Purple Palate Blog

Day 2 – Barcelona an introduction.

After a nights rest-I won’t use the word sleep here- we set out to meet our tour guides. 

We did 2 excellent walking tours to get our bearings and figure out how the city works.

So Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia, and is very near the wine region of Catalyuna DO, with several other regions exceeding close and very accessible. 

Priorat, Montsant, Terragona, Costa de segra, Conca de Barbera and Terra Alta, are all DO regions are producing some top quality wine.  Generally Grenache based, though is known in Catalonia as Garnacha or Garnatxa.  With some quality plantings of Monastrell (Mouvedre) and Carinena (Carignan), mainly used in blends but also some straight varietal examples. 

We tried several wines during the day everything from Table wines to DO examples.  

Probably the main difference I found in distinguishing between the different quality levels were that the Table wines showed lovely fruit and were eminently approachable, with lower acidity and little tannin, that was a pleasure to quaff.  While the DO examples were much more depth of flavour, with a better balance of acidity and showed tannin as part of the wine itself, they also were much higher in alcohol.

The DO level Priorat, produced by a local restauranteur (who owns a small vineyard in Priorat), was mainly Ganarcha, but showed some Carinena with some depth of tannin and black fruit character, while the Montsant DO was 100% Garnacha and was very high in alcohol but balanced with excellent fruit and acidity.  

In talking to locals, their take on Spanish wine in the world market was that Spain is missing its accolades in comparison to French, Italian and German wine, due to its marketing.

I tend to agree to a point, with French wine being highly regarded, German wine reknowned (but only for Riesling), and Italian wine driving its marketing off the back of Chianti Classico and SuperTuscan IGTs. (Yes Barolo, Barberesco, Barbera and Amarone are reknowned in the world market, but affordable Chianti and Parker driven Super Tuscans pushed Italy to the world stage).

Spanish wine marketing has suffered only through historical issues of quantity over quality, and viewed by the average drinking public who don’t understand quality level assurances. I can assure you that Spanish wine is far more New World in style, with fruit and alcohol levels similar to that in Australia.  

Over the years Spain did produce a lot of wine, generally of lower quality, but then leading up to joining the EU in 1986 changed its outlook on production.  With less quanity but an uplift in quality with lower harvest levels and picking at correct time rather than later in the season (for more alcohol production).  The biggest trouble during this period was the banning of irrigation.

Spain is a very warm, some places hot, region, and very dry.  Irrigation in some regions was essential and many producers ignored the ban and irrigated regardless, until 1994 after a 2 year drought when the ban was lifted and drip irrigation was allowed.

Joining the EU was a Godsend to the industry with the EU putting substantial funds into Spain and the wine industry in particular.  This has allowed much modernisation, replanting, rootstock and retasking of resources to produce some top quality wines.

In the Catalonian region, much of the industry benefitted from 1 visionary family, Torres.  Miguel Torres (father and son) have pioneered many developments and have carved out a reputation for quality wines, not just in Catalonia and Spain but but now globally with holdings in Argentina, Chile, and investments in USA and other new world regions.

My highlight personally was the wonderful sweet vermouth from Tarragona.  With a slice of orange over ice, made for a delightful aperitif.  I have tried many vermouth, and this was the first one I found I could enjoy straight. Paired with what we were assured was the best Patatas Bravas in Barcelona, it was a highlight of the day. I must try more.

We spent the evening wandering through  Gaudi’s Casa Mila. When his professors stated that they were unsure if he was an idiot or a genius, they  were quite correct.  We finished up on the rooftop terrace surrounded by sculptures reminiscent of the Easter Island monoliths. I didn’t feel quite so bad once we had traversed the 15 flights of very, shall we say, organic stairs back down to the ground floor.  Apparently my fear of heights is getting worse with age, and WH&S is a fluid concept in Spain.  Roz then informed me, (a little too gleefully), that the terrace is reknowned as one the most dangerous in the world. A lovely glass of fruit driven, new world style Cava did a little to calm my nerves.

Dinner at 11pm, back to the hotel. 31000 steps for the day… Not bad.

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