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