Wine tasting in Catalonia - from Espolla to CadaqúesIt’s been a hot couple of weeks here trekking around northern Catalonia. From the homeland and backdrop to surrealist Salvador Dali’s world to dramatic remnants of the volcano park an hour away, this place is a land of rough-hewn vistas and rustic hospitality. The Catalonian political upheaval of recent times is represented in slogans painted on just about any surface from walls in the towns to derelict buildings on desolate country roads.

We sit down each morning with a Catalonian carpenter who pours an inch of red wine into his glass to help his digestion. I taste the wine with a little morning sausage and tomato and have to admit it tastes pretty good. Driving through villages we stop off at the wine cooperatives to taste the range of their wines that are typically rustic red with a nice kiss of American and French or Hungarian oak, dry slightly bitter whites and fortified sweet wines. They are good for the climate and the cuisine. 

So many large breakfasts mean that a forced morning walk out of the village into the olive groves and vineyards is added to the routine. It is very hot, sometimes getting up to 38ºC, but that helps the body process the new dietary regime. The landscape is dry, influenced by the mediterranean but also at times freshly swept over by the northerly winds that are blowing down across the Pyrenees. 

Grape varieties include lots of garnacha negro, garnacha blanco, some chardonnay, cabernet, muscat de Alexandria and Samsó. The latter has been explained to me both as cinsault and as carignan. Whichever it is I have been hugely impressed by wines that include blends of samsó, cabernet, and garnacha negro. When aged for 6-12 months in oak they a develop rich texture with attractive dark fruit and leather characteristics. The American oaked wines have a trademark vanilla character that will be popular with many rioja drinkers. These are well-suited wines for the heavy workers' meals they serve here, like rabbit, pigs trotters (tried it and would have died without the chilled tinto to break down the fat). 

Wine tasting Dali, Espolla Spain

The white wines are fresh and redolent of the landscape when the wind blows across the trees. Green olives, slightly bitter with flora and fauna that moves effortlessly from the glass to the palate. I like the taste as much as the view. Again some of these wines get much better when they have attention bestowed on them. A little lees stirring and ageing and there are glimpses of another level.

The sweet wines from this corner of the Med are a hidden wonder. I have been traveling from Bordeaux through Roussillon, picking up Rivesaltes sweet wines and Banyuls. The wines between Espolla and the coast are being snuck into the back of the car. We’ll find out very shortly if they travel well.

If you are visiting Catalonia in the near future, get out into the country and taste the food, smell the rich aromas that blow across the land, but most of all indulge the wines at every opportunity. 

 

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Driving into the Entre-Deux-Mers region from the north, the vineyards roll out like a bright green deep-pile carpet across the undulating land. It’s hard not to be excited about tasting wines with so much heritage, as we head to Chateau-Sainte-Marie to meet with 5th generation owner, Stéphane Dupuch. 

 

It’s been a hot couple of weeks here trekking around northern Catalonia. From the homeland and backdrop to surrealist Salvador Dali’s world to dramatic remnants of the volcano park an hour away, this place is a land of rough-hewn vistas and rustic hospitality.

 

It’s a scorching summer evening in Regent’s Park and what is my glass is of premium importance. The fact that Britain is experiencing a thorough multi-day licking from the sun, is itself unconventional, as are the pourers at this evenings tasting: 4 wine producers from the appellation AOC Ventoux in the southern Rhone.

 

Carluccio's deli and restaurants are a high-street staple, where great flavours in food blend easily with quality wines on the list. Following the death of the charismatic founder, Antonio Carluccio, his spirit lives on in style and philosophy. Nick Breeze talks to Head of International Operations (especially where wine is concerned!), Mike Stocks about wine-list tips, food matching and the great man of "mof mof":

 

Winemaker and owner Nicola D’Auria greeted us at the entrance of this fascinating cantina. The winery and cellars have been designed by Rocco valentini in the shape of a vertical barrel in order to immerse the tasters senses in wine.

 

East from Roma to Abruzzo

From Rome we headed east to Abruzzo, a region of Italy that rises up like a burly landlord to greet the traveller. The Apennine mountains at their tops are stark and beautiful, lonely, yet fulsome. Rustic doesn’t quite do this landscape justice. It’s a place for pilgrims, peace lovers and, of course, we followers of Bacchic and gastronomic pleasure.

 

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