Sunday, September 8, 2013

We explore wine making process, feet first

Another week of beautiful weather has slipped by in the Port. Finally, we have calm water every day making for great swimming. The only event of last week was another Nit de Jazz at the Nautica with the same group as last time but sounding even better than before. Once again there was masses of food with shrimp and scallop brochettes, Serrano ham  bruschetta and a huge plate of sweet mussels. That was just the appetizers. This was followed by grilled turbot, and completed with small but incredibly tasty petit fours of chocolate mousse, raspberry mousse, lemon tart and best of all a tiny white coconut mound with a yellow blob on top resembling an egg. With as much wine as you wanted to drink and glasses of cava at the end it made for a lovely evening.

However, today was  the day I have been looking forward to for a long time, Fes-te el Most. We made an early start taking the road up the mountain passing the monastery. Early in the morning there were a few cyclists and hikers and one lone black goat resting in the middle of the road. Once at the top we headed down the mountain to Villajuiga and on to the Empordalia Cooperativa in Pau. Lots of people were milling about, and the open air tourist bus that is like a train was ready for boarding. We were off but unfortunately sitting in the back, which brought back long forgotten feelings of being in the back car of a roller coaster every time we went around a curve. We cut off the main road and stopped in the middle of a vineyard.

We were going to help with the vendemia, or harvesting of the grapes. Most of this particular field had been harvested last week but some grapes remained for us. Forming into groups of four we were given a big plastic bin and some secateurs. We were told how to cut the grapes with one hand while cupping the bottom of the bunch in the other hand. These were cava grapes and quite sweet to eat. In fact I think I did as much eating as cutting. The bunches were quite big and in no time our bin was full. Our bins were loaded on the train and it was time for the return journey along the road to Pau.

We carried the bins into a long room and placed them beside big, old wooden carriers for the grapes. But first, breakfast. We adjourned to the next room for pan tomat - fresh tomatoes rubbed into bread leaving just the pulp - an assortment of meats, local red and white wine and some biscotti. Fortified, we went back to our grapes.

It was time to do what we came for. Crush the grapes. First we had to wash our feet. Then we put half the grapes in the wooden container. In I went. It was an odd sensation stepping up and down crushing the grapes. Seamus joined me and we stomped up and down together slowly feeling the grapes turn to liquid. Our new friends took their turn at crushing, while we added more grapes. Finally, they had enough so Seamus and I gallantly finished the task. What fun.

It was time to wash our feet again and get those pips out from between our toes. The press was assembled and everyone took turns dumping their wooden container into the press. Much of the juice just ran through into plastic containers but to ensure that all the juice was extracted from the rappa, or must, it had to be pressed by pushing the lever back and forth, click, clack, click, clack. When it would go no more the press was taken apart leaving just the must that can be used for distilling grappa or other local liqueurs.

Meanwhile the juice had been dumped into an aluminum container and from there jugs and then bottles of juice were filled. We were given a little glass of the juice we had all made; it was sweet but not too sweet. Delicious. The juice from the press tasted slightly different since the stalks were still on the grapes. Best of all we were given bottles of our juice to take home with us with strict instructions to put them in the fridge.

Crushing the grapes using my feet was something I have always wanted to do and I would definitely do it again. The winery only takes a few people four Sundays in September so we were lucky to be able to go. Tonight cava grape juice with dinner. MMMMMMM.

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