La Gravera, If You Can’t Live Without Me, Why Aren’t You Dead Yet? in D.O. Costers del Segre

375/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Costers del Segre – Alfarrás – La Gravera – Onra Moltahonra Blanc 2011

If You Can’t Live Without Me, Why Aren’t You Dead Yet?

onraOnra Moltahonra Blanc 2011, 70% Garnatxa Blanca and 30% Sauvignon Blanc

Brilliant and golden yellow color. Clean nose with heavy aromatic complexity. Some coconut, but mainly I noted white fruit meat, pear and apple. Smoky notes and cedar came along nicely in the background. Slight perfume, or aftershave, or if it was just the guy next to me? With aeration, lemon, pineapple and peach continues to add dimensions to the experience. Good entry, slightly salty. It is filling the mouth with sensations of white fruits, herbs and a buttery feel. Mature, quality, long and fresh finish.

I travel, I visit, I taste and I write for you! I’m your man, not only in Costers del Segre but all over Catalonia. So, any time you have questions, especially regarding wine and wineries in Catalonia but also other questions, you are more than welcome to ask! If you would like me to visit, and write about a particular winery in the vicinity, let me know about it! We now have only 10 days left of 2014! I have been writing consecutively for 355 days and I will finish what I set out to do on January 1st! What happened 2015? I really don’t know, I’m not Nostradamus……, but I will be tasting and drinking wine during the year to come as well. Will I continue writing? Guess we’ll all just have to wait and see!

YOURMAN_NEON-2I’m your man and this time we once more spend our time together in one of the less known wine making regions in Catalonia. Never the less, it is an area of great beauty and some high class wines. The region also hosts the second winery (my first choice is Can Rafols dels Caus) that could be considered for the next James Bond movie or for the next Alien film with Sigurney. Outstanding architecture with well thought through processes for elaboration.

503d950228ba0d7ece00002e_lagravera-sala-ferusic-architects_exterior_nit_1-528x352The project of La Gravera was conceived under low cost criteria, where optimizing energy and material means and resources became important. Economic sustainability is generally linked to environmental sustainability. And it is very evident in this case. An old warehouse from 1958, which belonged to a gravel quarry, has been recovered, revived and transformed it into a vineyard, eliminating industrial elements. SALA Architects FERUSIC was the company contracted to carry out the design and achieved something truly amazing, considering the budget.

503d952028ba0d7ece000030_lagravera-sala-ferusic-architects_moble_2-528x352The building elements are governed by economies of scale and mass production, to minimize their impact on the environment and therefore the economy and organization was done with criteria of spatial, functional and hygrothermal design, in mind. The project was structured in relation to the following points: a cabinet four feet high organizes service spaces, the center of action where human activity is assisted by machines, and Zone 900, a conference room with a carpet of welcome stripes and a bright ceiling, below which the cellar is found, and where the monitoring unit controlling the vineyard in real time is located, and where the design and pedagogy of the wine develops. In conclusion, this low cost approach states one obvious fact, Less (money) Is More!

la-gravera-copiadaThe draft was from the beginning that La Gravera should perform as a small winery where the whole process can be controlled. From the vineyard to the bottle and, all with a highly technical system. Doing small things that may surprise the wine lovers of design. Its aim also goes through a proven commitment to quality and a small production. The range of wines consist of white, pink and red and feature a broth medium-high segment, and 100 % organic wine.

lagravera-winery-by-sala-ferusic-architects-barcelona-02The differential of Celler La Gravera is the fact that this is a very small, very manageable collection, with a number of grape varieties,  a plot of 14 acres with nine different types of grapes. “It allows us to process the cupages with great success ,” says the young winemaker Jordi Viader. The winery is a totally unique personal museum, unique, unusual, no plagiarism or copies. Everything, absolutely everything, is looked at through the prism of surreal design, the encounter with the afterlife, but understandable and functional. It is a winery that deserves architectural design awards.

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We are not only talking technology, but also the passion for winemaking. “My experience in domestic and international markets, traveling the world, making our wines, with proven quality, we are presenting and selling through hotels and restaurants on several continents, with a great acceptance among them,” says Sergi Garcia , CEO of Bodegas Lagravera.

onra_graveraThis very cellar in the D.O. Costers del Segre believe that as a basic premise, it is pertinent to continuously improving the quality of its wines. The slogan that have endorsed the Lleida winery is “wine that comes from the stones .” This is because their vineyards are located on land with lots of stone, basically a gravel pit located in the comarca of Noguera. They are highly mineralized wines. “We aim to give our customers what they want, while we want to be faithful with what they want ,” says Garcia. Lagravera wines are intended for the HoReCa market segment and specialty stores. Current global production is around 50,000 bottles per harvest.

10 to go!

Catalan Wine 365 and SweetEasy Wine Tours

Winery De Muller, That Lucky Old Sun in D.O. Tarragona

367/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Tarragona – Reus – De Muller – Solera 1851 Pajarete Augusto De Muller

That Lucky Old Sun……..,

…never stops shining and the days here in Catalonia are in general wonderful. 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.

pajareteSolera 1851 Pajarete Augusto De Muller, Moscatel, Garnacha Blanca and a mix of Red Garnacha varieties!

Medium-dark brown mahogany color with very dense and endless tears. There’s a symphony of aromas going on in the glass, the nose being very fragrant and subtle, starting with balsamic and continuing with cedar tree, candy and cereals. Raisins, dried figs, dates and nuts are several of the other lovely aromas developing and offering dimension after dimension in this Jerez type wine, one of the best sweet wines that I have had the luck to try. The palate is a round, full of flavor, with exceptional acidity that make it an almost eternal wine. There is a high degree of fineness and delicacy topped with a long, silky finish. This is a wine that will allow you to die with a smile on your face!

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

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! Another 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!

18 to go!

Catalan Wine 365 and SweetEasy Wine Tours

Hotel Hostal-Sport Time, I Gotcha in D.O. Empordà

348/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Empordà – Tasting in Falset – Hotel Hostal-Sport – Garnatxa Solera Marià Pagès

I Gotcha…….

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…. once again, Hostal-Sport hosted a tasting of wines from one of the 12 appellations in Catalonia. Yesterday it was time for D.O. Empordà. Professional, enthusiastic and always smiling….., Laura Masramon Grau, sommelier and highly knowledgeable when it comes to the Empordà, was in charge and showed us what Empordà is all about! If you ever feel like visiting the Empordà, you should definitely get in touch with Laura, as she will show you the soul of the region! The next tasting, and last for the year, is on the 7th of December, covering DOQ Priorat, Vi de Vila producers! I expect some real gems and I for one am not going to miss it!

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Empordà is a landscape of contrasts, situated in the far north east of Catalonia. The Pyrenees, to the north, and the Mediterranean Sea, to the south, form natural boundaries. The breathtaking Costa Brava setting makes Empordà a truly unique place, linking the coast to the mountains, influenced by the famous northerly Tramontane wind. Empordà is a landscape of great natural beauty, with several natural protected areas and an awe-inspiring coastline of beaches and coves. It also boasts a great cultural and historical heritage: menhirs, megaliths, Gothic architecture, Romanesque art, charming small villages, the surrealist art of the genius Salvador Dali… all making the area highly attractive, even more so if the people and fine gastronomy are also considered, especially the Empordà traditional dishes and the nouvelle cuisine, headed by figures such as Ferran Adrià. All of which are complemented beautifully by Empordà DO (Designation of Origin) wines.

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There is no doubt that the wine culture and the knowledge of the wine trade reached Catalonia around the 6th century BC. The area was then the most important Greek colony in Spain, and Emporiae was the Greek city that later gave its name to the district of Empordà. Four centuries later, archaeological and documental evidence exists to demonstrate that the wines of the lands of Emporiae and other areas of the Tarraconensis were known in the domestic markets of other provinces of the Roman Empire and in the metropolis itself.

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In the Middle Ages, when vines were grown near abbeys and monasteries, the terraced vineyards cultivated by the Monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes covered the slopes of the Rodes Mountain range. It is here that the winemaking monk Ramon Pere de Noves is believed to have excelled in the art of winemaking and have written a treatise on the subject. There is also evidence to show that the Monasteries of Sant Quirze de Colera and Santa Maria de Vilabertran also owned vineyards in Empordà.

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In the 18th and 19th centuries, the vines demonstrated their colonising capacity and became a symbol for the agricultural growth that fuelled significant demographic growth in the production area. A unique landscape of cypress trees with dry stone terraces, walls and cottages was shaped. The phylloxera plague first appeared in Catalonia in 1879, in a vineyard in Rabós d’Empordà. It brought a ruinous end to this thriving era for Empordà wines. The recovery was tough. The vineyards never recovered all the land they had occupied prior to the plague.

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The cooperative bodega movement was initially promoted by the Mancomunitat of Catalonia, and later by the Republican Generalitat around 1930. This was the start of a new era of improved winemaking processes; new bodegas were built and sales networks were extended. In addition to these developments, private initiatives were underway and the result was that the quality of wine of Empordà gained fame and popularity in many markets.

Garnatxa_Celler_Maria_Pages_DO_Emporda_AnabelGardellGarnatxa Solera Marià Pagès, 100% Garnatxa

Intense lovely amber color with a mahogany hue, thick and rather slow tears, unclear, slightly veiled. The nose is somewhat reduced as a result of its aging, oak notes of old wood and varnish, nuts (walnuts and almonds), soft licorice notes, nice scents of Mediterranean herbs  (lavender and thyme), soft honey notes, marzipan and soft background of dried apricots and figs. Soft on the palate with a slightly sweet touch, lovely presence in the mouth with good balance, good acidity, soft touches of liquor, dried orange peel, great volume, fine texture, slightly smooth and gentle persistence. Long and persistent aftertaste of dried figs. Powerful, sweet and fruity! My favorite of the evening!

catalan-wine-365-new1139 to go!

Catalan Wine 365 and SweetEasy Wine Tours

Winery Herencia Altes, Children Of The Revolution in D.O. Terra Alta

346/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Terra Alta – Batea – Herencia Altes Winery – Herencia Altes Garnatxa Blanca 2011

Children Of The Revolution………,

garnatxa_blanca_23859Herencia Altes Garnatxa Blanca 2011

Straw yellow color. Expressive exotic nose, white flowers are all over the place, mineral and well marked acidity that keeps it fresh and alive over time. The palate is creamy and has good volume. A wine with complexity and soul. It was made using old and young vines of Garnacha Blanca. The grapes were picked early to ensure good natural acidity. Followed by short maceration and fermentation. The wine was kept two months on its lees to gain texture and complexity. This is a wine to fall in love with!

On rare occasions do I write about the labels...., you'll have to agree that this one is a masterpiece! Interpret as you wish.

Herencia Altes Garnatxa Negra 2012

Deep ruby to purple colour. Primary nose very closed, not displaying much at first. After a while, the first impression is that of artificial aromas, perfume and strawberry caramels, pure candy. Aromas of under-brush, black cherries and raspberries. In the mouth, however, it gets going from entry. Very lively fruit, but without exaggeration, yielding a wine of medium body, creamy, silky and fills the mouth and fascinates. Beautiful fresh plums, ripe strawberries, tobacco, licorice, vanilla pod, bitter chocolate. One more of my Super Catalans. At this price and with this quality, you should buy boxes!

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The second wine of the day is a custom cuvee made for wine importer Eric Solomon by proprietor Nuria Altes. It is 100% garnaxta negra (grenache) raised on its lees in concrete vats.  The fruit is mix of very old garnaxta bush vines, which is balanced by the youthful intensity of younger vine fruit.

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If Herencia Altès is one thing only, it is quality throughout! But it is not only one thing, it has so much more to offer, and I for one am going to keep my eyes open for the coming wines from this fine tuned cellar in Terra Alta. This is a well thought through project long time in the making. For generations Nuria Altes and her family have been grape growers, with vineyards dispersed around the village of Batea. Nuria has decided to give these grapes their own personality making limited numbers of the seven wines they produce.

HERENCIA_ALTES.LEstel.labelWhile Terra Alta is not yet a well-known region (but it is getting there) – tucked away in the south-eastern corner of Catalonia it borders Aragón and Valencia – it is one of the largest areas in Catalonia under vine. Built upon Roman and Moorish foundations it preserves a beautiful historical center and its grand church is testament to its past glories. In terms of viticulture, it is the most important village in Terra Alta accounting for over 50% of its entire grape production. Most of the grapes are sold to cooperatives or large companies outside the region. Herencia Altes is Nuria Altes’ dream to put Terra Alta on the map and show the true quality of these wonderful old vines.

The artwork on each of the labels reminds Nuria of her childhood days, playing amongst the vines.

41 to go!

Catalan Wine 365 and SweetEasy Wine Tours

Benjamin Romeo, Stranger in Paradise in D.O. Catalunya

345/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Catalunya – Massis de Garraf – Benjamin Romeo/Celler Massis – Massis 2012

Stranger in Paradise……,

BenjaminRomeoMassis2012smMassis 2012, 55% Xarel·lo and 45% White Grenache

Pale yellow color, very bright and clean, the tears are slow and dense. Great expression on the nose, with medium intensity, hints of ripe white fruit, banana, apple and some cured meat, crisp smoky notes, Mediterranean wild herbs and white flowers, freshly cut grass, followed throughout with mineral, chalky secondary aromas. It is a mouthful! Dense on the palate, large and very fresh, good acidity which carries the wine nicely. This is a intense wine, with a overall creamy feel. Citrus and white fruit all the way which is very intense and slightly creamy, very mild bitter notes and medium persistence. The ending is medium long and the aftertaste is that of white fruit and some citrus and soft smoky notes. The wine was fermented using French oak barrels (50% new and 50% used) after which it was aged in the same barrels during 8 months.

46473fbcc1d87fc55c66d80e12256e88Contador! Is not a wine from Catalonia but I guess that you have heard of it? Well, then you also might know that the wine maker of this very expensive wine, is Benjamin Romeo? What you might not know, is that he´s also making wine using grapes from one of my absolute favorite grape growing areas, the Garraf massif, within the Penedes region. The Massis wine is certainly more value for money (compared to the Contador), and if you have been following my postings, you know that I am looking for wines that are not going to make me eat crackers for the rest of the month!

The Penedes region is Catalonia’s largest region in terms of size and production, and covers an area of 27,000 hectares of vineyards. Varieties include Macabeo, Chardonnay, Subirat Parent, Xarel·lo and Parellada white vines, as well as the red varieties of Mazuela, Garnacha, Samsó, Ull de Llebre, Monastrell and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Mapa_Massís_del_GarrafIn the Massis de Garraf, you will come across several great wine makers and cellars, producing excellent estate Cavas and wines in an interesting microclimate, within the Penedes. The Massis de Garraf is quite close to the Mediterranean Sea, and the hills forming the Massís reach a height of 500 meters, forming a surprising craggy landscape which is made up of two very different parts: one of chalky and sedimentary rocks and the other, a reef of reddish sand on the eastern part of the plain’s nature reserve. Additionally, given the altitude of the mountains, wide diurnal temperatures and the beneficial climate with wind and humidity coming in from the ocean it is an excellent climate for different grape varieties and many have adapted perfectly.

Parc_natural_garraf_SWThe next time you come to Barcelona, you should definitely take a day trip to this beautiful area, and why not visit another great cellar if the Massis de Garraf, the Can Ràfols dels Caus! I promise you´ll have a great time!

42 to go!

Catalan Wine 365 and SweetEasy Wine Tours

Clos Pons, Stone Flower in D.O. Costers del Segre

341/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Costers del Segre – L’Albagés – Clos Pons – Sisquella 2012

Stone Flower……..,

sisquellaSisquella 2012, Albariño, Garnacha Blanca and Moscatel de Alexandria

Straw yellow color, clear and shiny. Powerful sweetness on the nose with notes of pineapple and lemon, ripe white fruit also appears after some time, toasted vanilla and a light touch from the French oak. Quite floral overall feel. It is elegantly spicy with citrus notes that are present but not overwhelming. This is a very fresh wine with a medium long after taste. With the ancient name of the lands of L’Albagés, Clos Pons Sisquella restores white wine making in the area of the Garrigues, a region otherwise known for the reds.

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The construction of the winery completes the wine project which started in 2005 by the Pons family. The design of the space is fuelled by the philosophy of tradition and respect for the land, reflecting the history of the company. Based on the concepts of order, symmetry, land and buildings of stone and wood, characteristics of the area of Les Garrigues, the project revolves around its adaptation to the environment and the project’s interaction with it.

The rectangular floor plan located on the top of a hill offers magnificent sunsets, overlooking the vastness of Les Garrigues and the Catalan Pyrenees. The Winery is perched on a hill that overlooks the entire vineyard. It is a construction that adheres to the concept of the French Château or the American Estate. This means integrated production, with the grapes being converted into wine on the same site where the vines grow.

New technology and traditional methods are combined at this facility, where everything is designed with the idea of working with respect for quality while maintaining the maximum properties of the terroir in the wines. Stone and wood feature in a new construction that aims to achieve maximum integration into the local landscape and maximum respect for the nature surrounding it.

Martí Magriñá i Poblet is the wine maker of Clos Pons and one of the first oenologists to qualify at the Rovira i Virgili University in Tarragona, he is a recognised authority in the Spanish winemaking sector. His professional career has taken him to the most acclaimed wine regions worldwide. He has worked at wineries in France, California, Chile, and Spain. This experience means that he has an open approach to the possibilities of the world of wine, where oenological techniques manage to get the best out of each terroir. Recognition of his work is shown in a series of awards, including medals and high scores in top competitions and magazines around the world.

47 to go!

Celler Hugas de Batlle, My Point Of View in D.O. Empordà

340/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Empordà – Colera – Celler Hugas de Batlle – 30.70 – 2012

My Point Of View……..,

30.70-201330.70 – 2012, 30% Muscat de Alexandria and 70 Garnacha Blanca

Light yellow color with golden reflections. White stone fruits, honey, menthol and grass. Perfumed nose with subtle hints of peaches, apricots and the Muscat standing out with its honeyed aroma on a background of white fowers and aromatic herbs, leaning towards the typicity of white Grenache. large entry, managing to maintain freshness and intensity, slightly salty and the taste of wet stone. Great body and the honey, although mineraly, is noticed in the mouth as well. Fresh, persistent. large and ending on a slightly bitter and herbaceous note. Lovely wine!

id-886220-260287787440067-642143354-oAn innovative coupage bringing together two of the most traditional whites of L’Empordà: White Grenache and Muscat de Alexandria. One provides the body and volume thanks to its perfect adaptation to the climate of Colera, the other gives the wine its attractive, summer, perfume. Together, the two make a fresh, pleasant wine, the essence of the land where it was created. The hillsides of Colera inspired the construction of this wine, it is almost like being at the rocks by the sea as the waves keep slapping them and the water playing, moving up and down, just like a nice tune by Herbie Hancock.

DSC_0989Varieties that resist the Tramontana wind that blasts the leaves. Vines grown near the sea provide the unmistakeable and almost sickly Mediterranean sweetness of the Muscat and Grenache grapes, always turned golden by the sun, which even wild boar and small birds get to enjoy before the autumn arrives. A maximum of the perfume and harmony is extracted from these grapes and placed in the bottle, sealed with a cork to help preserve the aromas. A fresh mouthful of the Colera vineyards.

48 to go!