Wednesday, 24 September 2008

The 28th Annual Catalan Wine and Cava Show

Despite having lived in Barcelona for a good three years now, I feel a little ashamed to write that my recent visit to the 28a Mostra De Vins i Caves de Catalunya was my first. Needless to say, I took advantage this time around and would like to report on what I have seen, smelt and tasted this week.

A little contextualisation: this event takes place every year, coinciding with the week-long celebrations in honour of the city's patron saint, la Merce. Anyone who has visited Barcelona sicnce 1992 will recognise the venue, on the harbour, in between the flashy leisure centre on the artificial marina and Passieg de Colon, right under the chirpy gaze of the happy bronze lobster sculpture.

I was delighted to find out that my seven euros were good for ten wine tokens, but my mood was slightly dampened when I saw that wine cost between two and four tokens for a glass. Still, I got to keep the glass as a souvenier, etched as it was with the logo and date of the event. I was able to procure three: let's see how long I can keep them without smashing them.

Over two visits I had a taste of eleven wines. I didn't fancy any cava, you'll have to check back next year for my bubbly report. So anyway, here are the highlights of what I drank and what I thought.

Starting off with ''Francoli'', from the Castell D'Or co-op. I went for a wine from this region as it was where I first lived when I came to Spain, and where I spent my first three summers. The Conca de Barbera is set amongst a picturesque range of peaks, and whose inland location in Tarragona mean hot summer days, chilly nights and above average rainfall. A 2007 white made from the parellada and macabeu varieties, it is really pale with a floral nose. It has a strong, quite acidic attack, with apple and peach competing for superiority in the retro-nasal stakes. This wine is long for a young wine and great for a hot and sunny day, which it wasn't.

Obviously Penedes was well represented amongst the 30-or-so wine stalls. Capita Vidal had one of the wider varieties, and charming staff into the bargain. I can't stress how much I think that this affects the enjoyment of wine: a serf dishing out Vina Sol at Torres does very little to convince punters of the wine's qualities, and therefore not much is expected of their wares. Anyway, I tried a Blanc de Blancs at this stall, made from macabeo, xarel.lo, parellada and muscat. It had a greeny gold appearance and a hint of pink grapefruit after an initial whifter. Further investigation revealed apple and strawberry notes in a refreshing glass of wine, with perhaps a hint of caramel in there somewhere. Smooth and easily chugged I'd say.

Okay, one more white to mention, this one from Maset de Lleo, again in Penedes. Also going by the handle Blanc de Blancs, this line was made up totally from xarel.lo, which is normally used for making cava. I really dig this grape variety, but hadn't known such a floral fragrance before. I got nettles and heather. I was expecting, but nevertheless pleased with its bitter attack which contrasts with a honey-sweet retro-nasal. Mmm.

How a about una copa de tinto? Cellar Batea, from the D.O. Terra Alta, had a right cocktail of varieties making up its Vallmajor. I'm not sure about the proportions, but there was garnatxa, merlot, syrah, tempranillo and cabernet sauvignon up in there, and for a young wine, it was fairly complex. A deep purple-red, there were mature red fruits in the bouquet and taste. It was strong in flavour and long in enjoyment.

Okay, one more before I'm out. Ipsis is a bodega from Tarragona, from which I tried a 2006 crianza of ull de llebre (Catalan tempranillo) and garnaxa. It isthe colour of badly bruised strawberries and smells of burnt oak, it has a definate cinammon raspberry in its attack, with a peppery finish. This could have been my find of the week.

I can't wait til next year, when I'll be camping out, or maybe hiring a boat alongside the port.

Mark P.D. I

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