Monday, November 21, 2011

A vineyard trip

This morning promptly at nine we met with 15 other people at the bodega in town to form an eight car convoy for our trip to Arche Pages vineyard and cellar in Capmany, about half an hour away.

Upon arrival we joined another couple in their car for a short trip to the first vineyard. We were very impressed with the young man who owned the vineyard with his family. He was probably about 30 and has revolutionised the vineyard, which has been in the family for five generations. The vines ranged from two to a hundred years old. Previous generations had sold all the grapes except for a few that they kept for their own wine making. In 2004 the son kept the grapes and started producing their own wine for sale.

The main grape of the area is a granache, which had been harvested already this year.  Unlike in his father's time very few if any chemicals were used on the grapes. Unfortunately, the grass and weeds were cleaned away and the bugs that ate the spiders who eat the grapes had nothing to eat them. It's like the spider that swallowed the fly. They are  now going to grow grass between the vines so little animals will come and eat those red spiders.

It was back in the car for a bumpy ride to fields where the cabernet sauvignon and merlot was grown. There were still grapes on what were suckers of the three main branches of each plant. In his dad's time these little grapes were harvested and sold. It took quite a bit of convincing of the father that these would not go in the wine when the grapes were harvested by locals in September and October. We tasted the little grapes and they were very nice, not too dry. These will be picked later and may be used for wine as they were good quality this year. There were new terraces for the vines and everything was very well cared for. Later with his one Bolivian employee the vines will be trimmed right back and the suckers removed. Apparently, the wood from the vines is excellent for barbecuing.

It was in the car again and off to see how the wine was made. The red wine is made with the stems removed before the grapes go through the crusher. Then it is in to the steel vats for 7-10 days for fermentation and then in to lovely, new French oak barrels for 6 months. This produces 35,000 bottles of wine 25% of which are for export.

We made a short trip in to town, where we were directed in to a cellar of an old house. A table was set up for seventeen with meats and cheeses and of course bread in preparation for our wine tasting. First of all everyone took a piece of bread and tomato and rubbed the tomato pulp into the bread and then the first wine arrived. It was a dry white wine. We were warned about the strength of the wine. Seamus and I hadn't finished our first glass while everyone was finishing the second white wine. We missed out on the second white, which was probably a good thing. Fortunately, we knew to keep drinking lots of water between the wines and more bread and more food. Then the reds arrived. We sampled three. Each one better than the last. The bottles were left on the table for everyone to help themselves and the meat, cheese and bread kept coming. Here we were being served by the owner of the vineyard and his mum and dad. Finally, plates of local almonds, hazelnuts and raisins were placed on the table and really delicious coffee was served.

We made our thank you's and walked back to the car. There wasn't even an opportunity to buy the wine. It was such a pleasure to hear how the wine was made and to see someone so enthusiastic and passionate about what they were doing. It was a lovely day with lovely wine and food. Now for a nap.

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