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