting on with the job of looking after everyone.

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I will start with the sports bar.  Here in the back part of the bar I found the pool tables centre stage with new seating at both ends. The television’s are still dotted around but somehow there seems to be more light and space.

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In the main part of this bar I found my only concern.  This bar is still light and airy with a large television showing the sport. Add the new carpet, different upholstered chairs and you have a cheerful place to sit, eat and watch your sport. However, I have one slight comment to make.  There are two booths in front of the bar that face a television set behind it.  This does not sound so bad except that when you go to get a drink or order food you cannot get to the bar as people are blocking it.  A group of 4 is ok they fit into the booth, but any mates have to gather round the end hence a jam. That is my one and only down comment everything else is perfect, perhaps turning these booths to face into the room and the large television would free up the walkway and bar area.

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In the dining area there have been big changes.  Firstly the main part has been opened up, circular seating installed, small booths with  televisions dotted here and there, making for spacious areas. Chairs are upholstered in a variety of fabrics give life and colour to the area. Here and there are wall dividers which allow views of other parts of the dining area, these are dressed with coloured glass vases, giving an ambiance to your dining.

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But it is the murals that give the ambiance to the dining areas, Portsmouth in all its Naval glory.  This establishment is frequented by Naval personnel and considering Portsmouths history it is very fitting.  There are no pretensions here just a cheerful welcome and good food. Mind you it did seem to be busier than ever.

The Pony Club is going strong with a new look. There is a bar and seating area for the grown ups and play area for the children.  This includes an area with a television where they can try out various Wii style activities, and the soft ball area is there but bigger – memories of Sheldon….

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I have been talking about the Hungry Horse and the Farmhouse but lets face it without the girls on reception it would all be lost.  They are the first people you see when you arrive and greet you with a friendly attitude and smile.

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They are helpful and full of information about up coming events, one of which is a wedding show on the 24th of March.   They – along with the house-ladies who make sure your room is comfortable – are people of local knowledge. Again all of this is done with a smile that is genuine and you feel as if you had just returned home.

Also in reception is a map of the Portsmouth area so you can see where you would like to visit.

© Michael Douglas Bosc

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On one of my visits to the UK  I stayed at the Farmhouse Inn Lodge which is attached to the Hungry Horse restaurant, so when my wife and I made our winter visit I booked us into the inn in the knowledge that we would be well looked after.

The Inn is situated in Burford Road just off the Eastern Road and next to Portsmouth public golf course. Was she impressed or what, I had a job to get her out of there.  The rooms are comfortable and warm with tv and free wi-fi facilities. The bathroom is well fitted out and the shower is strong and revitalising. My wife’s favourite part was being able to watch tv in bed and not have to worry about falling a sleep – usually when football is on – there, if she fell asleep, all I had to do was press a button to turn the tv off no waking up to go to bed, surprising how little things can please….

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But joking apart, we have stayed in a few hotels and this really is a comfortable place, the staff are friendly, helpful and funny, no sour faces here.  The Inn is always busy with functions such as business meetings, wedding receptions and parties. The rooms for the wedding receptions are decked out romantically and whilst we were there an RN Engineering Officer and RN Doctor were holding their reception there.  The party rooms are large and nicely decorated, there is also a ‘Pony Club’ room kitted out for the children to keep them amused.

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When we wanted something to eat we just wandered along the corridor to the Hungry Horse, where we could either eat in the dining area or the sports bar (this bar usually won). The menu is varied and value for money, especially the ‘large meals’ which having tried, and found them to be more than we could manage phew were they large, we decided to stay with the normal size meals. There are also special deals on certain days and their curry nights are something to drool over.

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The Sunday lunch is a must the carvery is superb, but make sure you arrive early this is a much sought after meal and you could find yourself having to wait mind you there is always the sports bar.

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This is a lively bar with televisions showing sport in the evenings but it is also home to Carioca nights and quizzes, so there is always something happening. They also sell a splendid range of wines including some Spanish – this pleased my wife – plus a large range of beers, ciders and the much sought after Guinness.

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At the time of our visit the Hungry Horse was due for refurbishment so on the Sunday evening the staff closed the doors and began clearing things ready for the builders and decorators. I wandered down to take a few photographs a sort of before and after thing, so take a good look at these guys, they are the people who look after you and make your time there so relaxed and fun. They are as fond of their restaurant and customers as they are of each other, this is not a job this is a way of life and as you can see they really enjoy it.  So next time you are in Historic Portsmouth be sure to stop here you will be well looked after.

Thanks to all of you see you soon really looking forward to seeing the new look.

© Michael Douglas Bosc

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After leaving Gandesa (not in this cart i might add, the barrels are empty), I headed for Batea a small town situated in the  mountains about 19kl further on. You approach Batea along a country road past vineyards gently lazing on sunny slopes being tended by their owners and workers.

What I did not know was this town seems to be built on wine, it’s a wine lovers dream with a celler on almost every street, so many in fact that I shall be wandering in and out of here for some time.

As you enter Batea along its main road, you pass several neat and tidy buildings before noticing a small shop selling wine and olive oil. It is just past this you see a small press sitting in its own garden, a symbol that says a lot about Batea.  Here the road begins to climb towards the town centre and looking down some of the small side streets, I noticed several large painted posters advertising wine from another Celler.

We arrived in the square which has adequate parking for cars on either side of the tree-lined central plaza with benches under the trees to give shade to those sitting and watching their world go by. Here there were groups of old men sitting on benches discussing the world and remembering how it was in years gone by.

Like Gandesa, Batea was on the front line during the Civil War, and received quite a battering.  In the old quarter it has still managed to retain its individuality being one of the few remaining examples in the Terra Alta.  Some of  it’s porches, covered walkways and mediaeval buildings still remain, giving an insight into the architectural styles of those times. The largest example is the main street, with its arcade with ogive arches from the fourteenth century.

Well that’s a condensed history of Batea, but I was after wine and the Co-operatieva in particular.  I parked our wagon in the main square and wandered off in the direction of the Co-op.  It was whilst walking down little side streets there that I passed several other Cellers, three in fact, and none of these was the  Co-operatieva.

Walking down a street the countryside became visible and there was the new buildings and Botiga for Batea’s co-operativa.

This is an imposing modern building, unlike the others I have visited.  There is a soul you can feel when you enter the shop, it is light and airy displaying the wines, olive oil and other products. However, there is an almost spectral aroma, it is not there, yet….  it has to be the spirit of their total love for their wines. Farmers here had been producing wine and selling it individually in the local community for centuries but in 1961 they grouped together and the Celler was born. The wine is produced in the traditional ways using concrete vats both above and underground, which as always adds to the final product.

The working part is mainly on the other side of the road, so we crossed over to take a look.  Here I found the concrete vats standing square and proud with more underground, maceration vats, very much, you might think, like the other Cellers, but there was something different here, once again that presence. These concrete vats are used for the production of the white wines.  The grapes are first placed into stainless steel vats for one day to macerate naturally. Then over night the final press is carried out and the  ‘musk’ is transferred to the concrete vats where it spends 3 weeks fermenting, from here they go to the French oak barrels to mature.   These concrete vats each hold 20,000ltrs of wine with 60 vats underground and 33 above.

The Grapes used here to make the white wine are White Macabeu, Garnatxa, Muscatel, Chardonnay and Parellada.

The red wine is fermented in Stainless steel vats in the new building next to the Botiga. There is a total of 29 imposing structures with each vat holding 50,000 ltr.  The grapes are Garnatxa red, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon red, Tiempre negre and Carinyena. These wines provide some of the nicest sipping wines I have tasted in Terra Alta.  There is also a wine which gets a second pressing, this I will be looking at later in the summer.

The Celler has around 1445 Hectares of vineyards, and uses natural cork in their bottling plant.  The vineyards are located in several different micro climates within this region it is as the names suggests ‘The High Country’, with little valleys giving the wines rather peculiar characteristics but make for some interesting and pleasant drinking.

The Wines: I have selected a few of the wines which I think you might like.

The First is a  Rosat: Vall Major.  This wine is a bright pink cherry in colour, with just enough acidity to appreciate its freshness and elegance. There is the hint of raspberries and roses, a fine combination that served chilled is a good early evening drink.
The grapes used to achieve this wine are  Garnatxa Red and Syrah
The Reds: this is Vivertell Negre
This wine has a rich ruby colour and good legs indicating a high llevel of alcohol.  There is a spicy aroma with the hint of fruit which gives it a Nadal feeling, christmas.  It sent my taste buds on an adventure, being both soft and fresh. This is most definitely a wine to be sipped and enjoyed.
The grapes used to produce this wine are: Cabernet Sauvignon, Garnatxa Tinto, Tempranillo and Syrah.
The next red is  Tioicitat  This wine has a deep dark colour well bodied.  Here there is an intense nose of fruit and spices, rich and sensuous. The flavour is full with again a hint of spice. This one reminded me of a very good Sherry or Port, definitely one for relishing or complementing a good meal.
The grapes used for this are: Garnatxa Red, Syrah and Tempranillo
I now come to the white wines.  Terra Alta is known for their splendid white wines and I have picked  Primicia Chardonnay and Vallmajor. I will start with the Chardonnay.
This wine is a fresh tasty wine pale yellow in colour tingeing on pale green at the edge.  The nose is fresh with hints of tropical fruits and an underlaying touch of citrus.  It’s fresh to the mouth not too acidic and very moreish with a pleasant lingering taste. One for the fridge and cool evenings.

The grape used in this wine is: 100% Chardonnay which gives it that pleasant sensual feel.
Now the Vallmajor Blanca
This wine is pale yellowish green in colour, and has a balanced taste. It’s nose again reflects floral notes with a hint of freshly cut grass.  This is one to be sipped whilst enjoying the late evening sun and reminiscing.
The grape used in the wine is: Garnatxa Blanco
 You will find these wines on www.cellerbatea.com  or you can contact them on cellerbatea@cellerbatea.com . I can say that you will not be disappointed in fact you may even feel like visiting them and seeing for your self.  Their fax is: 0034 977430589  I hope you enjoy Cheers.

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Last weekend was the Mora Morisco.  This is a medieval fair which is held every year to celebrate the links between the Moors and Spanish which lasted around 750 years.  As we walked into the square we were greeted with the smell of rosemary which was used to sweeten the air in those bygone days.  There were ovens baking delicious breads, cheese stalls selling goats and sheep’s cheeses, others were selling hand-made soaps, wilst up the long side street were other stalls displaying toys, wine, herbs, jewelry.  In the square it self were bars serving food and beers, whilst in one corner round a table sat a family singing traditional songs accompanied by a guitar.  Up in the castle were the falconry and snake charmer (and no we did not go there..)

Up another small side street we found a candle maker and just past him was the paper maker with his paper strung out across the street like flags, here we watched as a friend tried his hand at making paper.  Then I wandered over to a house that was open and full of tools and implements.  On our walk round we met the stilt man, the leper (the look on some children’s faces when they saw him) and a traveling medieval band, the music was well-played and they even had their little cart of beer with them….

But the best thing – I think – was the display of belly dancing. These two young women danced with big smiles on their faces whirling and twirling to the music.  We spent a pleasant few hours wandering round, before we returned to the square for a well-earned drink.  Then we walked back to the car and home, our daughter thought it was wonderful and to prove it she had bought cheese and bread.

So I have placed the photos in a collage hope you enjoy them.

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Well it has finally happened, wagon was hitched and with a shout of yee haaa I headed west into Terra Alta country in search of fine wines.  My first stop was Gandessa which is to the Terra Alta region what Falset is to the Montsant and Priorat regions.  When I visited Gandessa earlier in the year I found they had given the outside of the Celler a face lift but it was the inside that has received a spectacular transformation.  This old celler has been lovingly restored, cleaned and turned into not just a working wine producer but also a museum.  So here is its story:

The Celler was built by Cesar Martinell, disciple of the architects Antoni Gaudi and Puig i Cadafalc. When in February 1919 Josep Maria Serras, the founder and first president of the cooperative, accompanied by board member Jaume Fontanet, invited Cesar to oversee the construction of the Gandesa Cooperative cellar, which in those days was called “Cooperación Agrícola de Gandesa”. The modern cellar which was  to house the winemaking facilities was completed in January 1920, and the incorporated Oil press being installed and finished the following November. This was a simple but important project which included ceramic artwork by Nogués, which were tragically destroyed in the civil war.  This Cathedrel style of construction was an experiment for the architect César Martinell, and he was very satisfied with the result. It is characterised by a great simplicity, but its classic beauty is never out of style.   It was this idea which Martinell had given to the members who had contacted him a year earlier.

The first thing that strikes you on entering is the vastness of the building.  The walls, ceilings and equipment have been given a make over and the impression is that of a light, clean and airy work place, the pristine concrete vats look at home next to the stainless steel vats.  The original presses are given pride of place they show how things used to be done before the process evolved.  These three are very impressive, the amount of work and energy needed to turn the handle once the grapes had been inserted would, I think, be quite something.

All the wood has been cleaned and where necessary repaired, the brickwork has had the same treatment and you can see the skill that went into the arches it all looks as though it was done yesterday, which is an indication of the detail that was applied to this restoration.

 

The bottling plant and most of the stainless steel vats are across the road, on the day I visited the Celler they were bottling samples of wine.  Just round the corner from that you find yourself in a large area with barrels, this is where the sweet wines are matured they use American oak as this gives an added flavour to these wines, it is here that the fermentation and maceration in the stainless steel vats takes place.

You have heard me tell of the wine being sold in plastic 2 ltr containers. This is quite normal here and in France, so I thought I would show the bottling section for these wines.  One of the things I found most intriguing when I sailed to Normandy, was the ‘pump’ way of buying wines.  Here you bring your own container to the Celler and they fill it with your chosen wine, you pay by the ltr, the same thing operates here which I might say, I think is an excellent to buy local wines.

 

The area Gandesa covers is made up of vallies with fields of alternating vines, olives and cherry trees. The mountain sides are terraced and turn a lovely shade of green in early spring providing a lush and vibrant vista to passers-by and locals alike,  however it is, as I have discovered, a 7 day week for the growers.  This all goes to produce some of the finest wines around and we have often lunched on the coast and found that the wines served are Terra Alta, the one thing Catalans have in common with French growers is they will not drink anything that is not of good quality. So now to the wines.

Terra Alta wines can be found in restaurants both in New York and London. I am quite sure that if you go to an independent wine seller, you will also find them there and hunting them down will be well worth the effort.

So where to start, ah, before I do let me explain that Terra Alta wines cover not only Catalunia but Aragon as well, so I have included my personal favourites from both regions.  As I have said before I am neither a wine snob nor expert, just someone who enjoys wine and likes writing about it, so I will start with a wine that I think is perfect for drinking with friends and would not disgrace a decent wine club.  It is however not a Catalunia wine but a Aragon wine.

The Winery is  Enate,Vinedes y Crianzas del alto Aragon, from the D.O. Somontano.

The grapes used are Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which give this wine its ‘companion’ label although when you try it you might just want to keep it for your ‘me’ moments.  It is a cheerful wine easy to drink and very enjoyable, with a deep intense cherry colour and is fermented in steel vats.

Its nose is of fruits entwined with a creamy aroma, which leaves a linger soft taste.

The price of this little gem is 4.75Euros.

The Winery is Celler Pinol   from D.O. Terra Alta     The grapes used are Garnacha Tinta, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Tempranillo and Syrah giving this wine its elegance.

This is a family run winery which uses organic farming and follows traditional winemaking techniques and also Hungarian oak barrels giving this wine a very intensity. The colour is a deep, dark but bright cherry with deeper reflections and good tears.

Its nose is aromatic but with a hint of sweet jam and berries. Again there is the creamy note which helps this wine achieve a subtle balance.

As for the Flavour  it is well-balanced and a wine that would go well with most meat dishes definitely  in my mind one for the table.  This is a wine that deserves more exploring.
The price of this engaging wine is 7.60 Euros.
Terra Alta is known for its white wines and here I defer to my wifes palalet.  She picked just one which, I am informed, is perfect for those sunny day lunches…
The Winery is  Celler Barbara Fores  in D.O. Terra Alta   the grape used  is Garnacha Blanc, this is a perfect grape for making sipping whites as it has its own sweetness and speaking from a red wine position perfectly able to stand on its own merits.
This wine has the colour of straw with golden hints it is delecate, clear and bright with nice tears.
Its nose is a mix of fruit subtly mingling with honey flowers and a hint of tropical aromas.
This is a wine that will suit most palates, being well balanced but not too acidic.  There is however a slight after taste of bitterness but the sense of toasted nuts soon looses it, leaving a mmmm let’s try some more appeal.  This one my wife gave a 9, saying it was definately a sipping wine and chilled it was perfect and would go well with a nice crisp salad.
The price is 12.75 Euros

I hope these wines encourage you to try them. There is such a range of Terra Alta wines all with different tastes that pinning one down is very hard, which explains the Aragon wine.   You can order your wine from the Cooperatieva just Google Terra Alta Wines and Terra Alta’s your oyster.

(c) Michael Douglas Bosc

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Ever since we came here my wife and I have visited Bar Turu which is owned and run by Ramon and his family.  Over the years we have dined there, gone for drinks after school or petanca and consider them our friends.   Each year at Christmas Ramon holds a raffle for charity, and each year the prize is highly sought after so you can imagine my wifes excitement when I won it this year.

My wife and daughter had gone into town for some shopping and called into the bar/restaurant for a coffee and were told by Ramon that I had won the raffle.  My daughter said it was so funny, my wife kept saying ‘oh my goodness its wonderful’ they had their coffee’s then Ramon and his son kindly loaded it into the car and they came home.

Now as you can see the prize is rather large Ramon has always done both the prize winner and charity proud.  Inside were: bottles of top Cava – Flexinet & Marques de Monistrol, sweets and sweetmeats, biscuits, nibbles, dried fruit, nuts, some top quality wines – Berberana, Legitimo Blanco, Penascal Rosado  and Marque de Grinon 2008. Then came two bottles of sparkling cider from Austuriana, a sparkling grape juice (non Alcoholic), and a bottle of the following: Martini, Whisky, Brandy, but in pride of place was a large Jamon (dried ham).  If I have forgotten anything  I am sorry

So I thought I would share the event with you.  To say I was pleased is an understatement, I was delighted and my wife ecstatic.

Bon Fiestas   and A Happy New Year everyone.

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The 23rd of June is San Juan and heralds the beginning of summer here in Catalunia, so celebrations are in order.  The petanca club were no exception, so a meal and dancing plus of course games of petanca were the order of the night.  This system of summer beginning on the 23rd of June and ending in September just before the children go back to school, is really accurate, honestly, but how they have worked this out I have no idea. So a night-time party fitted the bill, no, I did not take the camera, a mistake as you will hear, this was our night of relaxation with our friends.

We arrived around 9pm to find tables and chairs set out on some of the courts, being next to the river, it made it very mediterranean, with lights  strung up and music playing.  The food provided was typical Catalan with plenty of wine, water and Cava on the table.  Set out whilst we waited for the starter were plates of black olives, crisps with jugs of red wine and bottles of water.

The starter was sliced tomatoes with bacalao (salted fish) rice and sliced olives, covered with a salsa of vinegar and oliver oil,  plus a salad, very tasty.  Then came a wait for the main meal, which was cooked by our Chef at his patisserie and brought to the courts.  Chicken cooked with thin slices of potatoes, green beans, peppers and tomatoes, served with bread, delicious, and yes I ate too much.  With this came the Cava, bottles placed on the tables, so along with the red wine there was plenty to wash it all down.

However, they had not finished.  When we had cleared away the plates and bones (paper plates no washing up) water melon was brought round. Then came the Coca de San Juan, this was a cake of light spunge cake on a pastry base filled with custard, made by our Chef in his shop,  washed down with coffee and whisky.  In between the courses we danced and enjoyed ourselves, one of our friends let off fireworks then after the meal I played petanca whilst my wife joined the other wives and got some lessons in Spanish, wonderful people.

But it was on the way home around 2am that we had one of our special treats.  Driving along the river road, we came round a curve and there in front of us were 3 badgers, a mother and two young,  just leaving the river.  Now they are not bothered by much,  but car lights do make them bimble along looking for somewhere to leave it and escape the lights. These were no exception, the mother and one young left the road first but the other youngster kept going, so we followed slowly watching these lovely animals.  As I said the one time we did not have the camera….

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