Darleks’ Eggs and Fine Wines

by Michael Douglas Bosc
(Spain)

Egg Shaped Vat

Egg Shaped Vat

Egg Shaped Vat
A Spectacular View of the Vats
Underground Oak Barrels stacked by hand on Curved Racks
Eduard from the Celler Portal del Montsant

This is something of a wonderful cross between SiFi and fine wine, that I was neither expecting or prepared for. So where to start? Well, let’s go with a little bit of history. Marca is a small village tucked away under the Darmos mountain range on the outskirts of Falset, in the Montsant region quietly going about the serious business of making wine. It is a small Celler, with a French Wine Blender called Eduard (from Burgundy) who went to Australia to learn the new technology then came to Marca and the Celler Portal del Montsant.


The Celler’s history is one of pure Catalan wine making, dating back to 1194 when the Cartusian monks of the ‘Sant Bruno of Cologne’ order settled in the Priorat region and became the founders of the viticulture. In 2001 the areas including Bellmunt, El Molar and El Lloar formed the ‘Wine Property Project Clos del Portal’ under the eye of architect Alfredo Arribas. The Cooperativa of Marca was merged with Falset presumably for economic reasons and the building fell into disuse. Then in 2003 along with Ricard Wolfes Alfredo founded Portal del Montsant and located it in the old former Cooperativa building.
This building has been dedicated to the production of wines since the 1900′s. In 2007 the eminent enologist Stephen Pannell joined the project bringing his expertise and creativity into play.

The narrow terraces where the grapes grew had been abandoned because modern machinery could not operate there. These were cleared, restored then planted with an assortment of cloned vines of very low production but high quality interspersed with the traditional varieties including some experimental ones. This vineyard follows a modern organic way of growing grapes which is in line with the cutting edge way the Winery works.

The make-up of the soil in the region is a combination of calcareous, clay, and sand, add to this the directions the fields face plus the altitude and you have a unique mix of the old Carignan and Grenache once again covering the land where the first vines were laid down. By the way, these varieties take their names from the founder of the Cartusian monks, some of these modern vineyards are over 65 years old and grow the ‘bush’ type vine.

So that’s the history part now for the SiFi bit and the fine wines. When we arrived I expected to find a small Celler in the style of a Cathedrel, the outside giving this impression. But wow! When you go inside it is like a Tardis compact yet huge! Eduard first showed us the vats from the main level where he has his office and the wines are displayed.

From this window you look down on shining stainless steel vats with French oak barrels ranged around the sides along with the concrete vat. He then took us down to the first level and that is when you see the size and scope of this ‘wine Tardis’.

Eduard showed us how they kept wine stored in oak barrels at an even temperature by covering them in plastic whilst using a small heater to warm the air. Also here is the original machinery that was used before the introduction of the modern equipment, it is in working order and kept as a heritage piece to explain how things were originally done.

The modern equipment is small compact and efficient, but some of the original vats were not only small but unusual. Take the egg shaped vats which are used for fermenting white wines. It was also the first time I had seen egg vats made from concrete which not only keep the temperature even, but because of their shape they allow the wine to continue moving inside and makes for an excellent dry white wine, whilst the square-ish vat is for the red wine.

There are barrels behind the ‘egg’ vats which contain fermenting white wine. Every other day Eduard removes the bung, takes a long metal rod with a flat end and stirs the wine until it goes from a clear liquid to a milky one. This stirring makes sure that the wine stays alive and the sediment does not remain at the bottom of the barrel and turn the wine.

As we came down the stairs to this level we came face to face with four maceration vats, which are used for making special wine. Then just as I was thinking things could not improve I found them. The Darleks are here!!! There facing me was a row of vats shaped like Darleks, not the scary ones of Dr. Who, same shape vats. These are used for the cold maceration of their excellent rose wine. This cold maceration process allows the grapes to remain in their skins whilst they are chilled then they are pressed and fermented in cold conditions thus maintaining a constant temperature for the whole process.

Outside is this refrigeration truck which is used to store grapes for 24 hrs before beginning to process the wine using the cold maceration technique this helps with the juice concentration which makes fantastic wine.
Then it was down to the underground where the large old concrete vats have been cut through to reveal recesses where the barrels are stored in a constant temperature of 14c. They are left to mature in the. All the barrels are stacked by hand on curved racks. Some are marked with the individual names of vineyards then left for around one and a half to two years for maturing.

Some of the old concrete vats are still in use and Eduard showed us the inside of one which had just been painted in the traditional manner, this is done to ensure that nothing leaks or air can get in.

The majority of the wine is red but they do make an excellent Rosado and a pleasant dry white. I will list the wines in their grouping, but remember these opinions are strictly mine according to my palate which as we all know is different from others, my preference being for reds with a slightly sweet to dry but not so dry as to kill my palate.

I will start with the BRUNUS, a wine I have drunk and really enjoyed.

The Rosado - is a clear ruby colour crisp with an aroma that hints at cherries and raspberries with a hint cinnamon whilst there is a light flowery hint just hiding the sense of another fruit. Whilst this is the bouquet the taste is something else. It is smooth slightly on the dry side but there is a body to this wine that would not disgrace a red. This chilled would be a perfect afternoon evening drink on the terrace. The alcohol content is 13% and made solely from the Grenache grape.

The Red - This is a red that gives off a definite sparkle when in the glass. The aroma is of flowers, cherries, currants and that hidden fruit again, but this time I got a feel of something different which I put down to the various minerals that are in the ground. To my palate, it is slightly smoky with a spicy hint but a very full body slightly on the dense side. It has an aftertaste that makes me look for more. The alcohol content is 14% and made from 45%Carignan, 35%Grenache and 20%Syrah grapes. This, like the Rose, is also a wine you could drink just for the pleasure.

Santbru Blanc Montsant- This a white with a pale translucent gold tone. The aromas of honeysuckle with tones of pear and peach whilst being a difficult but interesting impressive taste there is a subtle aftertaste. 85% White Grenache and 15% Grey Grenache with an alcohol content of 13.5%

Santbru Red - This wine has a regal deep purple/black colour and well defined tears. The aromas that issue from the glass are spices, berries, anise, thyme plus that certain taste that defines the region. As for the palate, it senses a deep wholesome fruity flavor. The alcohol content is 14.5% and made from 65%Carignan 20%Syrah and 15%Grenache, a nice wine to go with the a meal.

BRUberry Red - Here is a wine that has a vibrantly clear deep red colour. The aromas are of roses, fruit, soft spices with a country background. The palate finds a smooth velvet texture, with the taste of raspberry reminding you of jellies. Yet there is a subtitle smoothness that puts it in my sipping class. The alcohol content is 13.5% and is made from 60%Grenache, 30%Carignan and 10%Syrah.

The above wines are superb and if you would like to try them you will find the Celler on www.portadelmonsant.com. Or email: alfredoarribas@portadelmonsant.com

Enjoy!

To read more from Michael Douglas Bosc, visit his website: http://asoldierswind.wordpress.com

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