Coq au Vin du Vilafranca del Penedès

As a practical way to loosen the nerves in the run up to Christmas, La Fira del Gall, in Vilafranca del Penedès is hard to beat. Held the weekend before Christmas, it adds a blast of winter spice to the already impressive Saturday market of Vilafranca. For those who enjoy a flutter in very elegant surroundings, entertainment began on Friday evening at the wine museum. 33 out of 34 lots of fine wines from the private collections of Penedès wine-makers found new homes and netted 7,182 euros for the TV3 marathon for cancer.
I did get the honour of being the first to bid and it’s still nagging me now that the Jean Leon ’75 “Ronnie” got away for 265 euros. It was first, and successive lots reached much higher prices, but for this scribe, there are very few bottles of greater significance.
In contrast, a tasting of ten wines, all gold medal winners of 2004 was open to anyone with 10 euros, with the following Saturday evening tasting of the ten “expressive” wines, chosen from the top wine guides.
On Saturday and Sunday the area of the main plaza was alive with the splash of rusty red, black and orange of the Penedès cock. This stout character was joined by some of his far flung cousins , the Turkey and large succulent mute duck. He is a fine proud beast and compared to the pink cellophane wrapped item that fits neatly in your refrigerator drawer, he will displace most of your mayonnaise jars, fruit juices, yoghourts and half eaten cakes leaving only the tiniest gap for a bottle of wine which might be a Petrea Blanc by Joan Milá.
The popular truita (tortilla) competition was battled out by 47 teams who were after prizes for the tastiest, most attractive, youngest, oldest, most original and best costume. All participants are presented with basic materials, equipment and aprons.
People who visited the fira walked away with 2.300 individually chosen and expertly plucked fresh galls. Visitors will also have spent the morning tasting any of the 40 wines available for sipping and sale, or consuming 12.000 portions of turkey, Penedès cock and mute duck prepared by 10 restaurants from the area.
Vilafranca is one of the most pleasant shopping towns of Catalunya and a regular Christmas treat is the open air ice rink in front of the cathederal, where vouchers received while shopping can be exchanged for skating time. The perfect scene for a seasonal photo.

To close the Fira del Gall on Sunday evening there was a competition to find the best nose.
Having strayed well from the path the previous evening for the El Masnou gentlemans reunion, I went from second row to the back of the class in an initial tasting of 4 varietal wines. A second round of 4 confirmed the winner, Olga Cabrerà from Vilafranca.

The bottle that got away. TV3 Marathon Wine Auction, Museu del Vi, Vilafranca del Penedès.
The first bottle auctioned in the TV3 Marathon for cancer, definitely comes with a story. Jean Leon met five American Presidents and was more than chummy with the Kennedys and Ronald Reagan. 35 years after he arrived penniless in States, his own wine, his own dream, was served at the Investiture banquet of Ronald Reagan as President of the United States. A rare bottle from the same year, a Jean Leon Cabernet Sauvignon Gran Reserva ’75 escaped for 265 euros.
Other interesting rarities:
How about 3 bottles of Pinord Chateldon Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva ’93, gold medal winner in the International Wine Challenge and valued at $300 a bottle at auction in Las Vegas.
The first monovarietal Cabernet Sauvignon from Spain, a Jean Leon Gran Reserva ’69 attracted interest nationally and went to a collector for 600 euros.
A 1945 Vi Ranci from Can Feixes, excited interest among local purists who drove it from an entry price of 100 to 450 euros. A surprising price that proves that rancid wine, a product neigh on impossible to get nowadays, is still way up there in some peoples estimation.
3 bottles of Albet i Noya Xarel.lo Col.lecció ’96, a white wine fermented and aged in oak with label designed by Joan Raventos Estallé was from a particularly great year, very rare and quite a few had fallen in love with it, they fetched 600 euros.
An impressive 3 litre bottle of red wine with one-off label, by well known painter August Rosell hit a respectable 320 euros. I’m not sure why it’s a secret but the spiritual contents have much to do with gravely aged rancid wines.
Total takings for the day, which will go to improving the health of anyone with or about to get cancer was 7.182 euros. An impressive weekend thanks to Joan Gil and all the organisers at Uvipe,
For next year, I might suggest some music with inspiration from Pau Casals.

Golden Wines of Penedès, Fira del Gall Vilafranca del Penedès
2 Chardonnays and 8 red wines were selected from Penedès wines that made the highest grade in International competition in 2004. The commented tasting by Pere Escudé was packed with a who’s who of Penedès wine-making and we were additionally treated to running commentaries from the Oenologists of many of the wines.
Eva Plazas gave a detailed account of methods used in the vineyard and bodega to extract the strong crisp gourmet, Les Planes ’03. Mature peach, pineapple and banana were intense on the nose. Long contact with the lees just right to balance the fresh strong acidic character.
Pinord Chardonnay ’03, with golden highlights, long soft nose, round butter, banana and very ripe peach flavours demonstrates a more classic style applied with panache.
Absis 2000 from Parés Baltà is a Tempranillo, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah wine of high expression. Extra mature grapes, long long maceration and slow fermentation, 18 months in French oak. Orange tones over dark horizon, nuts, leaves, fireplace smells, wavey flavours of rich jam and pepper come and go in the mouth.
Mas d’Aranyó, is a Tempranillo from Segura Viudas. Tempranillo is rare in Penedès and these grapes have been given the velvet glove treatment, good selection of one and two year old barrels from both sides of the puddle. Light oxidised colour, sweaty and alive on the nose, sweet entry and a tiny bit of astringence accompany baskets of fruit.
Mas Vilella ’99 from the hand of Gerard Jané, starts life with views of the Mediterranean. The rocky soil with abundant sand gives low water retention that strain the mature Cabernet Sauvignon vines and mark the character. In the bodega it gets medium and well toasted oak from France, America and Hungary for 14 months, then three years in the bottle. A great little vineyard, great vintage and great wine-maker come together to produce a dark wine with whiffs of animal and lower forest vegetation. Its tannic, very strong flavoured and elegant.
Pinord Chateldon Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva ’99 has the smoky colour of a well aged successful wine, Its voluptuous and has perfectly prepared soft smells with mature strawberry, light pepper and long pleasant spice on the tongue.
Masia L’Hereu, Vi de Guarda ’99 comes from mature Merlot and middle aged Cabernet Sauvignon. Its fleshy fresh and heavy in the glass, you can sense the presence of sweet easy alcohol. Velvety, individual, soft wood and great persistence floored them in Brussels.
Torres, Mas la Planas ’98 Cabernet Sauvignon comes from some of the oldest Cabernet vines in Penedès. Production per hectacre is about half the norm and these grapes enjoy a long maceration, slow fermentation and 18 months in French oak and over 2 years in the bottle to produce as classic a wine you can get, well worked colour, aromas of beast and mature jam, smoky, persistent and soft in the mouth.
Jean Leon Cabernet Sauvignon Gran Reserva ’96, another perfectly made wine you expect to meet at only the best tastings. One of the nicest wines to move around in a glass. Onolegist Xavier Rubiros, led us through its background of reduced output old vines from La Scala vineyard which produced it’s first Gran Reserva in 1969! matured fruit with spices and pepper, softened with 24 months in the wood and a minimum of 3 years in the bottle. Presented with label by artist, Josep Guinovart.
Time for dessert
Albet i Noya’s Dolç Adria 2000 takes advantage of rare climatological circumstances to capture over matured Tempranillo and Syrah grapes, maceration with skins for 6 months and slow fermentation until retained sugar fell to 100 grams per litre when it was stopped with addition of pure spirit to give 17ºC alcohol. Fruit full with loads of primary berry flavours. Magic with a little decadence. Perhaps good for washing down lightly cooked fresh liver and high cocoa desserts.

Drink the best quality and moderation will take care of itself,
Seasons Greetings
Paddy Mannion,
El Molí