Garage wines

A number of young enologists have bypassed the established bodegas and started their first experiments in spaces …the size of a garage. Micro breweries meet micro wineries.
In many ways it’s no surprise, up until 30 years ago every masia had between 5 and 10 barrels in the bodega on the north side of the house, if you’re from Penedès you have winemaking in your blood. When I hitch hiked through Italy I remember a truck pulling up with fresh grapes in the town plaza and people emerging from everywhere on foot or in three wheeled scooters to buy the grapes, bring them home and do it themselves. Indeed armed with a bit of know how, a few friends, and a bit of a field you could be counting a lot of nice green bottles yourself.

Sot Lefriec
Irene Alemany and Laurent Corrio are a couple a young enologists who have just produced and marketed their first wine, Sot Lefriec. Irene is from Penedès while Laurent is from France. Both studied enology in Burgandy after which they decided to produce a their own wine from a small family vineyard.
We’re talking about 8 hectacres in Lavern, Subirats, situated in the centre of Penedès planted with 60 year old Cariñena and mature Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Total production of their 1999 which hit the shelves last year was 5,000 bottles. To prove that daddy didn’t hand them a blank cheque they even made some of the tanks themselves.
Their objective is to keep the process as natural as possible, no filtering or clarifying. They do stress that great effort was made to keep everything oxygen free. When filling the barrels they used gravity rather than pumps. They recommend opening one of their rare bottles at least a few hours before consumption, decanting will also be helpful as it will aerate the wine and prevent any solids (which are absolutely all right) from getting into the glass.
Tasting notes
Blood red aspect, Unctuous, full of body, muscular. Spectacular on the nose. With airing there are multiple sensations on the nasal passages depending on how you approach it. It is well worth holding the glass for a long time to appreciate the evolution as the wine warms. Cranberry and black berries predominate at first, being taken over by shades of balsamic licorice in all its forms before there is an integration of terroir and mineral notes, a fabulous collection of aromas.
In the mouth it rises to that promised on the nose, unctuous and velvety, almost chewy and silky. Very strong and well balanced, acidity, alcohol and retronasal aromas create a very compact whole. Tremendous persistence. Sot Lefriec received one of the highest points in the new Penin guide of Spanish Wines.
Sot Lefriec ‘99 about 70 euros, [email protected]

Adeu Ezequiel Ferret.
When few knew why a visitor would come to Penedès and fewer knew how to take good care of one, Ezequiel would be sitting them down to a bottle of cava(or two) and while pouring it with love recount endless stories and adventures of his time in Chile. Nobody else has even tried to open a bottle of cava over my head with a sword and I really doubt anyone will with such natural panache and joie de vivre as Esquiel Ferret.

Root around South West Penedès
Looking for perfect bike country, perhaps a winery visit and a good lunch? The area between Torrelles de Foix and Vilafranca will leave you well toasted on all sides. This classic rolling wine country south west of Vilafranca populated with about 6 wineries and 7 good to excellent restaurants. Just add diamond blue sky and lotsa fresh air.
Head out of the train station or centre of Vilafranca del Penedès, and bear west across the Barcelona Tarragona road and the old town. Saturday is Farmers Market in Vilafranca and there are a lotta people, Sundays you should cross town passing the Placa del Ajuntament/més casteller, Bar Coral and the Placa Santa Maria with Cathederal, Wine Museum, Library and good watering holes in between. You need to cross the arched Placa Constitució and go for the gap in the hills straight ahead. This leads to Pacs del Penedès,Typewriter Museum/rounded plaza. Turn right for wineries La Xarmada and Loxarel, left for Torres or straight on for Colet and Parés Baltà. Cross the busy Sant Marti road, climb and right at Can Lleo, a large once prosperous house. Down hill, left onto tarmacand cross bridge, at first houses (straight on for la Bleda, winery Rovellats) turn right and rest at top of slope, Between you and the hills are some lovely intertwining tracks and lanes. Sant Marti is straight on along the river. If you follow the hills to the left you will have a beautiful 7 km run along rolling well surfaced quiet road that passes the well cared-for pile of La Torre de Vermet, Cal Mata Casa Rural, winery Roses Vila and ceramic workshop at els Conillers, continue to Castellvi de la Marca, photoshoot view and coffee at sleepy Casal.
The Roca of Sant Marti Sarroca should peep into view soon and is well worth the climb to the Castle, Romanic Church and views of Penedè. Restaurants on the roca, Cal Agusti, Coucons. In town, Can Luis, El Rebost, behind Ajuntament and bars, on the way into town Ca la Katy and Masia Aran. The latter is worthy.
From the base of Castle continue to Torrelles de Foix, La Fassina, old public washing placa & el Molí bike centre. It’s traight on for Santes Creus and Alt Camp/Conca de Barbera (30km). From Old Torrelles cross main road, to graveyard, La Berna , Cal Via, El Cosconer & winery Massachs, bearing left to Guardiola de Font Rubi, café, lunch.
Return road to Vilafranca from café Cal Pau Xic past wineries Can Suriol, Julia Navines, Vallformosa to Las Cabanyes, medieval church out of town. cross main road and return to crossroads over Pacs, Turn left to get back to Vilafranca. Total approx 35 km
Paddy Mannion
[email protected]

What's on!
Calçots this year are the sweetest I’ve ever tasted. Eat them with or without bibs, at a table or on the side of a mountain, they are the finest form of slow food imaginable. Enjoy some after a refreshing bike ride in Penedès, Alt Camp or Conca de Barbera and you have a recipe for a heartful and soulful experience. The Concell Comarcal of Alt Penedès has published 10 routes titled “Camins dels Vins i dels Cavas”. El Moli. Torrelles de Foix has a full program of excursions, popular gastronomy and wine tastings every weekend with an all welcome free excursion on the last Sunday of every month.
Tres Tombs (horses), Xatonadas Populars, Winter Festa Majors and Carnivals a different town every Sunday.
Four stage Bike racing, Garraf - Penedès Challenge, Unio Ciclista Vilanova
Feb 8 Museu de Vi organises "La Poda" Vine pruning technique. Museum 93 890 05 82
Until end of February, Carnival in Alt Penedès.. Sitges –
Feb 20 Spring Equinox Concert, Arthur Kell Quartet, Can Festís Steven Cardenas, Gorka Benitez and Joe Smith.
Feb 22 Bicletada Nature, Castelvi de la Marca
Feb 22/23 Festival of the artichoke, Amposta, Baix Ebre
March 7 Barcelona - Sitges Classic Car Rally.

Paddy Mannion
[email protected]