Catalonia 2013


Leaving the vineyard, behind schedule, we headed for the Priorat region and the village of Gratallops. At this village we had lunch at Les Figueres [LINK]. This restaurant was also part of a vineyard, and we were allowed to enter the cellar where their wines were stored in oak barrels. The restaurant was alive with a number of families and with kids running around. We had the clear impression that kids are welcome at countryside restaurants in Catalonia, and I suppose a few of us starting to think about the possibility of bringing the family down there for a vacation. The lunch was splendid and Nani educated us even more on the wine and even the local cuisine.

After the, now late, lunch we headed into the vineyards close to Gratallops. While the sun was setting we drank a wonderful Priorat. The tranquility of the moment was definitely a peak during our stay.

At the end of the walk we entered the winery. The building complex was a recent construct, and the architecture was modern. If anything it confirmed that wine-making, on the vineyard, is recent. It must be noted that a co-op winery was in the village of Capcanes a few kilometers away. The harvest was completed a few weeks ago and the wines were fermenting on steel tanks. Our first tasting was directly off the same tanks. These wines, although young, was drinkable but perhaps a little to acid still. We also went through the wine cellar where we touched upon the first evidence of clay jar storing and fermenting of the wines. All in all we had the impression that the wine industry is not conservative. According to Nani the willingness to experiment was also a consequence of demanding customers; being accustomed to one quality or one taste often triggered the incentive to move on. The official tasting included an exclusive vintage of the white wine “Rita” named after the wife of the wine-maker. It was a delicious and an exciting experience. The reds were also perfect, and we ended the whole session by buying a number of their wines. We discussed with the wine maker the possibilities of selling his wine in Norway, and Joa Vinklubb promised to inquire for their wine through the sales channels in Norway.

Yet another beautiful day. Today only one of us can claim that he was up running before breakfast though! The positive surprise of today was that Nani showed up exactly on time. 9:30 we all climbed aboard the van, left Barcelona, and head west toward the wine districts Montsante, Priorat and Alta Terra. After one and half hour drive we entered Montsante and the village of Capcanes. We were about to visit Vinyes Domenech [LINK]. The vineyard was seated in a picture perfect location far away from major roads and settlements. At this point the weather was windy and the temperature had dropped compared with Barcelona. Nani walked us through the vineyard, and explained the grape varieties, how the vines were oriented against the sun and the soil specifics of the area. Compared to nearby rocky Priorat, the Montsant was predominantly clay like. We also learned that the vine plant was subject to grafting. In that way an old Merlot could carry Grenache the following year. We also learned specifics of the grape harvesting, including the fact that some of the grapes were left hanging. One benefit of this was that we could walk around the vines and eat tasty grapes.

The previous night Oscar had suggested a Tapas place; Morryssom [LINK]. We’ve ordered tables at 8:30, when we arrived we were taken to the second floor where we were the only guests. Morryssom had the best sea-food tapas, but started out offering Rioja wines.  Since our mission was to discover the wines of Catalonia we ordered instead a Priorat; and during that evening several bottles of the same.  Nani had also let us know that although Catalonians are proud of Catalonia few have “discovered” Catalonian wines, so the fact that we were offered Rioja only confirmed Nani’s assertion. Being alone at the second floor at 8:30 was a brief experience. A little past 9 the whole place was filled up, and the noise level was through the roof. Morryssom also seems to be a place where locals go, and it certainly was heightening our experience. The fact that there was a language barrier didn’t reduce this positive experience, on the contrary, and besides; everything was solved with having yet another glass of wine.

When summarizing day 2 we were all positive. We were also tired, in a good way, after walking, talking, eating and drinking. We were also sure that the best was yet to come.

Winetrip to Catalonia 2013

Following the successful trip to southern France October 2012 [LINK], Joa Wine Club decided to make a new trip in 2013. One major difference being that the trip was to be made without our significant others. Back in 2010 a wine club gathering was focused on Catalonian wines. This specific event was inspired by a meeting between one of the wineclub’s member and group of people from Barcelona. Having local contacts it was natural to use these, and an inquiry was sent to Xavier Escaler who lives just outside the city of Barcelona. He was asked if he could suggest a way to experience Catalonian wines. Xavier was happy to help arrange a trip, and he managed through contacts to get hold of a wine expert and Somelier, Nani Ramon, that made the final (wine) planning for our trip.  Early the morning of Nov 6, five men met in between heavy rain-showers and a temperature around 5C. The adventure was about to begin:


The wine tasting was to take place in (again) the modern production, office and reception rooms at the vineyard. The reception room was overlooking the vineyard, and the surroundings. We could do nothing but be impressed. Nani, who works on a regular basis with this specific vineyard, was running the show. Before noon we had been through 8 different wines. Together with the wines we were served a traditional meal consisting of: A bread with filled with tomato, sardines, chorizo sausage and a blood type sausage. This was a combination none of us would think of making ourselves, but the food felt correct and together with the wine it turned into a delicious meal.  The only unfortunate fact with being at Edetaria was that it was our final destination of the trip. After purchasing a few bottles we all packed our suitcases and Nani brought us to the airport of Barcelona.

Day 4:

Again Nani was punctual and picked us up 9, and we headed to the vineyard Edetària [LINK] in Terra Alta district near Gandesa. This vineyard was located in a more open landscape, but with towering mountains not far away. Overall the country side of Catalonia was majestic, and we could probably spend weeks hiking and bicycling and still be overwhelmed with the next view. At Edetària we were taken through the vineyard, and explained again the varieties and specifics of this vineyard. We were also told that the land was ancient sea floor, and we were also taken to a colorful sediment layer display.

For the night we were taken into Falset were we stayed at Hostal Sport Falset [LINK]. At this place we were joined by Xavier, and the same night we went to the El Celler de l’Aspic [LINK] restaurant. We had a 5 dish meal and 4 wines, a splendid closure of a perfect day. Of special mention was a red dessert wine, which was a pleasant surprise.

The pit stops were an outdoor serving close to the Cathedral, a hamburger restaurant found on TripAdvisor and close to LaSagra, and a Sangria place on Rambla de Catalunya. The latter place was the only time we ever considered anything to be expensive. But again, after a few sips it was all jokes and laughter; which incidentally was the main theme of the trip.

Day 2:

We woke up to another beautiful day in Barcelona. Some of us also managed running for a few kilometers before breakfast on the Montjuic hill close to the hotel. This day we were on our own, and we did as tourists do: Tracking the city the whole day! The highligt being the visit to LaSagrada Familia. The interior of the church is now complete, and it’s awesome…worth a visit.

The approach Nani had selected suited all 5 of us extremely well. We could individually do our own tasting of the wine without excessive sharing of thoughts and ideas. Nani was on the other hand continuously giving us relevant information of the wines, information that was useful when evaluating. Of general information we learned that Catalonia has 11 wine regions, of which we were to visit three. It was also clear that modern Spanish wine making, e.g. branding of specific wines/districts, was young and dates back 15-30 years.

Concluding day 1 everybody agreed that the meeting with our Spanish friends had been an experience to be remembered, and that the outlook for the days to come was promising!

We met with Nani Ramon, Xavier Escaler and Oscar de la Torre at the el 600 de la Pepi [LINK] and 6 wines were tasted as an introduction to the world of Catalonian wines. Obviously we needed to taste Cava, a sparkling white, and a wine that for many is the signature wine of Catalonia. We proceeded through a white and a rose before entering the reds. The first red, Joseph Foraster based on Trepat grapes, was in many ways the most satisifying experience for many of us that evening. The intensity of the nose, its spicy and citrus flavors, made this a wine worth remembering.  The two last reds were based on the most common Catalonian grape; Grenache. One interesting part was that one was aged in concrete tanks, while the other had been 12 months in oak barrels before bottling. It was to a theme of the trip that aging in oak barrels not necessarily justified the natural oak flavors of the grape itself, and eventually we would experience wineries that experimented with aging of wines in clay jars! After tasting we continued on with a meal, and even more wine but with no ambition of evaluating and testing what was served.

Day 1: Nov 6

The first adventure was to bring five grown up men and their luggage inside a small VW Golf for the 5km ride to the airport. We made it!

The 6:00 flight to Amsterdam went well as well as the connecting flight to Barcelona. At noon we were installed at Hotel Grums, which incidentally was a Spa hotel although no one used the opportunity to soften their skin, and about to visit the city. The first meal, together with beer, was consumed at Placa Reial  near La Rambla. Although a very touristic restaurant we couldn’t do anything else but enjoy ourselves. Weather was on our side, sunny and temperatures between 20-25C, and a few beers and a Sangria did everything but spoil the mood  We stayed around the city center until our first “official” wine-tasting later that night.