Cava Berdie, Carnival Time in D.O. Cava

72/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Penedes – Cava Berdie – Fetish

Carnival Time!……..

Whoopdeedoo…. in Sitges! Wonder where I’m going spend the coming weekend? Sitges and Carnival it is, drinking Fetish! This event is something everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime! Wonderful passion and vibrant energy coming out of my feet!

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For over a century, Sitges has been celebrating nonstop — between the months of February and March, according to the liturgical calendar — Carnestoltes, or Carnival.

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The festivities begin on Dijous Gras (in New Orleans they call it the Mardi Gras), or Fat Thursday, with the arribo, King Carnestoltes’ spectacular arrival. From the moment this character appears until the burial of the sardine — late afternoon on Ash Wednesday — you could well say that life in Sitges moves to a new beat.

Folk dances and xatonades (traditional local salad served with assorted omelets) are also characteristic carnival elements. The two most important moments are the Rua de la Disbauxa, or the Debauchery Parade, on Sunday night and the Rua de l’Extermini, or Extermination Parade, on Tuesday night. Some forty-odd floats with more than 2,000 participants fill Sitges.

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The event is celebrated throughout Spain and indeed, the world. It marks the last chance to let your hair down and get up to mischief before the forty days of Lent begin.

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Largely due to Sitges’ reputation as one of the gay capitals of Europe, the town takes pride in throwing one of the largest and most spectacular parties in Spain – one that lasts a whole week! Each year the dates vary, as the festivities must always begin on a Thursday.

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 Now if I were writing about cocktails, there would have to be a mention of the Mojito as the preferred Carnival party drink, but I’ll exchange that notion for something more elaborate. Cava, which is suitable for any celebratory occasion! Viva la Cava and hope to run into you at the Carnival parades!
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In making the Fetish only two grape varieties are being used, the Monastrell and the Garnacha. Each of which are vinified separately at controlled temperatures, before carrying out the coupage, the right proportions are blended, in order to achieve the special touch of this Cava.
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The second fermentation is carried out in the bottle, providing the bubbles (pris de mousse) and is done according to the traditional method. The Fetish is then aged for a minimum of 15 months.
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Cava Fetish, Monastrell & Garnacha
Intense pink with nuances of red cherry color. Powerful nose with aromas of forrest fruits as primaries. Blackberries, raspberries, bilberries. Hints of cherry and plum, followed by licorice, some yeast and aromatic herbs. In the mouth it is fresh and creamy, mature, well structured. Nice acidity and medium long aftertaste. Yupp, this one we can go on drinking throughout the Carnival. It’s only for a week! Now, if you’d excuse me, I’ve got a Carnival to attend!

309 to go!

Celler La Bollidora, Get Down On It in D.O. Terra Alta

71/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Terra Alta – Vilalba dels Arcs – Celler La Bollidora – .G 2007

Get Down On It…..

…., if it hits the spot, it might be hitting the G spot? That’s when all the senses come together and concentrate on what the heck is going on, and let me tell you, there’s a lot going on. Focus!!! Please, pretty please with sugar on top! What are we actually encountering, in terms of aromas, in the wine?

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To keep it simple and not dwell into philosophical disputations, The .G wine is, like Kool & The Gangs song Get Down On It…., it starts slow, soft and equilibrated until it reaches the point of no return. That’s when you feel like getting up on the dance floor and shaking lose without opprobrium! And if this happens with a wine, you know it’s good! What ever the aromas are, or because of them!

The old distillery before the conversion

The old distillery before the conversion

“The Bollidora” used to be the old alcohol factory in Villalba dels Arcs. During the year 2005, Juan Carlos Sanchez Brianza recovered the facilities of the old factory building and what started as a hobby project, has since developed into one of the most renowned wineries in D.O. Terra Alta, with numerous awards and international recognition.

The barrel room!

The barrel room!

The winery is located in the village of Villalba dels Arcs. The old village distillery is now producing a range of excellent Terra Alta wines. This unique building, with a history, is now writing a story. Wouldn’t it be nice if walls indeed could talk?

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“From the best vineyards, the best wine,” is the motto of La Bollidora, which is why they work with old vines and traditional varieties. To preserve all the properties of the grapes in the final product the grapes are harvested by hand and manual selection is done both in vineyard and at the sorting table.

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The philosophy and goal of the winery is to carry out the work of viticulture respectful to the environment, and above all, to develop exclusive, high-quality wines. Discover these old abandoned vineyards and give prominence to the indigenous varieties such as “Morenillo” and Black Grenache, Samso (Carignan), and make good use of the foreign Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon.

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All wines are made ​​from their 5 vineyards within the municipality. The soil is very poor in organic matter, the vines grown at altitudes between 460 and 550 meters, the highest in the Terra Alta.

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.G 2007, Garnacha, Carignena and Syrah

Aged for 18 months in French oak barrels. The .G is a wine with good structure, to be stored for some time as it will develop and improve with time. An assembly combining the minerality of the Carignena with the fruitiness and spicy notes of the Garnacha and the Syrah. Cherry red color to light ruby. On the nose it gives of primaries such as ripe fruit and balsamic. Elegant touches of leather, licorice and tobacco. In the mouth it has a strong and intensive attack, warm. Long and complex structure. Subtle acidity. A keeper!

309 to go!

Clos del Portal (Estate Wines), Entre dos Aguas, DOQ Priorat

70/365 – Catalonia – DOQ Priorat – Priorat – Clos del Portal, Estate Wines – Tros de Clos 2010

Entre dos Aguas…..

……., mixed emotions today, as one of the greatest guitar virtuosos, and wine lovers, of all times has left us and is playing his guitar in another place. Rest in peace Paco! Life is to short, so make sure you live it to the fullest, whatever that might entail! Be passionate, make the most of it and don’t forget to smile and love, everybody and everything! A salut to Paco with a memorable glass of wine!

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Maybe there are better ways to live life? I just feel good about the way I am living mine. Sun, great food, walk with the dogs and wonderful wine. Had a truly enjoyable wine tasting yesterday with a great bunch of wine lovers in Barcelona. Some of the usual suspects were there, together with some new prospects!

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One of the new members is a passionate host within the community of EatWith! People with a passion for food and wine, cooking at home and inviting, in most cases, total strangers and preparing a dining experience in their own home. Yes, you’re right, couldn’t but join in and am now contemplating my own hosting of such an event! Let the passionate cooking begin!

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The work of Alfredo Arribas begins in the DOQ Priorat during 2001. The Clos del Portal, estate wines project is located in the heart of Priorat, between the villages of El Lloar and Bellmunt, rising from the valley of the Siurana River to the foothills of the Sierra del Montsant.

Alfredo Arribas, architect come wine maker!

Alfredo Arribas, architect come wine maker!

Throughout the years they have been recovering abandoned coster terraces, working with the diversity of grapes and clones present on these sites and outlining an advanced model of viticulture.

The architecture of the cellar integrates it nicely into the landscape!

The architecture of the cellar integrates it nicely into the landscape!

Before long, their estate wines have managed to stand out as a clear example of the latest generation of Priorat wines, in pursuit of elegance and subtlety. Made with meticulous perfectionism, interpreting the extreme terroir, austere soil and climate, showing the way of the future for this wine growing area. Alfredo Arribas runs the winery with the support of Joan Asens.

One of Celler Clos de Portals many vineyards!

One of Celler Clos de Portals many vineyards!

Clos Portal has 40 ha. of small plots. All of them bordering with each other, out of which 14 ha. are vineyards, half of the vineyards are coster and the remaining are terraces. The importance of the mineral soil, licorella slate base with subtle variations of different soil components that confer complexity to the whole, is the key factor of great harmony of these treasured wines made from different varieties and vineyards.

The label designs are amongst the coolest I have ever seen!

The label designs are amongst the coolest I have ever seen!

Grenache, Carignena, Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Monastrell are the grapes grown along with some experimental varietals. They work on the basis of organic viticulture and are in the process of conversion to organic farming altogether. Estate wine meaning that all wines are produced with their own grapes, harvested manually, rigorously selected, cluster by cluster in the vineyard and not buying additional grapes.

The full range of wines from Alfredo Arribas, Portal del Priorat

The full range of wines from Alfredo Arribas, Portal del Priorat

Since 2009 the Tros de Clos are made from Carignena grapes, growing on a coster vineyard which turned 100 years in 2011. Wines that are subtle and very long, full of intensity and freshness. The production is limited to 30,000 bottles. Negre de Negres , Somni and Tros de Clos are the three wines of the estate, each of which has its own personality.

Each vintage gets its own label, so year to year they are easily identifiable!

Each vintage gets its own label, so year to year they are easily identifiable!

Tros de Clos 2010, 100% Carignena

This is a keeper! One of many exceptional wines from Priorat and probably one of the 20 best Spanish wines I have ever tried. This is what wine tastes like if the conditions and grapes are perfect and taken care of in the best possible way. 7-10 additional years in the bottle will tell the story. Can it get any better?

The colors is opaque with violet rim, almost the colour of dark slate. Aromatic character, fresh, mineral, with floral notes. Cassis, cherry, dried plum and mix of spices. Silky and fresh on the palate. A wine transmitting subtleness and elegancy. Intense and full of life!

310 to go!

Almond blossom, Spring Fever in DOQ Priorat

69/365 – Catalonia – DOQ Priorat – Priorat – Clos Figueras – Clos Figueres 2004

Spring fever….,

…., spring is everywhere, love is in the air! Short one today. Have a wine tasting to get ready for tonight and kind of in a hurry! Won’t be any Catalan wines, as it is a tasting of 4 wines from other amazing wine making areas of the world. Tuscany, Douro, Central Coast and Mendoza will be represented!

The beautiful village of Porrera!

The beautiful village of Porrera!

Sorry, but you’ll have to be there to know which wines they are, and what they taste. Only Catalonia is covered on this blog. But, anyhow, I hope you enjoy the pictures of Priorat in bloom and my tasting notes of one of my absolute favorites from the area!

Almonds blossoming straight out of the Licorella!

Almonds blossoming straight out of the Licorella!

Does it get more beautiful? Only thing missing is a bottle of wine!

Does it get more beautiful? Only thing missing is a bottle of wine!

Not much longer now..., as these too are going to show their buds!

Not much longer now…, as these too are going to show their buds!

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Always make time for a coffee or two!

Always make time for a coffee or two!

The wine tasted is produced by Clos Figueras from Gratallops. The winery has been covered previously, so you can read more about them by following the Clos Figueras link!

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Clos Figueres 2004, (Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cariñena, Garnacha, Mourvedre and Monastrell)

Decanted this wine for 1.5 hours. Another hour or two would have been better. Very promising!

Cherry red, purple edges, thin tears. Intense nose of ripe black fruit, fine tannins and marked by spice (black pepper), and light balsamic sensations. Rubbers tires,cocoa, floral notes of vanilla and dense mineral finish. The mouth has a strong entry, quite expressive, pleasant acidity but tannins are too marked. Toffee and licorice, mineral aftertaste. Persistent. A wine that will develop well in the bottle, it has yet to be integrated in the bottle. Could easily have waited another 3-5 years!

311 to go!

Recaredo, Something Stupid, D.O. Cava

68/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Cava – Sant Sadurni d’Anoia – Recaredo – Intense Rosat Brut Nature 2009

Something Stupid……

…., sitting, watching the TV with my lovely wife and a glass of Cava in hand! I love you, I say, to which my wife asks “Is that you or the Cava talking?” Well, honey, it’s me talking to the Cava! “I know I stand in line until you think you have the time To spend an evening with me”……., “The time is right, your perfume fills my head, the stars get red and, oh, the night’s so blue And then I go and spoil it all by sayin’ something stupid like “I love you”.

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Nothing wrong with loving a wine, but then how much love can one have to go around for all the wines that are yearning to be loved, and all the people that want to hear the same words? I guess love is like space, infinite, all depends on the size of your heart and ability to express the love, be it with words or with action. Me, I love many things and many people, my wife and Cava are right there at the top!

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Bottled love is something that Recaredo does well, not to say, extremely well! Most of my local sommelier friends, have nothing but good things too say about this cellar, the people working there and the wines they make. And, even though, I at times try to go against the stream, this time I can’t but concur.

To concur, : to act together to a common end or single effect 2 a : approve  b : to express agreement  3 obsolete : to come together : meet 4 : to happen together : coincide

To concur, : to act together to a common end or single effect
a: approve, b: to express agreement. 
Obsolete: to come together: meet: to happen together: coincide

Cavas Recaredo was founded by Josep Mata Capellades in 1924, naming the domaine in honor of his father, Recaredo Mata Figueres.  Josep Mata Capellades built the cellars in his house, in the historic centre of Sant Sadurní d’Anoia.  Parts of the cellars are now over 80 years old and have been conserved in their original form.  Recaredo is a pioneer in the production of totally dry cavas, in working with oak barrels and in longer-aged cavas.  Cavas Recaredo is currently managed by Josep and Antoni Mata Casanovas, the sons of its founder, with Ton Mata actively involved and representing the succeeding generation.

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Recaredo owns forty-six hectares of vineyards in the Alt Penedes district planted primarily to the Xarello, Macabeu and Parellada grape varieties, with smaller amounts of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Monastrell (Mourvedre).  Viticulture at Recaredo is based solely on dry farming; no herbicides or pesticides are used and only organic fertilizers are applied when necessary; grapes are harvested manually; and, production is limited to cavas that are completely dry.  The estate strictly follows an organic viticulture regime.

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Vinification is carried out entirely at the Recaredo cellars in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia.  The musts from the oldest Xarello vines ferment in oak barrels, which give structure and greater complexity for longer-aged cavas.  Some of the base wine is aged in oak barrels for some months. This wine will be used to add greater finesse and structure to the final blending.  At Recaredo, the wines are aged in-bottle in continuous contact with the second fermentation lees; the bottles are closed with 100% natural cork stoppers.

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Disgorging is carried out on an exclusively manual basis, at the cellars’ natural temperature, without freezing the necks of the bottles, a process that produces the most natural product possible.  The cavas of Recaredo are disgorged totally dry with a zero dosage and all cuvées are vintage-dated. Effectively, Can Recaredo, as the domaine is known, is a deeply traditional producer of the finest Cavas available in the market.  To visit the cellars and observe the process is to return to another time when artisanal, hand-crafted products of the highest quality were the universally accepted standard, the goal that all sought to achieve.

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Intense Rosat Brut Nature 2009, Pinot 77%, Monastrell 23%

Intensive deep pink colour with abundant slow rising medium size bubbles. On the nose red fruits are perceived together with very refreshing balsamic sensations and a slight mineral background. The palate is dominated by red fruit nuances, it has a good balance and acidity. Candied red fruit, light floral notes and fine toasty notes provided as a background. Very fresh with integrated carbon, spicy touch at the very end. Persistent minerality. This is, like all Recaredo Cavas, is a Brut Nature but due to the fruitiness perceived as sweet. Has a great personality!

312 to go!

8 Wines, Wine Do Yer Stuff in D.O. Conca de Barbera

60-67/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Conca de Barbera – Falset – Hotel-Hostal Sport – 8 Wines Tasted

Wine Do Yer Stuff…..,

… and it did! Was expecting a well arranged tasting with some nice wines from D.O. Conca de Barbera. Got that, and more! According to the invitation from Marta and Ruth, Hotel-Hostal Sport in Falset, who were arranging the tasting, we were supposed to taste 6 wines, which is some kind of standard for these types of tastings. Final number was 8! And the wines they make in the Conca de Barbera, Yes!

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The cicerone of this tasting was CArles Andreu, wine maker and president of the D.O. Conca de Barbera. A man, as he himself described it, from the vine. “I’m a vintner who loves wine”, he’s knowledge of Conca de Barbera is unmatched and it was a pleasure to listen to him.

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This was the second of 12 tastings over the year to come, covering the D.O;s of Catalonia. These tasting are a way to promote Catalan wine and the Catalan D.O:s at the symbolical price of 5 Euro per tasting, so, if you want to know more about the wines from the regions of Catalonia, make sure to get to Falset and enjoy some really good wines together with other wine lovers! Can’t wait for the next DO-tasting!

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A little bit about D.O. Conca de Barbera before we get going with the tasting notes!

Most of the vineyards are located around the historic town of Montblanc, and the DO covers a total of 14 municipalities in the north of the province of Tarragona: Barberà de la ConcaBlancafortConesaL’Espluga de FrancolíForès, Montblanc, PiraRocafort de QueraltSarralSenanSolivellaVallclaraVilaverd and Vimbodí i Poblet.

The vineyards are planted in the valleys of the rivers Francolí and Anguera and are surrounded and protected by mountain ranges: the Serra de MontclarCodonymountain and Serra de Comalats in the north, the Serra de Miramar and Cogulló in the east, the Serra de Prades in the south, and the Serra del Tallat and Serra de Vilobí in the west.

And soon the tasting begins, prep work by Marta and Carles!

And soon the tasting begins, prep work by Marta and Carles!

The land is mainly flat or slightly undulating at heights of between 350 and 600 m above sea level. Most of the vines are on dark lime bearing soils, quite loose and poor in organic matter. Towards the foothills of the Sierra de Prades slate can be found in the rock.

Friends at the tasting sharing a moment of truth!

Friends at the tasting sharing a moment of truth!

The climate is temperate Mediterranean, with hot summers and cold winters. The average annual temperature is 14°C with extremes of 35°C in summer and -6°C in winter. There is a risk of frost in spring for the vineyards at the highest altitudes. Rainfall is mainly in autumn and the average annual figure is around 500 mm.

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The mountain ranges protect the area from the wind, while the high altitude means that the summers are not too hot. Humidity is slightly higher than in neighbouring DO’s. The vines receive around 2,500 hours of sunlight per year.

Ruth capturing a moment!

Ruth capturing a moment!

The traditional grapes used are Macabeo and Parellada for the production of white wines and cava, and GarnachaTrepat and Tempranillo (known locally as Ull de Llebre) for red wines. However, the Regulatory Council of the DO has also authorised some foreign varieties: Cabernet SauvignonMerlotPinot noirSyrah and Chardonnay. White varieties represent about two thirds of the vines planted.

The older vines are planted as low bushes (en vaso), while the more recently planted ones are on trellises(en espaldera) to increase production. Planting density is around 2,000 – 2,500 vines per hectare, though the maximum authorised density is 4,500 vines/ha.

Four types of wine are produced in Conca de Barberà: a white varietal wine using Parellada grapes, different blends of whites and reds, and the rosés. The rosés are made using the native Trepat variety of grape. The white wines represent about two thirds of all wine production. Most reds and rosés are best consumed young.

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Wine No. 1 – Portell Blanc de Blancs, 2013, Macabeo and Parellada.

Delicate yellow straw color with greenish rims. Clean, young and bright. On the nose it has an average intensity, white fruit and semi intense flavours with various floral, menthol notes. Pear, peaches and candy. Balanced. This white wine from Conca de Barbera has a nice entrance which is light, fresh with a pleasant acidity. Flattens out a bit to fast, but certainly a wine to be enjoyed during the hotter days of summer. The Parellada is dominating, showing flowers all over this one!

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Wine No. 2 – Celler Rosa M. Torres , 2010, 100% Viognier.

Slight pale golden.  Intense nose with primary notes ripe fruit, round and clean nose. Expressive to complex, secondary of honey, roses, ripe pears and almonds. Structured, well balanced with good acidity. Dry, medium long after taste with balanced acidity. Elegant and well made wine!

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Wine No. 3 – Bodegas Concavins, Clos Montblanc Rosat, 2011, Coupage of Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Tempranillo, Trepat

Clear cherry to light purple. Clean nose, medium fresh, direct. Frozen strawberries and strawberry marmalade, fresh red fruits. Mild acidity, medium long, slightly unbalanced. Fruity, uncomplicated, nice summer wine, typical rose.

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Wine No. 4 – Castell D’or, Francoli 2011, Ull de Llebre and Trepat

Clear medium intense colour, dark cherry to ruby. Macerated fruit, toasted caramel, meaty, slight minerals showing. Leather, spicy, green pepper. Meaty and tasty in the mouth. Mouth filling and balanced with toasted notes. Well developed, well made but slightly uninteresting wine.

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Wine No. 5 – Celler Cal Gasset, Sanstrave Partida del Jueus, 2009, Merlot, Garnatxa, Ull de llebre, Trepat, Cabernet sauvignon

Deep cherry colour with a garnet rim. Undeveloped, closed, slightly chemical antiseptic. Needs time to open up. Burnt butter. After a while it opened up, Aromas of candied fruit, honeyed notes and aromatic coffee came as secondary after quite some time. Filling with a pleasant acidity and good balance. Long after taste. This IS a good wine but needs proper decanting. Stylish!

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Wine No. 6 – Celller Rende Masdeu, Manuela Ventosa, 2008, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.

Intense red colour with violet hues, many layers. The nose is complex with ripe aromas, spicy, creamy. Secondary of oak, toast, complex. Powerful, rich mouth with ripe tannins. In the mouth it is tasty and fatty, with a smooth entry and evolution. It has a sweet tannin sensation. The aftertaste is reminiscent of cherry jam. long after taste. Well made and well balanced!

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Wine No. 7 – SCP de Montblanc, Gatzara 2012, Trepat 

Clear and clean but thin purple colour, considering this is a red wine. Spicy, liquorice, fennel and marzipan. Lovely nose, which keeps on coming. Light in the mouth. Slightly unbalanced tannins, medium after-taste. Cherry and almonds. Interesting wine, though unbalanced, fruity and different! Has a personality which I like!

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Wine No. 8 – Carles Andreu, Trepat 2010, Trepat 

Bright medium ruby with slight rims of terracotta. Fruity, rich with berries, ripe strawberries. Complex and slight arrack notes. Vanilla and balsamic, bitter note at the end. Filling the mouth nicely without being heavy. Buttery, balanced acidity with a long after-taste. Harmonious! High quality with a major danger, to easy to drink!

And the WINNER is Wine No. 8 –  Carles Andreu, Trepat 2010! Can drink this forever! I’m loving it!

313 to go!

Jean León, Stardust in D.O. Penedes

59/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Penedes – Jean León – Jean Leon 3055 Chardonnay 2012

Stardust…..

… is forever sprinkled throughout Penedes! Jean León was the man who flip-side turned the whole concept of vine growing on its head, locals looking at him, at the time, as a crazy person. But I guess that is how it goes when we are talking about geniuses!

A street in Santander!

A street in Santander!

I am still amazed that no-one has made an epic movie about the life of Jean León, he certainly deserves a 3-hour silver screen appearance, so that everybody can get an insight into his turbulent and over achieving life, filled with tragedies, sorrow but also with entrepreneurial dreams being full-filled.

The Jean Leon winery and visitors center in Penedes

The Jean Leon winery and visitors center in Penedes

Half, if not more, of the wine experience is that of the story. The better the story the more interesting the wine gets! Have you ever heard of Ceferino Carrion? You probably know of Jean León? Same guy! Here is the story of a great man, an entrepreneur and the lovely wine left as a legacy.

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A mover and a shaker from young age, due too circumstances which more or less forced him but also gave him the opportunity to live the American dream. He originated from Cantabria, and this is where the story starts in 1941, at the time Ceferino was only 13 years old and Europe was in the midst of the Second World War.

Jean Leon in Central Park

Jean Leon in Central Park

Santander, the capital of Cantabria, fell victim to a great fire in 1941. Fanned by a strong south wind, the fire burned for two days. There was only one casualty, a firefighter killed in the line of duty, but thousands of families were left homeless and the city was plunged into chaos. The fire destroyed the greater part of the medieval town centre and gutted the city’s Romanesque cathedral.

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One of the many families that lost all was that of Ceferino. And as a result they were forced to seek their fortune in the more prosperous city of Barcelona. Ceferino’s oldest brother and father died during the Second World War and Ceferino moved to Paris at the age of 19, with whatever little money he had and one small suitcase.

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After a short stint in the City of Light, only a few years after the end of the war, he decides to board a ship and as a stowaway find his way to the United States. In New York, he worked as and where he could, mainly as taxi driver, dishwasher and waiter at restaurants. With no papers and having entered the country illegally, he had to hide form authorities. Finally he had to head west, across the States, arriving in Hollywood.

At La Scala: Tony Franciosa, Zsa Zsa Gabor and friends. Standing: Jean León.

At La Scala: Tony Franciosa, Zsa Zsa Gabor and friends. Standing: Jean León.

As a way to secure his stay in the States, he decided to sing up for military service and change his name, from that moment on, began to call himself Jean León. He came back unharmed from the Korean War and went back to work within the trade he already knew plenty about.

Frank Sinatra with Nat King Cole at Villa Capri, 1955.

Frank Sinatra with Nat King Cole at Villa Capri, 1955.

As luck would have it, he found work at the Villa Capri restaurant, which was owned by the actor Frank Sinatra and baseball player Joe di Maggio. This allowed him to become friends with many of the actors that frequented the restaurant, which was how he came to befriend Natalie Wood, Grace Kelly and James Dean, to name just a few.

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He must have been a likable and outgoing guy since he made friends easily, developing a close friendship with James Dean, who agreed to help and invest in a new luxury restaurant in Beverly Hills – La Scala. Dean died, in a car crash with his Porsche, a day before signing the papers, but León went ahead and the new restaurant quickly became the Hollywood place for celebrity diners.

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On any given day at La Scala, it was not unusual to see Marilyn Monroe, Zsa Zsa Gabor, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, David Jansen, Tony Franciosa, Robert Wagner, to name but a few, having a friendly chat with Jean Leon about wines, cuisine or some intimate secrets that they shared. It is said, unconfirmed, that Jean León was the last person to see Marilyn Monroe alive. She called earlier that evening to cancel her booking but asked instead to have her dinner delivered.

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Family legend says he was disappointed with the available wines and therefore he travelled all over the world looking for the ideal estate, until one day he arrived in Catalonia and there, in the heart of the Penedès, he found what he was looking for.

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In 1962, Jean León acquired the best plots of land in the region and set up the Jean León Pago, where he was a pioneer in planting Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay.

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To be able to create the best wine possible, stories told say that he illegally obtaining cuttings of Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon while in France. The Cabernet came from the famous Lafite vineyard in Bordeaux.These were the first plantings in Spain of these grape varieties.

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The estate is divided into several sections known as “pagos,” and only one wine is produced in each section. All grapes for the premium wines are sourced from the vineyard. The “pago” concept is equivalent to the “cru” in Bordeaux, or the “vignetti” in Italy and the “quinta” in Portugal.

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As León’s business bloomed, his health diminished. And in 1993, realizing his death was imminent; he left Spain and sailed alone on his boat until his death in 1995. Today, we can share a bottle or two of his wines and the stories! Now all I have to do is to find investors willing to make the movie.

jean-leon-3055-chardonnayJean Leon 3055 Chardonnay 2012

3055 is related to one of his first jobs in New York, being the number of the Taxi he drove.

The color is  pale bright yellow and clear. The primary aroma is notable for the intensity of the white flowers and tropical fruits. Shows very nice hints of barrel aging. The palate is fresh and elegant, due to the great acidity which carries the wine. It’s hedonistic and offers long aftertaste. Goes well with tapas such as clams, razor clams, cockles, cuttlefish and octopus. Would not mind having it with grilled sardines, sole or hake maybe together with a light sauce.

314 to go!

Costers del Priorat, Bring It On Home to Me, DOQ Priorat

58/365 – Catalonia – DOQ Priorat – Costers del Priorat – Pissarres 2011

Bring It On Home to Me…….

… and what are we talking about? Love, yes sure, but the love can also and always be a bottle or two or wine. So, this is what I propose, you bring the wine and I’ll prepare the food. Or don’t bring the wine, I have some left, and let’s share a moment!

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Cutting the work week short and having friends over for a nice end of the winter/beginning of spring barbecue, is there anything better? Nice local cured sausages, olives, cheese and bread. Sardines, fresh from the market at the port, on the barbecue, a bottle of Jane Ventura, Reserva de la Musica, magnum, so it lasts for while. I can live like this!

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Costers del Priorat has one of the best vineyards in the region, located in Bellmunt, the heart of Priorat. Costers del Priorat is in a mountainous setting where the vineyards must be cultivated on small, stepped terraces, where production is limited and the work is principally manual.

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It is in this unique environment where the Bodega Costers del Priorat was established. There are old vines of the Garnacha and Cariñena varietals with ages ranging from 40 to 100 years. This translates into an oenological treasure that leads to the production of wines that are easily-recognised around the world.

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The secret to making great wines is mainly concentrated in the low out-take of the vines and the stress endured. The low rainfall and the typical Priorat soil “Llicorella”, which is considered infertile provide small, focused and very high quality clusters. Quality is seen through the whole process and vinification of each vineyard separately. As a result it provides a powerful, well structured and very convenient wine for barrel aging.

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Pissarres 2011, Garnacha, Carinena and Cabernet Sauvignon

Intense cherry color with violet edges. Very bright, with plenty of fine tears. Aromas perfectly balanced with abundance of ripe black fruits intermixed with vanilla. Roasted and floral notes. Great mineral background. Deep and intense aromas. A round, easy to drink, wine in perfect harmony and well balanced. Silky and fleshy, very greedy fruit nuanced by toasted notes and graphite. Perfect acidity developing a pleasant freshness. Mature and well integrated tannins. Great long finish.

315 to go!

Familia Nin-Ortiz, Respect in DOQ Priorat

57/365 – Catalonia – DOQ Priorat – Familia Nin-Ortiz – Planetes de Nin 2010

Respect……

…. just a little bit, so many deserve it for taking on the challenge of making wine. As easy as it is to make wine, it is not that easy to make great wine, to market it and to sell it. Some wineries need  a elaborate machinery to be successful. Some, only need a wine maker by the name of Ester Nin!

Respect Age Beverage Napkins by SHANNON MARTIN

Respect Age Beverage Napkins by SHANNON MARTIN

Ester Nin is not only a wine maker; she is a brand! Deserving all the respect and prestige that can be given. Having worked in one of the most important wineries of Priorat and knowing all the ins and outs of the vineyards, the cellar and the wine making processes, you can be sure, that when you get to enjoy one of her wines, it’s going to be excellent!

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She has reached the level of being called, one of the most important wine makers in the world. Some call her the “Most important wine making woman in the world”, I choose not to involve the fact that she is a woman, although, women do have several advantages when it comes to the finer arts, wine being one of them!

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Together with her partner Carles Ortiz she embarked on her own project and is at present time responsible for creations such as; Planetes de Nin and Nit de Nin, which are made in Porrera, volumes only reaching 12.000 bottles, combined.

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The village of Pla de Manlleu (Alt Camp) is another area that is going to receive many visitors, thanks to Ester Nin, her roots being firmly planted here. The Selma de Nin, an excellent white wine, being produced here and the 2009 vintage only supplied 300 bottles. Made from Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier. Grape varieties hardly found in this area! This is hard-core!

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The talent, shared between them lies not only in the vinification, but additionally in the respect shown for the land and the treatment of the vineyards. Everything done is biodynamic, to the point that they are producing their own compost. They have a treasure, besides the ability to make wine and the willingness to listen to the land. The treasure being their vines, which are one of the most prestigious and famous in Priorat.

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The Carignena, providing the body and frame for Nit de Nin, comes from Mas del Cacador, situated at he very boundary between Porrera and Gratallops. Nit de Nin 2011 is one of the finest, most direct, outspoken and friendly Priorat wines I have ever tried. I firmly belive that we haven’t seen the best of Nin -Ortiz! They are now at the top of the DOQ Priorat, where will it end?

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Planetes de Nin 2010, Garnacha 70% and Carignena 30%.

Made from young vines, average of 14 years. It has been produced as a French Cru style wine, aged for fifteen month in French oak barrels of 3.000 liters. Make sure to decant up to two hours!

Intense cherry color with purple reflections. Medium coating with plenty of lightly tinted legs. Very intense nose with red and black fruits showing all they got. Secondary shows slight minerals, marked spice and delicate balsamic. Elegant, satiny and fine entry with heavy taste of dark fruit. Excellent acidity and balance. Super soft tannins and persistent finish with a very fruity aftertaste.

316 to go!

De Muller, I’m just a lucky so and so in D.O. Tarragona

56/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Tarragona – Reus – De Muller – Garnacha Solera 1926

I’m just a lucky so and so…..

…never a really bad day here in Catalonia. Sure, ups and downs, but it just seems like the ups are Himalaya and the downs are not so very down! Make sense? Pure fact of the matter is, I have found a good life here and I intend to enjoy it to the fullest. The end of this week is full of activities, wine tastings, cellar visits and wine lectures. Is it all about wine, you might ask? I’m not going to bore you with a extended answer, simple yes will have to suffice! But on occasion I do tend to eat something nice with the wine as well.

And just to be on the safe side, a bottle is close by at all times!

And just to be on the safe side, a bottle is close by at all times!

Penedes is divided into three administrative parts, Alt Penedès, Baix Penedès and Garraf, and their capitals are Vilafranca del Penedès, el Vendrell and Vilanova i la Geltrú. The provincial division is between the provinces of Barcelona, which includes Alt Penedès and Garraf, and the province of Tarragona, which includes Baix Penedès.

The regions within the province of Tarragona

The regions within the province of Tarragona

So, the village of choice, in which i live and work, in situated within Tarragona, not the D.O. of Tarragona but the province of Tarragona. The village falls under the D.O. of Penedes. Confusing? Well, sometimes the borders made by paper pushers are not always meant to be understood!

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Suffice to say that both D.O:s have a diversity of wines and a multitude of cellars. No need to travel long distances to enjoy a nice visit to a winery and to fill the days with lovely local activities. Spring is here and that makes it so much easier! One of the big ones, De Muller of Tarragona, is worth not only one visit but several, and their products are abundant throughout the restaurants of Catalonia.

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Presently, De Muller offers a very wide range of quality wines under the appellations of Tarragona, Priorat and Terra Alta. Amongst the traditional Mass Wine is included. It was responsible of the De Muller fame throughout the world. Nowadays exports constitutes 60% of its production to international markets, the 40% remaining, being sold nationally.

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During four generations, starting in 1851, the company belonged to the family De Muller. Initiated by Sir Auguste de Muller and Ruinart de Brimont, a member of a well-known Alsacian wine grower family.

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Having considered the potential the Tarragona area provides, they decided to settle as former Greek colonies had settled in Spain, followed by the Roman Empire in Imperial Tarraco, capital city of Citerior Hispania.

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As from June 1995, De Muller S.A. belongs to the Martorell family, Catalonian businessmen and traders eager to obtain the optimal quality in wine, while respecting the tradition that constituted the firm heritage for decades. During 1996, De Muller S.A. moved their installations in a new cellar surrounded by vineyards in the property known as “Mas de Valls” in Reus.

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In the village known as El Molar, in the south-eastern part of Priorat, one can find the property “Mas de les Pusses” with 34 hectares of vineyards and a new cellar with a capacity of 500.000 liters. It is here they elaborate their Priorat wines, which I’ll have to come back to. In 1999, De Muller assured the continuity of the former Cochs S.A. who decided to sell the company after 52 years of activity; they decided to do so because they had no continuity in the management, which had always been held by the family.

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Cochs was founded in Reus in 1946 and it began its activity on the first of January 1947. The firm was mainly enrolled in the manufacturing of the traditional vermouth aperitif from Reus, well known on the national territory; its formula has remained unchanged. To explain all wines produced would take several entries, so you’ll just have to wait and make due with a brief explanation of todays wine.

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Solera is a process for aging liquids such as wine, beer, vinegar, and brandy, by fractional blending in such a way that the finished product is a mixture of ages, with the average age gradually increasing as the process continues over many years. A solera is literally the set of barrels or other containers used in the process.

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The majority of the “hearth”, in the wine tasted, is Moscatel and Garnacha (both Negra and Blanca) varieties. Both of which are aged independently and in different types of oak barrels. These barrels are stacked in rows of up to three stories height.

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The lower row is called “Solaria”, due to its proximity to the ground and contains  a higher quantity of aged wine.  When the blend is about to be made and the wine bottled, 1/3 of this “Solera” is removed. The loss in volume is immediately replaced by wine from the second tier barrels, and the second from the third. The second and third tiers are called “Criadera”. The third tier is filled with new wine, which has been subjected to oxidative aging in wood casks.

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The output of the solera is the fraction of the last container taken off for bottling each cycle. The amount of product tied up in the solera is usually many times larger than the production. This means that a solera is a very large capital investment for a winemaker. If done with actual barrels, the producer may have several soleras running in parallel. For a small producer, a solera may be the largest capital investment, and a valuable asset to be passed down to descendants.

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Wine produced from a solera cannot formally have a vintage date because it is a blend of vintages from many years. However, some bottlings are labeled with an age for marketing reasons. It is unclear whether such age indications denotes the average age, or the age of the oldest batch.

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The wine tasted today bares the note “In honor of the son of Reus, Antonio Gaudí, genius known worldwide as the father of modernist architecture, this hearth born the end of the day this teacher was made.”

Enjoy! A very elaborate Catalan Solera!

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De Muller Garnacha Solera 1926

Amber yellow in color. Thick and satiny with perfect slow flowing tears. Noted aromas in the nose are those of dried fruit and dates. Secondary are of toasted notes, caramel, burnt sugar, which mingle the scent of varnish and mahogany wood sail boats. The palate is thick and creamy. Very polished with nice balance. It is long in the mouth and lingers. Sweet, but not overly sweet. Fresh with wonderful acidity. I have to try the other Soleras by De Muller!

317 to go!