Casa Gran del Siurana, The Air That I Breathe in DOQ Priorat

105/365 – Catalonia – DOQ Priorat – Bellmunt del Priorat – Casa Gran del Siurana – GR-174 – 2010

The Air That I Breathe…..

… is like the wine I drink, has to be of good quality! And, not that I’ve tried, but it seems nearly impossible to find really bad wines in the Priorat. So, once more, I invite you to read about yet another Priorat winery which is producing splendid wines at a affordable price. Welcome to my world, where the air that I breathe is like the wine that I drink, unpolluted and pure!


The farmhouse locally known as La Casa Gran can be found on the outskirts of the town of Bellmunt del Priorat, on the banks of the river Siurana. It is a building with a three hundred years old history. It was previously inhabited by the Carthusian monks from the nearby monastery of Scala Dei. In the XII century, this monastic order introduced vine-growing into this region, which has become one of the most renowned regions for winemaking in the world today.

Diapositiva 1

In the lands surrounding La Casa Gran, lands that previously bore witness to the monks’ solemn vows of silence, GR-174, Cruor and Gran Cruor, three modern and elegant red wines were born, wines that nowadays vie for a prestigious position amongst the D.O.Q. Priorat elite.

Castillo Perelada in the Emporda region!

Castillo Perelada in the Emporda region!

Some years ago Castillo Perelada made a bid for the success of quality winemaking in the Empordà. This same passion for high expression wines has guided us to Priorat, one of the most highly regarded Designations of Origin in Spain and the world, and one of the few that are recognised as being a Qualified Designation of Origin. The venture with La Casa Gran del Siurana began with the main aim of creating modern, quality wines, through a wine-making process that would control all aspects from the moment the vine is planted onwards. And I must say they have succeeded quite well!


La Casa Gran estate covers 10 hectares of deep flat land, mainly composed of sedimentary fluvial soils from the river Siurana. The vineyard houses the Casa Gran farmhouse, which lends its name to our bodega: a building with a history of three hundred years that was the former headquarters of the Carthusian monks of Scala Dei in ancient timesOn the other hand, La Fredat estate covers 40 hectares of mountainous terrace farming land with llicorella shale soils, the typical terroir of Priorat, composed of crumbled slate fragments that allow the vines to grow deep roots to make the most of the soil’s nutrients and become more resistant to high temperatures.


Having two terroirs with such different characteristics, in which they have planted a wide range of varieties, is crucial to the winemaking process of GR-174, Cruor and Gran Cruor: complex wines that are full of nuances


GR-174 is the name of the lovely path that crosses Priorat. Hiking all along this track is probably the best way to feel its beauty. If you could concentrate in a bottle the ripe fruits aromas and the minerality of its terroir the result would be a wine like this. A blend of Garnacha, Carinena and Cabernet Sauvignon which was aged during five months in French oak barrels.


GR-174, 2010, Garnacha, Carignena and Cabernet Sauvignon

The color is dark violet leaving stains on the lips. The nose shows great aromas of ripe cherry and rasinis, oak, vanilla and mocha combined with gentle hints of leather, cassis and herbs. The palate is spicy, notes of black berries, quite fruity altogether bit the acidity is a bit to high, not the best balance but it works. After a few hours it works really well. Less tannins then I would have expected.

277 to go!

Catalan Wine 365 and the SweetEasy Lifestyle

Clos Figueras/Cal Batllet, Come rain or come shine in DOQ Priorat

104/365 – Catalonia – DOQ Priorat – Gratallops – Cal Batllet – 5 Partides 2009, Gratallops Vi de la Vila

Come rain or come shine….

…, happy together, unhappy together, wouldn’t it be fine? Clos Figueras winery in Gratallops hosted an event today, consisting of cellars from Priorat and Monsant, as well as there being several artisanal cheese producers from all over Catalonia. Only the weather could have been better, as it rained quite heavily all day. The rest……, wine and cheese! Can’t go wrong!


Went to a dinner with some Dutch friends yesterday, Cava, a buffet of selected foods, nice chats amongst friends and we got to talking about todays event. They were all quite certain that the rain would be coming down heavily today, and they were right. I tried to point out that it never rains in Priorat, as it has its own micro climate! Boy was I wrong, and the Dutch friends stayed at home! I did not! And now, recalling the wines and cheeses, I’m smiling from ear to ear, it has been yet another great day!


Catalan Wine is writing daily about one wine from one of the 12 D.O:s in Catalonia, and so far it has been one article a day, which I hope will continue for 365 days! Some articles are comprehensive with loads of details, whilst others are short and almost only covers the wine.


Today, some pictures of wine and cheese and one tasting note of a wine that I believe will be a classic! Tomorrow, Catalan Wine 365 is visiting the Alimentaria fair in Barcelona during two days, so you can expect additional photos from that wine loving event as well!


There were 10 cellars represented and underneath you will find the list. The ones containing a link, have been covered earlier and if you wish to read the ful story, just follow the links!


Clos Figueras, a small to medium sized winery in Gratallops, opened their new vintages, the white was a favorite. Celler Clos 93, the smallest winery in Priorat, with their question mark and olive oil. Celler Jaume Sabate from La Vilella Baixa had the only Vi Ranci (a wine similar to sherry and using the solera principles).


Clos Dominic from Porrera was represented by the daughter of the house, Ingrid, opening bottle after bottle of their range of three reds! Joan d’Anguera, a innovative small cellar from Montsant. Ficaria Vins from La Figuera in Monsant, Jaume and his wife were pouring their beautiful Pater and Elia wines!


Clos Batllet, Marc Ripoll Sans, owner and wine maker was happy to get a visit by Catalan Wine! Vinyes Domenech served their Furvus! Portal del Priorat is getting a visit at their winery in the days to come, they make several wines and showed up with Gotes, one from Montsant and the other from Priorat. And finally Orto Vins, with Jordi Beltran, serving their splendid white wine and sweet wine, made me smile even more!


Cal Batllet, 5 Partides 2009, 100% Carignena, from very old vines!

Aged for 15 months in French oak. 100% new barrels. The barrels are of 225 liters and the fermentation is carried out in open barrels at a maximum temperature of 26 º C, 4 pigiage daily, gentle extraction, long gestation and high control. Respecting the grapes fully! “Gratallops Vi de la Vila” is the new appellation for the wines produced from Gratallops, inspired by the Burgundy philosophy of village wines.

The color is dark ink but not opaque, it is more of a deep purple. Red and black fruit with an overlay of jammy blackberries and red currant. This is a complex wine and the secondary notes were a bit hard to read as they were evolving minute by minute, but ground coffee and underbrush were present most of the time, blue berries and cassis showed up to join the show as well as slight hints of cedar and spices. The mouth receives a harmonious mix of savory ripe fruit, smooth and velvety with a multitude of rich flavors endorsed by time, better by the minute. Have I found new favorite from Priorat? Yes, because they are ALL my favorites!

The name 5 Partides is due to the five selected  sloping vineyard plots, with vines of up to 100 years, located in the outskirts of Gratallops. The wine transmits the personality of the terroir of Gratallops with its mineral complexity, and maturity This is a elegant, smooth wine with a long aftertaste.

The 5 vineyards are; Camp d’en Piquer (250m, slope, E), Coma (300m, slope, NW), Capella (300m, slope, S), Mas d’en Pallarès (300m, slope, SW), Vinyals (250m, slope, S). The 2009 harvest had a hot summer which provided for a great maturity and it shows!

278 to go!

Catalan Wine 365 and the SweetEasy Lifestyle

Bodega Escoda Sanahuja, You’re all I need to get by in D.O. Conca de Barberà

103/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Conca de Barberà – Llovera – Bodega Escoda Sanahuja– Els Bassotets 2012

You’re all I need to get by…….

Hectic days, past and to come, but that’s quite my cup of tea! The village has a jazz, wine and local food fair today, so it’s going be yet another day full of activities and hopefully some new encounters with interesting people. Yesterday evening was spent at a local, quite rural, restaurant where I together with some friends enjoyed a tasting menu with set wines from Sumarroca winery. The wines were versatile, to say the least, so I have to book a visit at their winery and then I’ll do a recap with the restaurant.

Cartell Mostra AMBP 2014

My choice of the day is a small producer from D.O. Conca de Barberà, a region in which I have found several small and alternative producers. Organic, bio-dynamic and/or natural wine making is what would be called alternative, should really be the other way around!? Pesticide and herbicide usage for spraying the vineyards, should be the alternative and not the other way around! I’m happy to see that more and more small “alternative” wineries are popping up and quite a few of them in the D.O. of Conca de Barberà.


The Conca region shows that it is evolving and changing all the time. New producers, wine makers and wines are seeing daylight on a constant basis and the appellation has the potential to claim fame, due to the excellent conditions of the terrior but also the long history of wine-making in the region. It is highly probable that wine production was introduced by the ancient Romans but by the time of the Moorish dominion of the Iberian peninsula it had all but disappeared from the Conca de Barberà area.


As in many other wine producing regions, wine production took off again thanks to the influence of the monasteries founded in the Middle Ages, in this case the Monastery of Santa Maria de Poblet, near Montblanc which was then the third largest city of Catalonia. In the 12th century both the Knights Templar and the monks from Poblet worked the vineyards. The wine was produced in the basement of the monastery and can be visited today.


The period from the end of the 18th century to the mid 19th century was one of expansion for the area. Wines and spirits were exported to northern Europe and to the Americas and grapes became the dominant crop. In this period terraces were built on the mountainsides to increase the area under vines as much as possible. The railway connecting Montblanc to Reus on the coast was built in order to transport wine more rapidly and efficiently.


The arrival of the phylloxera virus at the end of the 19th century marked the end of this boom period as most of the vineyards were devastated. However the comeback was spectacular. The Conca de Barberà area was the first in Catalonia, and in the rest of Spain, to form agricultural cooperatives based on grape growing and wine production.


Thus in 1894 the grape growers of Barberà founded a syndicate for collective wine production. Under the direction of Joan Espulgas (a vintner who had learned how to combat the phylloxera virus in France) the syndicate undertook the project of replanting all the vineyards in the Conca area, by grafting onto phylloxera resistant New World rootstock. Success ensued and in 1903 the first cooperative winery in Spain was built in the town of Barberà. Conca de Barberà attained official DO status in 1985.


Escoda Sanahuja was founded in 1997, that’s when the farming of vineyards began. The wine making and market entry took place in 2003. The winery is hosted in a stone building situated at the foot of the Prenafeta mountain. It has 7 hectares of its own vineyard, cultivated with Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Garnacha, Cariñena and Chenin Blanc. The cultivation of the vineyards is totally biological and with bio-dynamic principles. These wines are a natural as you can get.

The co-operative of Barbera

The co-operative of Barbera


Joan Ramon Escoda-Sanahuja uses no sulfites either in the vineyard, nor during any part of the vinification process (if possible). To ensure that his wines are stable he puts the wines through a very long and slow maceration period under with very controlled temperature conditions a method that captures natural carbon dioxide which becomes a natural preservative to the wine and creates wines that have long and silky tannin structures with great follow through on the finish.


The wines are not filtered, nor fined. All the bottling, vineyard management and harvest is done with the cycle of the moon – Bio-dynamic. The vineyards are of calcareous soils located at an altitude between 450 – 600m. This provides both character and elegance to the wines from its special terrain.


Several of the wines made by Joan Ramon has become my favourites and besides the El Bassotets I am very fond of Els Bassots Chenin Blanc. I have had an opportunity to imbibe the 2006 vintage of this interesting Chenin Blanc. It has very driven aromas with pronounced vibrant fruit; lemon and apple, mixed with strong mineral accent which turns into an almost smoky character. It has a firm almost edgy quality compared to more traditional Chenin Blanc. It’s sharp, and tightly packed profile of tropical/exotic fruits together with notes of spices which compliments the mineral driven finish. Aeration to this wine is highly recommended as it needs time to develop and release all that it has to offer. 


Els Bassotets 2012, 100% Chenin Blanc

Deep golden yellow and turbid, due to the absence of filtration. High intensity shows a complex nose full of nuances. Aromas of white fruit and very ripe yellow citrus fruits, yeast and sweet spices, lifted by a subtle wood. The palate is oily, with a silky smooth texture, superb acidity, deep, aromatic, good finish, long and persistent that puts more wood on the nose, lots of fruit and mineral notes.

279 to go!

Catalan Wine 365 and the SweetEasy Lifestyle

Bodegas 1898 Ramón Roqueta, Sway in D.O. Catalunya

102/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Catalunya – Fonollosa – Bodegas 1898 Ramón Roqueta – Bacasis Blanco Macabeo Chardonnay 2008


….. with me…., dance with me! Once you have, danced with me, it’s time to share a glass of wine. During the last few posts, there has been a lot from Penedes and Priorat. Was a while since we visited a Pla de Bages winery. This one is a winner, both in the sense of getting acknowledged for its products but more so for the ideas and progress they are constantly achieving. Thinking ahead in this fast paced and very competitive world of wine, is crucial, if you want to reach the top but also stay there! The wines they produce are no top of the top, at all, but quality/price ratio they are good and also consistent in what they do. Steady, steady, because, let’s face it, we have days when we want to drink a wine that’s easy and affordable! Let the train keep the steam up!


Bodegas Ramón Roqueta is the story of a winery very much in touch with its origins and its region, the Bages. The family has been dedicated to both viticulture and viniculture for generations but it was in 1898 when Ramón Roqueta Torrentó first opened an establishment in Manresa to sell his products. This became the driving force for the family’s wine business in Manresa and, as from this date, the winery’s history and future started to be written. The wines are elaborated under the D.O. Catalunya.


Today, Bodegas Ramón Roqueta is a great example of a company renovating and adapting to the new times while maintaining the tradition and expertise garnered over the centuries. Bodegas Ramón Roqueta has always been related to the Bages region. In 1898 it set up shop in Manresa but today the winery and its vineyards are located at Fonollosa, thereby reaffirming the family’s commitment to its origins. The estate has 54 hectares of vines and the winery strives to capture all the information accumulated in the grapes.



Wines are made under the appellation or “Denominació d’Origen” of Catalunya and fermented, according to the different varieties, in stainless steel tanks (from 1,000 to 36,000 litres), always treating the grapes with the utmost respect. The wines are then aged in the barrel room until they are bottled, giving way to the last phase in the wine’s aging process.


The 2013 harvest at Ramón Roqueta was initially a late harvest which ultimately turned out to be normal due to the high temperatures at the end of the season. Ripening was very well balanced, especially in the late varieties. Fresh, fruity whites harvested at their optimum point of acidity. Aromatic, well-structured reds harvested at the right degree of ripeness in their skins and seeds. Yields were reasonable considering they had been low the previous harvest due to the drought. A good harvest in general, especially for the reds.


The range is split between whites, a rose a a few mono varietal reds as well as a couple of reds containing Cabernet/Sauvignon and Tempranillo, all of which have been aged in American and French oak from 3 – 12 months, and as such offering a nice tasting session of fresh, although young wines with personality, all worth trying out. My top chihces are Ramón Roqueta Tempranillo 2012, Synera Tinto 2012, Synera Rosat 2012, Synera Blanc 2012. Two that spring to mind with a good value rating are Vinya Nostra Xarel.lo 2012 and Synera Crianza 2009.


Bacasis Blanco, Macabeo Chardonnay 2008 

A white containing 80% Macabeo and 20% Chardonnay, aged on lees, floral, fresh and full of body. Pale yellow straw color. Bright and clear. Floral aromas floral (jasmine) and fresh fruit on a background of fine lees. Tasty, balanced and fresh.

280 to go!

Catalan Wine 365 and the SweetEasy Lifestyle

Celler Laurona, D.O. Montsant

101/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Montsant – Carretera Bellmunt – Celler Laurona – Laurona Plini 2009

Want to meet the makers of history? Want to experience the essence of Montsant wines? Or do you just want to enjoy a quiet morning discovering yet another little winery in Catalonia? Well, in any case you are in the right place to start with, and from now on, it can only get better! Earlier today, I went to Barcelona to visit the wine fair Vinum Nature. A fair covering natural, bio-dynamic and organic wines. Around 80 small to mid sized wineries, representing about 400 wines, were present and even if I didn’t get to taste all 400, I tried my best and managed a few! Will get back to the fair in more detail during the days to come.

wine-tasting (1)


The Denomination of Origin Montsant is ring-shaped, circling practically all of the DOQ Priorat area. Formerly D.O. Montsant was a part of D.O. Tarragona, but with its unique characteristics, and similarity to the wines of the Priorat area, the winemakers wanted to separate their wines from the rest of the produce of Tarragona. So, in 2002, D.O. Montsant was created, enabling the vintners to present the vineyards under one common distinction. 


The characteristics of the DO Montsant wines are the local varieties Garnacha and Carignena which together with the qualities of the soil and climate and the contribution of other grape varieties produce excellent wines. The winery Celler Laurona is situated in the very heart of Montsant, where the wine is elaborated and carefully aged under controlled conditions. The vineyards however are located in different areas of the D.O. Montsant, in small estates in Figuera, Falset, Darmós and Masroig.
Plini 2009 is a newly designed red wine from Celler Laurona. High quality, modern expression, high complexity, elegance, maturity and harmony are the result of picking the best grapes from the best vineyards of Garnacha, Carignena and Syrah from their own estates. After 15 months of ageing in 500 litres French oak barrels, and several months in the bottle, the launch of the first limited production of only 4.000 bottles of this exclusive vintage, was a hit!
Celler LauronaDO MontsantPriorat, Tarragona

An excellent and peculiar soil, gives the wines from Laurona their personality with a marked Mediterranean character; soft on the palate, but with a great structure and a warm aromatic expression, fruity, fresh and complex. All its features are taken from the coupage of Garnacha from the estate of La Figuera, with the concentration from Carignena, Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon from the vineyards of Falset, Darmós and Masroig.


But without any doubt, what characterizes the wines from Laurona, is the elaboration and ageing that permits the total expression of the terroir character. After caring for the vineyards respecting the environment, and a careful harvest, all the grape varieties arrives to the winery, where the artesan wine making process begins. In the Celler Laurona the whole process is performed manually, from the selection of the fruit, grape by grape, to eliminate the ones that do not fulfil the requirements of quality, then the fermentation, maceration and ageing in 500 litres French Oak barrels. 


An excellent extraction is obtained by working in controlled temperature conditions during 30 or 40 days, and extracting the colour and taste from the grape peels, by gravity, to avoid an aggressive treatment to the wine. The ageing, always performed in the best quality French oak, makes a fine and elegant finish to the robust wine. The wine is not clarified nor filtered, in order to preserve the natural qualities, and the quality controls before bottling guarantees an excellent final product. After a second ageing in the bottle when the evolution is optimal, the wine is finally launched for consumption.


The winery is located in an old factory dedicated to the manufacture of timber doors for gym lockers but it has been adapted perfectly for the production and aging of wines. The winemakers of Celler Laurona, René Barbier and Fernando Zamora supervise the whole production and control the quality. They are both experts on the local terroir and the possibilities of each harvest. Together with their long experience as winemakers, they guarantee the best results.


From this patient and careful vinification, two wines are made: Laurona and 6 Vinyes de Laurona. Two wines which keeps the secrete of a good wine, and have received high ratings (always above 90 points) by the famous wine critic, Robert Parker. Laurona has also been included in two occasions on the list of the 100 most competitive wines in the world, published by the Wine Spectator magazineThese international rewards, and the great success of the terroir itself, backs up the quality of Laurona, a clearly Mediterranean wine, result of a unique talent and sensibility which makes it really magical.
Plini,2009,Laurona,Montsant-400x400 (1)
Laurona Plini 2009, Garnacha, Carinena and Syrah
Deep red colour with violet rims, showing signs that it’s still a young wine. The aromas intoxicates initially with notes of currants and blackberries being easliy distinguished, all surrounded by a dairy background. Really intense, slowly it shows the many facets of its personality. As it opens up, aromas of cinnamon, coffee and especially violets appear. The complexity grows and finally, after an hour, it shows all its properties, especially in the mouth. A truly opulent wine. Featuring a remarkable tannic concentration, structured, friendly and mature. Good acidity and structure, and the passage through the palate is surprisingly fresh and sweet. Its finish is really long, distinguishing all the aromatic complexity described above. A truly great wine that will improve over the next decade.

281 to go!

Catalan Wine 365 and the SweetEasy Lifestyle

Parés Baltà, Do Watcha Wanna in D.O. Penedes

100/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Penedes – Pacs del Penedes – Parés Baltà – Mas Elena 2011

Do Watcha Wanna……

…., and watcha do, do it well, could easily be applied to the Cusiné family, managing the Parés Baltà winery in Penedes. So many wines and Cava, with so many different styles. It is almost like they wanted to do one wine per family member, so the wine could display the personality of each person. It is just like a New Orleans brass band!


The display of wines is in fact so broad, as they also have vineyards in Priorat (Gratavinum) and Ribera del Duero (Dominio Romano), you could make do with visiting just this one winery and enjoy a spectrum of wines.


Parés Baltà is a family owned winery in the Penedès region with traditions that goes back to 1790. In the 70’s, the Cusiné family took over the winery which is now managed by the 3rd generation. They produce high quality wines and Cava. The grapes come from 5 diffrent estates, situated around the winery and in the mountains of the Penedès. The altitude varies from 170 to 750 metres and offers a diverse mixture of soils and micro-climates, which off course, is also a reason for the multitude of styles in their wines.

PAres 1

The practice of organic viticulture has always been a model they have tried to pursue and done so since 2004. They use sheep, their own, to fertilize the vineyards and bees to help with the pollination of the vines. It is, so to say, a complete ecosystem that is at work and it shows in the quality of the grapes. This is very Mediterranean, but the way it used to be. Old style!


The wine-making tradition here at Pares Balta is rooted but not stale. Fresh and new ideas are constantly developed and it is very exploratory. The management is led by Joan and Josep Cusiné Carol who, together, guide the company into a new era of high quality wine production, with the unconditional help of their father Joan Cusiné Cusiné.


The wine-making is in the hands of Maria Elena Jimenez and Marta Casas, enologists and wives of Joan and Josep. Two skilled young women whose efforts are reflected in the quality of the wines that are produced at Parés Baltà; showing fine character and concentration yet with elegance and balance.

pares 4

The roots of Parés Baltà goes all the way back to the 18th century. In 1790 the first vines were planted on the estate that now surrounds the winery. Today however, more than 220 years later, almost everything is different. Joan Cusiné Hill took over the winery in 1978. Born in 1917 in Bellvei del Penedés, coming from a family of vine growers and, already from the age of seven, he helped his father to cultivate the vineyards and never stopped working. At 80 years old he even helped his grandsons to care for a part of the vineyard.

pares 5

His son Joan Cusine Cusine started to manage Pares Baltà in the eighties and released its first still white wine, “Blanc de Pacs” which is still produced today. At the end of the eighties the first red wine from the company was produced, and since then he has enthusiastically been attempting anything that could raise the quality of the wines.

pares 6

Since 2000 the management has been in the hands of the two grandsons, Joan and Josep Cusiné Carol. They have brought new and fresh ideas into the company, but have also shown respect for its tradition and guarded the heritage. The wives of Joan and Josep, Maria Elena Jimenez and Marta Casas are the winemakers and oenologists. They have continued to develop new wines and increased the focus on quality.

pares 7

The (currently) 25 labels of the winery are constantly expanding and to get a feel for some of their products, here comes a short description;

Mas Petit (the small farm) is a rich red wine made with 100% Cabernet Sauvignon and aged in Alleirs Oak for an extended period.

Mas Pons has gotten award after award at different competitions and is an oak aged 100% Chardonnay.

Blanc de Pacs is a still white wine made from the three classic Cava grapes, Macabeo, Xarel.lo, and Parellada.

Honeymoon. I love this wine, and I think it’s a case of love or hate, but try iy you must!. One of very few 100% Parellada wines.

Ros de Pacs is a rose wine made with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

Mas Irene, red wine with an extremely limited production of 33,000 bottles. Merlot and Cab Sauv, long ageing, extremely complex wine.

Mas de Carol is a boutique white wine, made with 100% premium Chardonnay grapes and aged in French oak. Less than 10,000 bottles made annually.

Cava Cuvee de Carol. Parés Baltà refer to this boutique Cava as “Liquid Gold”. This is an aged Cava made with 100% Chardonnay and extended oak ageing. Resulting in a bright gold-coloured Cava

For their still wines they have three different “series” – The Microcuvees, The Origen “series’ and the R-Evolution. In the latter, two reds and two white wines are part of that constellation, and one of the reds, the Mas Elena is tasted today!


Mas Elena 2011, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc

Mas Elena has an intense dark red color with subtle blue highlights. Clean and bright. The nose perceives red fruit tinged with spicy notes, hints of licorice and cocoa and lightly toasted. A really tasty red from Parés Baltà, that won’t make much of a dent in your purse. The wine fills the mouth with a fleshy and fresh feeling. The oak is present but just slightly. Step silky, full of creaminess. Polished tannins. Very good ending.

282 to go!

Catalan Wine 365 and the SweetEasy Lifestyle


Celler Xavier Clua, The summer wind in D.O. Terra Alta

99/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Terra Alta – Vilalba dels Arcs – Celler Xavier Clua – Mas d’en Pol Barrica 2005

The summer wind…..

Vilalba dels Arcs is one of the twelve communes of the Denominacion d’Origen (the equivalent of the French AOC) of Terra Alta, in the heart of the Ebre region in southern Tarragona. In this part of Spain the fields are surrounded by hills (the Ports and the Sierras of Caballs, Pàndols and Fatarella ) and cut by a lot of valleys and dry creeks that makes the landscape capricious and complex. This situation gives the Terra Alta a climate with both Mediterranian and continental influences with hot summers and cold winters – the annual rainfall is less than 400mm.

Vilalba dels Arcs

Vilalba dels Arcs

The high altitude and the numerous valleys increase the risk of frost in the spring. Its proximity to the Ebre river make the prevailing wind the Cers (mistral), a dry wind from inland Aragon that keeps the vines healthy, combined with the Garbi, a humid wind blowing inland from the Mediterranean. The soils are calcareous clays, with low levels of organic material, but rich in elements that favour good drainage. It is, therefore, a terroir that guarantees grapes which are ideal for a quality wine production. The vineyards are trellised to maximise the exposure to the sun, making for ideal ripening in late summer.


The Xavier Clua wine cellar is situated in Vilalba dels Arcs, in the Terra Alta in Catalonia – a dry, sunny area where vine-growing and wine production have been a tradition since medieval times. For four generations, the name of Clua has been associated with the culture of the vineyards and the production of wine. The latest generation, led by Xavier Clua combines the experience of this viticultural tradition with university training, bringing new perspectives and techniques both to viticulture and winemaking. In 1995 the small family enterprise exchanged the production of bulk wine for a quality product, sold in bottles with personal labels. This evolution only underlined the desire keep working with a limited production to obtain a rigorous selection of the different grapes of each plot and close control of the whole winemaking process.


More and more the products of the Cellar Clua acquire a name in the wine world and the family enterprise has grown with the addition of Rosa Domenech: Xavier’s wife and an experienced oenologist in her own right. With this growth it became more and more necessary to expand to a newer, more modern site. In 2006 this dream came true with the creation of a new infrastructure where the usability is guaranteed by a contemporary architectural construction and modern technology going hand in hand with the tradition and love for the terroir. As in the vineyard, in the wine cellar: the members of the Clua family are guided by their love of the land that, day by day, they bring to their wines.


Today the wine cellar’s facilities are located at two sites in the village of Vilalba dels Arcs. The first of the two is situated in the heart of the village in a house in the Carrer Sant Isidre. The ground floors of this building, restored and converted for winemaking in 1995, was the home of the wine cellar for the first decade of the business. Today this old stone building has two areas: the barrel hall where our wines are aged and the tasting room. The second site was purpose-built in 2006. It is a large and modern infrastructure, situated just on the outskirts of the village on the road to Gandesa.


Rosa and Xavier takes over fifteen years working the vineyard and imposing its mark on a balanced and sensitive winemaking. His young white Mas d’en Pol 2011 was proclaimed Best Young White Wine and also liked their Mas d’en Pol Barrel 2007 a ​​blend of black grenache (40%), Cabernet (20%), Syrah (20%) and merlot (20%) with 8 months in oak, full-bodied but the ripe fruit is well appreciated.


Mas d’en Pol Barrica 2005,  40% Garnacha Negra, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 20% Syrah

Aged during 8 months in French oak barrels, followed by 12 months in the bottle. Color is intense cherry red. Emits primary aromas of ripe black fruit and toasted notes of wood and some jam. The palate shows great great acidity that gives freshness which enhances fruit flavors and the notes of aging.

283 to go!

Catalan Wine 365 and the SweetEasy Lifestyle

Esteve i Gibert Viticultors, Come away with me to D.O.Penedes

96-98/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Penedes – Masia Cla Panxa – Esteve i Gibert Viticultors – Origen 2012, Les Vistes 2012 & L’Antana 2009

Come away with me….

…., with me and my new friends! No, not the wine bottles. Yes, that’s what this is all about but chill for a while, because what is a bottle or two of wine without the company of friends? Don’t think you can tell heaven from hell, but be happy if you can tell a good wine from a less good one. Really wish you were here, who ever you are, cause you all deserve to experience this little piece of heaven. Or, if it’s heaven to me, does that imply that it must be heaven to you too? I’d like to think so!


It all makes sense to me! Doing the best thing you know and making a living from it, isn’t that what we all want? I now know Josep and Montserrat, or at least they were Josep and Montserrat when we first met! Several hours later and for ever more, they are Pep and Nanny! They both do what they love, I for one wish that they can go on with that lifestyle forever and ever! Every time I make new friends and not just acquaintances, a certain joy and happiness fills my heart and soul. Such a privilege to be invited and accepted into the Catalan home of these wonderful people. It’s like we have know each other for years!


Slightly coldish day, as the previous day had cold northern winds sweeping down over the flat lands of Penedes. The sun was however trying its best to provide the much needed rays, so that indeed we felt like spring had finally arrived. Mostly, the visits are done by myself, alone or with my wife. As we this week have visitors from Sweden, they were also invited to enjoy the hospitality of Celler Esteve i Gibert and the cooking skills of Nanny! Welcome to the smallest winery in the Penedes!


What was discovered, is something strange to the extent of an anomaly. This region is known for three things, Xarelo.lo, Macabeu and Parellada! These are the grapes used to produce the bubbly of Spain and most of it is made right here in the D.O. Penedes. Not far from the Cava capital, Sant Sadurni d’Anoia, is where you’ll find the cellar of Esteve i Gibert. Do they also make Cava? Well, yes and no! It is almost to good to be true, bare with me and I’ll try and explain.


They have about 24 hectares of vineyards, all broken up into very small plots. The three grape varieties for Cava making are present, but they sell these grapes to Cava producers. The sale of grapes gives them opportunity to make their own wine, but they only make still wine, except for the few bottels of Cava made 20 years ago and only for their own consumption.

My friend, Tina Anundi, drew this after the visit at Esteve i Gibert!

My friend, Tina Anundi, drew this after the visit at Esteve i Gibert!

The vines that yield about 6 – 8 kg of grape per vine, is what they sell, the low yielding vines with high concentration is what they use for their own wines. The Xarel.lo, Malvasia de Sitges and Merlot  is what they are using currently to produce two whites and one red. In the future, and not too distant, they intent to experiment with some new wines (mono-varietal) made from old Parellada, Red Garnacha and Sumoll Blanc.

The range of wine, two whites and one red and the olive oil of course!

The range of wine, two whites and one red and the olive oil of course!

Penedes produces some very well made wines, declaring to the world of wine that Penedes has some great winemakers.  The wine from Esteve i Gilbert is designed to please with light tannins and a wonderful refreshing appeal.  It is a consumer savvy wine but with some great complexity.  I would serve this wine to experts, knowing full well they would ask for refills. When was the last time you had a elegant, yet robust Merlot from Penedes? I have roamed around the area for years now and have yet to encounter something like it!

Albert Lopez (wine maker) & Josep "Pep" Esteve Gibert (vintner). The two man team and 6th and 7th generation to take care of these beautiful lands! This is Esteve i Gibert Viticultors!

Albert Lopez (wine maker) & Josep “Pep” Esteve Gibert (vintner). The two man team and 6th and 7th generation to take care of these beautiful lands! This is Esteve i Gibert Viticultors!

Pep is a cultivator, a man with his hands in the soil on a daily basis, he’s like a drug addict, if he is not allowed to be outdoors and work in the vineyards, he would probably be grumpy and a very difficult person to live with. His partner in crime, is not his wife Nanny, but the soon to be, son in law. Albert  (son in law, wine maker and sommelier) and Pep were expecting us outside the winery and immediately we were made to feel at home, Pep giving us one of his “from ear to ear smiles” and taking us for a walk into the vineyards.

The happiest vintner is the one that sees a ladybug on his vine, a guarantee from nature that you have untreated vineyards. Esteve i Giberts vineyards are  ecological.

The happiest vintner is the one that sees a ladybug on his vine, a guarantee from nature that you have untreated vineyards. Esteve i Giberts vineyards are

The plots are really small and very singular. The old Parellada growing just outside the tasting room, with an amazing view of the Montserrat mountain, was the first that we got to see. As we continued the walk, it was Merlot and then some olive trees, Xarel.lo vines next and then we made note of the peach trees in blossom. Downhill, passing some houses of neighbours, some Macabeu and 300 years old olive trees, from which they also press a very limited production of Arbequina olive oil. We then got to see the surprise of the day, the vines of the white Sumoll! A couple of years ago I didn’t even know Sumoll (the red variety) and now I am told there is a white one!


Having been almost extinct as a varietal, it was explained that Albert and Pep wanted to experiment with a variety that is not adversed to to the soil in the region, but it simply had to give way for the bulk production of the three Cava varietals, since that was what the families here had to do to make money. Thank Bacchus for pioneering and brave people like Josep (Pep)! The peaches, which are also growing on small plots scattered all over this hilly part of the Subirats and overlooking Sant Sadunri d’Anoia, are sold at farmers markets in a village not far away. This is done during the summer months, starting in June and, as the fruits mature over a three month period, it ends in August.


The family heritage has been perpetuated from father to son since seven generation back and all generations have been involved in viticulture. Only the last two generations, combining the knowledge of the land and vines with modern wine making and some entrepreneurial endeavour, have taken the step to put their family name on wine bottles and what a premier it has been. It is clear now, that this is the right way forward! As we returned from the vineyard walk, we were seated in the tasting room overlooking the vineyards. Pep left us with three bottles of wine, 4 glasses and a bottle opener as he left us with a great smile, having to take care of other visitors.


After having enjoyed two whites and a red, deciphering them extensively, we were invited into their family home for a “light” lunch. A meal that tantalized the taste buds, and a hospitality which left for nothing to be desired. Small tasty canapés with sobrassada, tuna pate, anchovies and a number of cheeses , one of which, the Tete de Moine paired perfectly with the Merlot! The white Les Vistes (The views) and the red L’Antana proved to be excellent with the food overall. As several hours had passed, we were expecting only coffee to round of this fiesta, when Nanny (Peps wife Montserrat) brought out the squid and jumbo shrimps cooked in white wine and shellfish stock.

Pep and a friend! Just about to open a bottle of Cava that has been closed for 20 years!

Pep and a friend! Just about to open a bottle of Cava that has been closed for 20 years!

Pep went down to the private wine cellar and pulled out 2 bottles of the Cava, that he in the days of his youth had de-gorged 20 years ago! I wasn’t expecting much from these bottles, as Cava is a product to be imbibed  within a year of de-gorging. This Cava was made just for the family to enjoy and for special occasions, yesterday there were only 25 bottles left. It had rested sur lees for 30 months and then de-gorged, only to be opened by me 20 years later. The cork was squealing and as I was turning the bottle, there was hardly any pressure to help get the cork out. The part of the cork that now saw light was as hard as stone and did not expand at all. But…….., as the Cava was poured, it became clear by the visual inspection that great things were to be expected.

Catalan Cava & Catalan Coca!

Catalan Cava & Catalan Coca!

The no name Cava  was delightful! The color was intense, dark straw with gold reflection, the years had done it some good! The bubbles, although not lively, but at least plentiful and steady. As it landed in the flutes, a nice foamy cap evolved and the aromas that followed were those of a well made bubbly wine from the Penedes.


Nice brioche and pastries, fruity and some candy. Fresh cut apples and pear. Yeast was present and it had a medium body with a good finish. Good acidity makes this a Cava to remember. And yes, we did open the second bottle as well and it was just as good as the first. Paired very well with the seafood platter!

Josep (Pep), a friend and Montse (Nanny)!

Josep (Pep), a friend and Montse (Nanny)!

Time to go home? No, not yet! Pastries, Catalan Coca and a selection of fine chocolates from Simon Coll chocolate makers in Sadurni, together with excellent coffee made this perfect home cooked meal one for the books. But the one thin I am going to remember more than anything else is the warmth and hospitality shown by my new made friends, Pep and Nanny! Thank you for opening you hearts and home to me and my friends! This might be the smallest winery in Penedes but it certainly has the largest heart and soul!


Origen 2012, 80% Xarel.lo and 20% Malvasia de Sitges

Clear medium full, straw yellow color with greenish reflections. Fresh peach aromas abound on the nose together with pear and mandarin peel. They are accented by notes rose, white fruit, pineapple and citrus. Calcareous and mineral feel in the mouth in the mouth. Well-balanced with medium acidity and minerals. A young wine that would be happy with some variety of cuisine, including vegetables, light pasta dishes and seafood.


Les Vistes 2012, 100% Xarel.lo, barrel fermented with its lees. Barrel aged.

Bright golden, clear and brilliant with slow and fat tears. The nose is floral and buttery, the oak notes are round and the vanilla is light. Notes of fudge, warm eucalyptus and some peach. There is a strong presence of mineral elements, enhanced by the permanence of wine on the lees during aging. The palate is full and complex, but maintains its freshness and balance due to its good acidity. The evolution of this wine in the glass is remarkable, slowly evolving and showing different levels of aromatic complexity.


L’Antana 2009, 100% Merlot

This wine displays the benefits of slow, even ripening during a mild growing season. Though there is fullness and a lush character to this Merlot, there is also restraint and elegance. Promising aromas of cherry, red plum, raspberry, and dried herbs lead to a clean fresh entry with impeccably balanced acidity suporting intense red fruit flavors of cranberry, plum and raspberry. Round, supple tannins provide an enticing framework for the flavors and contribute to a lingering finish. Age a few more years and you won’t be disappointed!

283 to go!

Catalan Wine 365 and the SweetEasy Lifestyle


Roig Parals, Take Five in D.O Empordà

95/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Emporda – Mollet de Peralada – Roig Parals – Cami de Cormes 2006

Take Five…….

Come on already, get out of the rat race, book a flight to Barcelona or Girona and rent a car, so that you can take five. Hours, days or weeks is all up to you and the kind of life quality you prefer. You know you deserve it! And once here, explore, visit, taste and eat and then taste some more wines and eats some more of the delicious food of all kinds, that you will find in Catalonia!


What are you waiting for, Google and all the major booking engines are right there, just a click away and the wines are calling your name! Oh, and just one more thing, once you get here, don’t forget to call me, cause you know that I want to join and there aren’t any rat races here! Why not meet up in Empordà and start the adventure with a visit at Roig Parals? After which we could…….


When in the end of the 19th century the phylloxera disease stroke the Provence area of France and started expanding from there to the rest of the European continent, the Roig Family already worked in the French vineyards of the Roussillon (France) because of their good and reliable expertise. They were owners of several hectares of vineyards in the Emporda Appellation of the Northern Catalonia, but had to work somewhere else to make their living.


When phylloxera hit France, the solution to the disease was rapidly found by using resistant rootstocks. Quality producing species already grown locally in France and Spain, were grafted on American resistant rootstocks and thus planted to renew the wine production.


The Roig Family brought back from France the grafts of the Carinyena (also called Carignane in France or Samsó in Catalonia), that variety is still cultivated today. The first plants date back from the 1890s. That legacy has been preserved until today with effort and perseverance to transform those grapes into the balanced and authentic wines you’ll be able to taste once you reach the winery!


Roig Parals has modernized the entrepreneurship of our ancestors at the vineyards and cellar in order to continue the family tradition. “Terroir” expression, organic farming and sustainability help them with the cultivation of their twelve hectares that today include not only the old Samsó vines but also traditional white Grenache, Moscatel and Macabeu or the international Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.


A rather new project they embarked upon is the one with the Montsant winery of Coca i Fito! I have heard good stuff about their joint venture, resulting in the wine Tocat. But since I have not yet visited Coca i Fito, that story will have to wait. Well, at least I know there are several more wineries to pass the days at.


Cami de Cormes 2007, 100% Samsó

The oldest plot dates back to 1896 and produces around 3.100Kg/ha and the plot which was planted in 1900 around 3.500Kg/ha. Bush vines.  It has a lovely, very natural bouquet with crisp blackberries, bilberry and oyster shell that is crisp and precise. The palate is medium-bodied with a sweet entry of marmalade and dark cherry fruit that continues into a well-defined, citrus fresh finish, with orange rind and a touch of dried blood. This is a very natural, engrossingly pure Cariñena.

284 to go!

Avgvstvs Forvm, Too Marvelous For Words in D.O Penedes

94/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Penedes – El Vendrell – Avgvstvs Forvm – Avgvstvs Forvm Chardonnay 2012

Too Marvelous For Words……,

….like glorious, like glamorous, it’s all to wonderful and I’ll never find the words! Just too very very….., for the first time I find myself in kind of a dilemma, should I write about the wine or the vinegar? The cellar at hand is world renowned for their vinegars, their wines, not so much but they are making an effort. I knew about this winery way before I moved to the region. During my youth I worked at the Noble Prize banquet in Stockholm and the chefs there only use vinegars from Avgvstvs Forvm, when preparing the menu for 1,500 guests!

Reconstruction of the Forum of Augustus with the Temple of Mars Ultor, late 1st century B.C.

Reconstruction of the Forum of Augustus with the Temple of Mars Ultor, late 1st century B.C.

It may be the best vinegar for all I know, but this is after all, a blog about wines, so wine it is! If you, however, should have a chance to try the vinegar they make, be sure not to miss such an opportunity! It is delicious! Historically Agustus Forum was located in Rome and no, it hasn’t moved to Catalonia. The Forum of Augustus was built to both house a temple honoring Mars, and to provide another space for legal proceedings, as the Roman Forum was very crowded.


Before battle, military generals set off from the Temple of Mars, after attending a commencement ceremony. Other ceremonies took place in the temple including the assumption of the toga virilis by young men. The Senate met at the Temple when discussing war and the victorious generals dedicated their spoils from their triumphs to Mars at the altar. The Forvm here in Penedes is at times crowded but there are no legal proceedings going on, just wine and vinegar making!


The name comes from the owners wanting to give some kind of homage to Via Augusta, which used to pass the estate. A vineyard with a long history, having in mind the remains of what was once the Via Augusta, the Roman road that connected Rome with the most important cities of the Mediterranean. That’s why they wanted to pay tribute to this singular Roman road, giving the winery and their wines, the name of Avgvstvs.


This charming winery was created in the 80s and rebuilt in 1990 with all the charm of times past. Driving into the estate gives a Tuscan feel, with pine trees lining the drive way, leading up to the main building. Inside the atmosphere of times gone by is still vey much breathing. This place is ideal for its rustic charm. It retains all the magic due to its rural setting and the rustic feel of the facilities. It’s an original, that will surprise visitors due to the spaces available and the quality of their services.


When the first vines were planted in the 80’s, a unique place was chosen because of its “terroir”, just 3km from the Mediterranean Sea. That place was the Pla de Mar, where currently the vineyards enjoy a very special microclimate within the D.O. Penedès, fruit of the constant sea breeze, that brings in warm air from the sea preventing different illnesses and leading to a quicker maturing of the grapes. Noble variety grapes as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay have adapted perfectly to the microclimate and soil.


Avgvstvs Forvm Chardonnay 2012, 100% Chardonnay

Aged during 4 months in new French, Nevers, oak barrels of 300 liters. The color is slightly creamy, satiny bright pale yellow. Outstanding notes of ripe tropical fruit such as pineapple, papaya and a hint of banana. Some citrus along with some light toasted notes due to its elaboration in barrels.. The notes present are elegantly conjoined with some lactic characteristic touches of the complex development, which give it a nice creaminess and volume. Palate is rich, medium persistent and quite sweet. Ideal with cheeses, goat in sauce or grilled fish, seafood, foie and nuts.

285 to go!