Last September as part of a larger trip to Catalunya (and one day in Aragon but more of that later) i decided that a weekend discovering ‘more’ wine would be a good choice. And for a change i wasn’t wrong with my choice. Had already been in Barcelona for a couple of days for La Diada Nacional de Catalunya (or Catalan National Day to English speakers), and then headed back to the airport on the Friday to collect the hire car for the next week of traveling. With no credit card i had a choice of one supplier who have a dreadful customer service reputation. Apart from the queue of about 45 mins at the desk, got treated well enough so no issues from me and was offered a choice of cars. Why on earth did i go for the Opel Zafira instead of the Fiat 500 i will never ever know.
Now i’ve only been driving three years by this point and never driven on the ‘wrong side’ of the road, and with no sat nav and relying on the road signs (and a Catalunya Michelin road map) set off in trepidation with a car that did 0-60kph in about a week and the hills to hit on the motorway heading south out of Barcelona towards Tarragona. After an hour or so after hitting outskirts of Tarragona and then slightly inland to head around the town of Reus (well know as Barcelona Airport to customers of Ryanair – they now fly direct to BCN from Liverpool which is handy). The issues with the car continued on the National road towards Falset, some bloke right up me arse in a smaller car, i was going as fast as the car would fucking go without everything falling off at 40kph up the hill and then hanging on for dear life going down the hill towards the Falset turn off, safely made it. Leaving Falset and heading up towards Gratallops where the base was for the long weekend, and then realised why i should have gone for the Fiat, twisty slow roads and with the super tanker i’d hired i was even holding up the local tractors. Finally arrived in Gratallops and parked to find the Hotel closed with a sign saying go to the Cooperative Winery offices which were also closed, thankfully one of the co-op workers had seen this happen and went to find someone to open up.
Nice little hotel on edge of the village and very good value, had a couple of hours to spare before the first wine tour of the evening. Had a wander into the centre of the village and found the meeting point for the first tour which was in front of the village church. Very convenient that the church had seats and tables in front of it for the bar next door (pictured below) and thought what a great meeting point…and with bottles of Moritz at less than €2 and the wine as cheap, i ended up staying outside this bar quite a bit over the weekend.
So first up was http://www.saodelcoster.com once Michelle from the winery had found me, she had driven past once and probably wasn’t expecting me to be sitting there with a beer…so she parked up and then found me. Off to see a couple of vineyards and then back to the winery within the village, nice and small and after being shown around the winery and helping to put one of the vacuum lids back on a fermenter (it was being awkward) and to the wine tasting. Now Sao del Coster aren’t a big winery which is proved by their entry level wine ‘S’ only producing approx 20,000 bottles a year. All the wines were very very nice, and i was due to buy a bottle of wine per winery but forgot. An email over the weekend and Michelle said try Falset, but the Co-op shop had a bottle of the ‘S’ which made it back to Barcelona but not Liverpool…
Back to the bar and some beer, pizza and wine and then back to the hotel for an alcohol induced sleep.
Day two and the Saturday, had two wineries set up for today (hire car was being wasted for a couple of days…).
First one was Balaguer i Cabre and meeting Jaume Balaguer at his family wine shop, then off into the mountains surrounding the whole area to one of his vineyards. Jaume had brought the wines with him so up high in the beautiful sunshine and with glorious views i tucked into a few wines including Llunya Vella and La Guinardera, the latter was bought and actually made it all the way back to Liverpool.
Last up for the day was http://www.closfigueras.com/ run by Christopher Cannan. Miguel was my host for the next hour or so, no vineyard tour but down in the cellar and then the wine tasting and again some very good wines, with Serras, Font de la Figuera (red and white) and Clos Figueras. The Font de la Figuera 2010 is still in the wine rack.
Tell you what about this place, you’re in a place that Spanish never mind English is spoken, but the local Catalans could not have been more welcoming or friendly. Everyone will say Bon Dia or Bona Nit (dependent on time of day) to you even though they have never met you and with 24 hours you are doing the same to them.
Onto the Sunday and my last full day in Gratallops and a quick 20km drive in the tank to Falset and a cash machine, then last wine tour of the trip (was due one later that day but they didn’t turn up and apologised by email the following Thursday) and this was with Marc Ripoll Sans of Cal Batllet. Now this tour was with an e-bike and Marc apologised on arrival as he’d had to take his Son to the doctor and was running late. On the tour were three other guys and after a quick guid on how to use the bike, we were off on a wonderful trip around the vineyards of Gratallops including cycling past the winery of Alvaro Palacios (and anyone who fancies buying me a few cases of L’ermita is welcome – no really i insist). Back to the cellar and the wine tasting. From memory we had at least Artai (which is also still in my wine rack) which is a stonking 16.5% red, 5 Partides and a white in Escanya-Vella which was very nice but also a surprise extra wine that Marc had left over that i can’t remember the name but sells for something in the region of €70-80 a bottle and strangely went down very well…
Last thing left to do was the shop on the Monday morning (had to drop keys off for the room) and along with the ‘S’ from Sao del Coster, picked up another couple of bottles, one of which was from Celler Cecilio and A.N.Other before the drive to the outstanding village of Siurana before heading to the village of Bot where i was to be based next.