It’s A Wine of Magic!
by Michael Douglas Bosc
Tractor with Grapes
The Harvest has started and in true farming tradition the clouds are gathering. Wildfires have ripped through forest and farmland alike, we need rain, desperately need the rain but NOT NOW! The grapes are ripe ready to be picked. So has begun the eternal race between man and nature to gather them before the rains come, and come they will.
Tractors with trailers piled high charge through country lanes like prehistoric beasts, dust swirling around them leaving a trail of their passing. Will it rain to fall on ripe grapes which then burst from too much moisture; or perhaps the evil of wildfires which devour homes, farms and crops alike could descend upon them? Under these conditions the farmers are working day and night to bring the grapes in. Who will win? Who knows, but perhaps, just perhaps, here man and nature work together to produce their wines. Here again was that feeling, that presence. Is this is the Wine of Magic?
I had made an appointment with Judith for 10:00 am, so on a slightly dull morning I turned my wagon west again and headed for Batea. The roads into the town were busy with farmers rushing to get their grapes to the Cellers, as it had started to RAIN!! When we arrived at the Celler all was hustle and bustle with tractors, their trailers full of grapes arriving or now empty; some were dashing off to bring more grapes. Amidst all this with umbrella at the ready was Judith, waiting to show us around.
The first thing I noticed was that the three hoppers were each designated to certain grapes. The first was for the Merlot and Syrah grape, the second for the Macabeu grape with the last being for Garnarcha and Chardonnay grapes. But before they are emptied into the hopper the grapes have to be tested for acidity, sugar and alcohol, so we walked along the celler to the testing window to see how they did this here.
Inside the building, we went up some stairs into a little room with some very modern equipment. On the outside of the building where the trailers arrive, is a hose with a hollow screw on the end which is dipped into the grapes at different points. It then spins round sucking up juice which passes into a testing jar. All the un-required juice and grape are sent back into the trailer to go to the hopper; nothing is wasted. The selected juice is then passed into the machine for testing after which the farmer is informed of the results.
Once he has the information, the farmer then takes his trailer to the appropriate hopper to empty it, including the juice. I understand that when the grapes are picked mechanically they are stripped from the vine during which some of the grapes get crushed producing juice. This is the reason the trailers are lined with tarpaulins to stop that juice from leaking out, and the covers on the top are to prevent rain getting in (and on this particular morning they were needed).
We followed the farmer back to the hoppers where he reversed up to the Merlot and Syrah hopper, got off his tractor pulled a platform up to the back of his trailer and undid the holding screws. Then back onto the tractor to begin tipping the grapes and juice into the hopper. Once the screw starts turning the grapes are carried to a smaller crusher then drop down into a ‘sorter’ where stalks are separated. Then the grapes and juice are sent across the road in underground pipes to the stainless steel vats to ferment.
All this was very interesting but I felt we were waiting for something special; again there was that magic feel. Then up came a farmer with Macabeu grapes green fresh and sparkling...
One of the reasons the wine is so successful is the treatment of the must. After crushing the must stays in stainless steel vats for 24
hours then, at night when the stars are out, it is filtered, pressed then transferred into concrete vats where it remains fermenting for 3 weeks. Here in vats which each hold 20,000 liters of wine, totalling 33 above ground plus 60 underground, it is left to work its magic.
As I wandered across the top of the concrete vats in the two at the end I found the ‘magic’. This is where the clear must is placed then CO2 is added. It is then left to ferment but just before it turns into sparkling wine the process is killed. This leaves a hidden hint of sparkle and bubbles - this is the magic. There is a hint of sparkle but no bubbles; that is what makes this wine something special.
The middle vat was working well. This contained the liquid from the stainless steel vats having spent 24 hrs in initial fermentation. The liquid is then drained out leaving behind the skins. It is then placed into its concrete vats with yeast then left to ferment with the ‘scum’ being skimmed before it is siphoned into it’s maturing vats.
There is one more thing I found. When the new harvest is beginning, the wine from last year is loaded into tankers and sent to La Mancha, which is why I thought there was something I recognized about the wine we were drinking at the Petanca competition. But that’s another story.
The wines from Batea are worth serious consideration, especially the white. All these wines come from the D. Origen Terra Alta, all are good quality and all are have a little bit of magic about them. I decided to pick three of the ones I personally like:
I will start with the White Vallmajor: € 4.30
This wine is made from two grapes, the major grape is Garnacha Blanca 95%, with Muscatel being 5%. The preparation is 24 h in maceration, 55% is then drained without any pressure, then fermented at 16 ° C. It’s appearance is a light yellow with a light almost emerald hue. The bouquet is fresh and fruity, with delicate notes of flora and just a hint of citrus, which leaves the palate fresh, and tasty. This white wine is balanced and structured with just the right acidity.I have to admit that I actually liked this wine; served chilled it is soft and moorish(and this from a red wine lover).
Vallmajor Tinto € 4.30
The grapes used in this wine are: Garnacha, Syrah and Tempranillo. The preparation: the grapes are macerated and fermented with their skins at 22-24 ° C. Then comes pressing and malolactic fermentation in the tank. The colour of this wine is ruby-red with bright hints of violet; almost amethyst. The aroma is of intense wild fruits with spicy notes, with the palate finding a meaty taste with a ripe fruit background and hint of licorice - a wonderful sipping wine - delicious!
Note: Both of the above wines are young and should be consumed now.
Aube at €23.00.
This is a smooth red wine blended from Merlot, Grenache, Syrah, Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine is prepared by maturing in French Oak barrels for between 14-18 months. It has an attractive dark cherry colour; intense, but bright like a jewel. The aroma is sweet and fruity, with hints of ripe fruit plus a hint of spice. Oak notes are in the background. As for the taste I found it to be elegant and concentrated with a good body which leaves a subtle and long aftertaste.
For those of you who would like to share this excellent wine with your friends there is a Magnum for €40.00.
I would like to thank Judith for her time and help during such a busy time of year. These really are wines of magic.
You can place orders with the Co-operatieva on E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org or Fax: 0034(Spain) 977 430 589.
(c) Michael Bosc
Check out Michael's Blog for more wine adventures at: http://asoldierswind.wordpress.com/