The end of ViGralla, Hey Ya! in Llorenc del Penedes

146/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Penedes – Baix Penedes – Llorenc del Penedes – Wine Fair ViGralla – Sicus Xarel.lo Vermell

Hey Ya!……

…., we did our thing and this years ViGralla has come to its end. Three days of fun, food, friends and great wines! As Saturday turned into Sunday, we all managed, somehow, to get a few hours of well deserved rest. To be able to set up the first activity on the last day, we had to get up early and so it started! The early morning risers, the fair people, setting up their artesian products, got their tents up by nine, just in time as we had the breakfast barbecue ready. Bacon, sausages, bread, tomato and olive oil, of course washed down with red or white wine. The breakfast of champions!

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The “Gigantes” (giants) parade passed by and the kids had a ball. After that, the fair started of in a steady pace. The first tasting of the day was of five “garage wines”, all made in the village and with quite different qualities, I can’t say that I liked them all but they were well made and interesting. I feel in love with a red Cabernet Sauvignon (BROT, La Garita Nova 2012), and had to order a few cases immediately. I’ll visit the garage where it’s made, have a proper talk with the wine maker and get back to you with tasting notes.

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In the early evening hours, my dear friend , and sommelier,  Agustin Palome Garcia conducted a pairing of four local wines and smoked fish. Some 30 people came to enjoy and as far as I was told they got their moneys worth! The combinations were the following; Sicus Xarel.lo Vermell with smoked cod, Jané Ventura Cava Do with smoked salmon, Finca Mas Perdut Pedra Seca Merlot i Sumoll with smoked tuna, Celler Domenys Cava Les Tres Naus Rosat with smoked salmon tartar. Well done Agustin!

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The evening carried on with dancing, a lot of laughs and public wine tasting. Simply the best way to spend any Sunday! I’m already looking forward to next years edition. If you are in the vicinity, you should come too! Happy wine loving days!

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Sicus Xarel.lo Vermell

Golden colour with red reflections. On the nose citrus aromas such as grapefruit and tangerine appear clearly and a background of stone fruit such as peach and plum. Great aromatic complexity on the nose with elegant notes of white fruits and fine touches of wild plants; such as rosemary and thyme. Good freshness and full in the mouth, with soft mineral flavours and a well balanced acidity. Good freshness and full in the mouth, with soft mineral flavours and a well balanced acidity. Long finish with a nice bitter hint.

233 to go!

Catalan Wine 365 and the SweetEasy Lifestyle

ViGralla, Blue Skies in Llorenc del Penedes

144/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Penedes – Baix Penedes – Llorenc del Penedes – Wine Fair ViGralla – Lluna Plena, Vi de Postre 2012

Blue Skies…..,

…. nothing but blue skies and a few soft clouds, It’s going to be a perfect day, again! Yesterdays tasting went very well and around 90 people came to enjoy the sit down wine tasting, together with chocolate, wine and music! The setting was quite magical in the old castle courtyard. Enjoy the pictures and check in tomorrow again for the ViGralla update.

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One of the five wines represented came from Cal Lluïsot wine cellar in Bonastre. Wine from the vineyard without secrets. Cal Lluïsot is a different winery. There is no arch at the entrance, there is no elaborate design to receive visitors. Our meeting point was at the road crossing in the centre of the village of Bonastre. No paraphernalia, but punctual and with a big smile, Sebastia Pie greeted us, he is the fifth generation of a family of winemakers, and we set of to one of three locations he likes to show during a visit. In each of the three, wine is tasted and then the visit is concluded at the small wine shop in the village. Cal Lluïsot philosophy is clear: coexist with the vineyard and take care of it and then all you have to do is to bottle the landscape, without secrets. Yesterday, we got to enjoy Sebastias sweet wine!

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Lluna Plena, Vi de Postre 2012, 50% Pansa Valenciana, 50% Garnatxa Blanca

Warm pale golden colour. Nose is a little muted and understated, needed a lot of air. A real rustic nose. Texture is waxy and a little oily. Nose of marmalade and honey. There’s a streak of freshness running through the dried apricots and candied lemon peel. Wild flowers and honey dominate after some time – a real depth of complexity, with an impressive rusticity. Lacks a little acidity, but the palate depth is impressive. Softer texture and restrained sweetness make a the finish quite refreshing. Quite difficult to interpret as it is changing a lot. Either you love it or you LOVE it!

235 to go!

Catalan Wine 365 and the SweetEasy Lifestyle

Catalonia, Ao Meu Redor in the land of beauty!

143/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Penedes – Baix Penedes – Llorenc del Penedes – Wine Fair ViGralla – Jane Ventura, Finca els Camps 2005

Ao Meu Redor…..,

…., it is present all around me, wine! Catalonia is the place to be, now more than ever. So dynamic, so affluent and with a sense of a great future for the Catalan wine and wine tourism. That was proven today, as the ViGralla (wine fair of Llorenc del Penedes) started with a round table get together, for wine tour operators and the wine cellars of Baix Penedes! First tasting tonight, at the castle of Llorenc, we’re doing wine, chocolate and gralla (local flute music). I bet it’s going to be a nice one. You really should be here, so you too could be all around me! Ao Meu Redor….

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Catalonia is a land of immense beauty with no less that 11 geographically unique wine districts awarded with the D.O. status, denomination or designation of origin, and is also the main producer of the Spanish sparkling wine Cava, which with its own D.O. makes for 12.

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During one day it’s possible to combine a hike in the mountain, a dip in the sea, and a walk through the vineyards. The Catalan nature offers the most stunning sceneries; from the sandy beaches of Costa Daurada to the steep hills of the Priorat vineyards, from the lush and billowing Penedès region, to the emblematic Monserrat Mountain.

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The weather is suitable for tourism throughout the year. The winter is mild and dry, and the almond trees are in blossom already in February. The spring and autumn may come with a day of rain, but mostly the sun is shining from a sky as blue as the cornflower. In March, life slowly returns to the vineyards, and the young leaves paint them a fresh pale green.

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September is a busy month in the vineyards when the grapes are ready for harvest, and in October the colour symphony ranges from green to yellow, and from orange to red. In November it’s time for the olives to be picked, and for the end of the farmers’ year to be celebrated with the harvest feast in most rural villages.

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In Catalonia’s diverse wine regions, more and more producers are making exceptional wines, using sustainable methods both in the fields and in the cellars. Most acclaimed internationally are the intense and fruity red wines from Priorat, the result of a dry and hot climate, the slate based soil and labour-intense farming methods.

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In Penedès, the queen of the wines is the sparkling Cava, made of local grapes, and in it’s best versions it’s a crisp dry Brut Nature. But more regions are reaching the international market with interesting wines, and each region offer it’s own unique reason for a visit.

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The Catalan cuisine is very complex and sophisticated, ranging from the seafood from the coastal areas, with the mushrooms of the forests, and meat from wild pigs and rabbits. Catalans are known for a brave mixture of taste and ingredients, and have come up with the sea-and-mountain style cooking, “mar i muntanya”, where meat and seafood come together in a delicious combination.

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Dried fruit and nuts are commonly used both in sweet and savoury dishes, and olive oil is a must in almost any recipe. Garlic, tomatoes, and peppers are staples, and bough fresh from the vegetable markets in the local village. In the mountainous interior, pork is turned into a wide variety of cold cuts and salamis, genetically referred to as “embutidos”, and to the local sausages like “longanissa” and “fuet”.

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Jane Ventura, Fincas els Camps 2005, 100% Ull de Llebre

This wine is the perfect example that the Mediterranean area can make a great wine with a widespread native variety in Catalonia. The Ull de Llebre (Tempranillo) is a very versatile variety that thrives in the local terroir of Baix Penedes. It is a wine of extraordinary depth and character, providing power and scope. The vineyard is located in the Joncosa Montmell mountains,  at an altitude of 400 m. Their vineyards are trellised  to the hight of 2 meters to provide more leaf surface. Soil of calcareous structure, with abundant carbonate nodules that give character.

Cherry red colour with high layers. The nose shows abundant ripe fruit (red and black fruits, currant) accompanied by spicy notes of undergrowth, lavender, fennel … , rose petals and nicely integrated fine wood. The palate has great structure, mature and elegant tannins. It is a wine that maintains a great balance with a great taste intensity and elegance. Just wish I had more!!!

236 to go!

Catalan Wine 365 and the SweetEasy Lifestyle

ViGralla Wine Fair, Cosmic Girl in Baix Penedes, D.O. Catalunya

142/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Catalunya – Baix Penedes – Llorenc del Penedes – Wine Fair ViGralla – Cosmic Cabernet Franc 2007

Cosmic Girl…..

Friday this week, May 9th, the fourth edition of ViGralla in the small village of Llorenc del Penedes starts off with a round table discussion regarding wine tourism in the Baix Penedes region of Catalonia. More than anything, Baix Penedes, is one of three climatologic regions of the D.O. Penedes.

Map of the Baix Penedes region.

Map of the Baix Penedes region.

It consists of some coastal villages and towns ad stretches inland a few kilometers. The choices available, for tourists, are plentiful. Yu can spend a day on the beach, relaxing, and the next moment you can be on your bike visiting a picturesque village, eating traditional rustic food and enjoying the sunset in the evening with a glass of Cava from a nearby cellar.

Sicus is going to be represented by Eduard!

Sicus is going to be represented by Eduard!

There are few cellars here but a lot of vineyards. Almost anywhere you turn you will see fields of green vine and the grapes grown are the classical Cava varieties, Xarel.lo, Macabeu and Parellada. Over the years, some foreign varieties have been introduced, off course the Cabernet-Sauvignon and Syrah but also Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are being used more and more.

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Sumoll, Malvasija de Sitges and Monastrell are other grapes, which young wine makers use to make exciting wines. Some are going to be displayed at the ViGralla. The term refers to Vi (Wine in Catalan) and Gralla, which is a wind instrument, a flute of Catalan origin and the idea is to combine music and wine.

ViGralla 2013 edition!

ViGralla 2013 edition!

During Saturday and Sunday, 10th and 11th respectively, pairings, tastings and a variety of activities are on the program and a couple of thousands visitors are expected to enjoy the culture and wines of Baix Penedes. A part of living in a small village, as a foreigner, is the possibility offered to participate. Not as a visitor but as a equal member of the organizing committee. During the past months, we have jointly been planning for this yearly event, and we are all quite content with the result so far.

Barthomeus is participating this year as well!

Barthomeus is participating this year as well!

As always, it is up to the visitors to set the mood, all we can do is pray to Bacchus that the wine will flow in the right direction. Down the throat! Some of my personal favorite cellars are going to be around and even though I have tasted their wines on several occasions, I’m going to enjoy them again! A newly introduced activity, for this year’s edition, is the “garage tasting”, small “non-commercial” are offering a taste of their very limited production. 100% Macabeu, 100% Merlot and other exiting wines are waiting in the “garage”.

Last years excursion to Montmell!

Last years excursion to Montmell!

Saturday, at 9 a.m., it starts with an excursion to the village of Albinyana. It is a walk through the vineyards of about one and a half hours, taking us to the l’Ermita de Sant Antoni. Where we are to enjoy the first wine tasting of many. The setting is spectacular, even though the wind might pose a challenge to get the full spectrum of aromas. Some of the village flute players will perform and some 60-80 people are participating in the hike.

WINEYS!!! Smilies for wine lovers!

WINEYS!!! Smilies for wine lovers!

During the afternoon, the cellars, are coming to set up their wares at the small village “Rambla” and for the travellers and visitors coming it all starts at 6 p.m. The way it works, is the way most local wine fairs work. You buy a wine glass and tasting tickets, and the cellars decide whether they charge one or two Euros per fill of wine. Around thirty to forty wines are going to be available for tasting continuously in addition to the sit down tastings. Blind tastings and pairings, with chocolate and local specialities and music.

Painting by Ernest Descals, of the Co-operative Cellar of Llorenc del Penedes, the host of ViGralla 2014!

Painting by Ernest Descals, of the Co-operative Cellar of Llorenc del Penedes, the host of ViGralla 2014!

You’ll be able to enjoy the wines of Cosmic Celler, one of the wineries attending the fair. And one of Cosmics special wines, if you ask me, is the Cabernet Franc 2007. I tried it about six months ago, as I was preparing for this 365 day marathon of wine writing and wine tastings, and below are my notes. I think I have another bottle in my cellar but that one will have to spend some more time before it is to be imbibed. Will I see you at the ViGralla this year, or will you be joining us next year?

COSMIC CABERNET FRANC 2007

Cosmic Cabernet Franc 2007

It ‘s made ​​from 100% Cabernet Franc, the vineyards are located in one of the highest areas of the Baix Penedès in the province of Tarragona. Organic farming  with biodynamic criteria. Manual harvest. Fermentation takes place partly in French oak barrels and partly in stainless steel tanks, 50% of the volume is aged in French and Hungarian oak for 14 months, 20% in clay jars and 30 % is aged in bottle for 5 years. Limited production of 2215 bottles. Cosmic is a project of a new generation of winemakers, passionate and with great talent!

Cherry color, with a maroon middle layer. Concentrated ripe red fruit aromas, balsamic and elegant. Toasted notes, some plum and blackberry hands over to an earthy background. Silky entry, complex as it evolves. Fresh and fruity, edgeless tannins. Long and pleasant finish.

237 to go!

Catalan Wine 365 and the SweetEasy Lifestyle

Barthomeus, Isn’t this a lovely day in D.O. Penedes

92/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Penedes – El Vendrell – Barthomeus – Barthomeus Red 2012

Isn’t this a lovely day……..

…., first day of spring! Already? Time flies and the vines are crying, which means that we are about to see green vineyards very soon. More and more wine related activities are underway and the calendar is full, not that I’m complaining, just wish there was more time! The village is preparing for the wine fair of our section of Penedes, the Baix (the lower) Penedes, it’s getting close now and we are meeting up every Friday evening to tie up the last bits and bobs! Almost all done, just a few sommeliers missing!

1381461_674653545885633_260371367_nIt is the 4th year for this particular fair and we have now set the program for the wine cellars, that have been invited and will demonstrate their wines. It all starts the 9th of May and goes on until the 11th. A really god opportunity to get aquatinted with some great wines of the region. One of the cellars participating is Barthomeus. Here is their story!

1376359_674653149219006_1909150598_nThe masia Barthomeus is currently owned and operated by the family of Llasat, a constellation of three siblings. It was probably acquired by Bartomeu Minguella whose name is still preserved in the historical records of the mansion. Three generations earlier, in 1635, the forefather was Joan Castanyer. He was a farmer and lived in El Vendrell in his ancestral house in the High Street of the town, which is still kept in order and where the original wine cellar has been preserved.

DSC_0022-optim-940x450In 1911 the great grandfather, Joan Recasens Minguella, was one of the founders of the “Cooperativa del Vendrell” and he was the first president of this, in the days, high producing wine cooperative. The father of todays generation, Carles Llasat, followed in his fathers footsteps and fifty years later became the President as well. Now, the three Llasat siblings, with the support of their mother are following the ancestral path and not only are they cultivating the vineyards but also elaborating wines.

CCI14012013_00002optim-940x450Masia Barthomeus has a property of 30 Ha. and is situated between 28 and 50 m. above sea level, in close proximity to the Mediterranean coast and not far from Via Agusta, the ancient Roman trade route of Catalonia. Its surface is covered by vineyards, olive trees and carob trees, Mediterranean forest of Aleppo pines, Kermes Oak and with an important amount of palmetto and some American aloes. All together it is like an island of green in the middle of an urban zone which becomes a fauna refuge fighting the influence of humans.

1074895_1424145954469863_1212772362_oIn 2001 they decided to go against the progressive degradation of the surroundings and with the aim of preserving its biodiversity, they obtained for that an extension of 50 Ha. to be declared REFUGE OF WILD FAUNA, that is to say, a protected natural zone, by the Department of Environment of the Generalitat de Catalunya. In 2012 they slowly began to turn all viticulture into ecological growing, under CCPAE (Catalan Council of Ecological Protection).This culture excludes all sorts of chemical treatment (herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers) which damages the fauna too, in order to keep an ecological balance.

DSC_0062optim-940x450The masia Bartomeu has 15 Ha. of vineyard distributed on 18 parcels of different dimensions. They are distributed in two different zones which are almost equal: one of them looks to the sea somewhat higher than the Sant Salvador shore; the other is situated behind the little hill where the masia stands and looks at the little village of San Vicenç de Calders. The different locations have their own microclimates. The one looking at the sea receives the see-breeze and the other one doesn’t.

Marge-1-580x350There are two different varieties of red grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. This decision was taken many years ago when it was realized that this land had been ground for red grapes. In fact, some of the vineyards of Cabernet Sauvignon are among the oldest in el Baix Penedès because they were planted in 1987 and have adapted themselves extraordinarily well to this place.

Presentacio2_optim1The vineyards were born more than 2000 years ago. As the archaeological remains tell us, the “masia” (farm house) Barthomeus was built by the Iberian people and in the V century they traded with the Greek and Carthaginians and later with the Romans and all of them left their traces here, especially the last ones.

ceramica3-940x450The great quantity of Iberian, Punitian and Roman amphoras coming from these peoples clearly show that the trade of wine had been very important in that little Roman “villae” where the masia Barthomeus now stands. Imagination has no boundaries and I can easily ponder about how the Romans traveled through this landscape and during such journeys needed shelter, a hotel if you wish. They would probably be welcomed at the Barthomeus mansion to spend a night or two and enjoy some wine and dinner. Today, you are able to do the same as the family have built a separate agroturistic house on their land, which is possible to rent. Welcome to my hood!

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Barthomeus Red 2011, 100% Cabernet Sauvignon

Only 5.500 bottles produced. Deep cherry red color with purple edges, slight orange and medium-high intensity. Clean and bright. Slow flowing tears. High aromatic intensity of ripe black and red (berries) fruits. Ripe plums, peach, banana and a hint of aniseed. It is a mouthful with a long lingering taste. Very fresh. Quite structured, large and fatty. Tannic yet smooth and elegant. This is a well made wine and very price-worthy!

288 to go!