by Michael Douglas Bosc
Village Cooperative Wine Cellar
Draped over the sloping hills in the DO Monsant wine region is the village of El Masroig. I say draped, as the village appears to have been gently and lovingly laid down, relaxed, quiet and very much at ease with nature. There is no impression of the real El Masroig a lively Catalan village with lots to offer visitors. Here there are culinary holidays, for those who want to learn how to cook Catalan style. Leisure activity facilities, walking, as well as the tours of the olive oil factories and wine Cellers.
This wine Celler is a village co-operative with around 200 members. It has been alive since 1917 and has evolved as time marched on. Today it has become something of a cultural centre as well as producing and promoting its wines, this is something that has gone hand in hand. This came about when they decided to modernise some of the vats by changing to stainless steel, but, instead of destroying the concrete vats set underground, being part of their wine heritage, they kept them.
The subterranean concrete vats were much better at keeping the wine at an even temperature, it did not matter if the weather was hot the wine stayed cool. Unlike stainless steel vats, where to maintain the correct temperature water has to be pumped round the vats in tubes, all controlled by computer. They still use the concrete vats only these are square instead of round and huge as you can see here.
In the subterranean vats arches were cut into the sides of each one opening them up to make a corridor through to the tasting room. They were cleaned, although on a few walls you can still see staining by the red wine, spooky. Whilst on others artists have formed shadows of people it’s as though they were souls of the vintner’s and farmers.
On the walls of one vat there is writing, at first it strikes you odd to see it, wondering who would have put it there, but the more I looked, I found myself wondering how the writing survived the wine. This writing is the thoughts of the village about their home and the wines they produce.
Also on display in the vats were some paintings, this is the start of the cultural exhibition. As you wander along the corridor look up, there you see the lids of the vats still in place, and the filler tubes where the wine was pumped in to mature are also visible.
On reaching the tasting rooms you find modern paintings by one of the artists displayed on the walls. Soft lighting, wooden benches and tables lend an ambiance for the pleasure of tasting of the wines. If you had not walked
through the winery or the vats you would think yourself in a very smart club such is the impression here. So now you can either sit at the tables or wander round looking at the art display relaxing in the feel of an enjoyable evening. As you wander back through the vats, you see them from the other direction, the wine stains and wall art are more noticeable from this direction, maybe it’s because you have enjoyed the tasting rooms or perhaps that your senses have been woken and you see the soul of the wine. I do not know, all I felt was a proud cultural sense of being, and rightly so.
At the end of the vats we returned back up the stairs into the shop. Here you can buy wines, olive oil, Cava, and other delicious items. But the most unusual thing here are the ‘wine pumps’. These are where the villagers (and others) bring their plastic containers and fill them full of their favourite wines. This is nothing new, the French have been doing it for years, and so have the Spanish, a very civilised idea if I may say so. Just think a moment before poo pooing this, the Celler produces some very good wines which the village and others drink, so why not fill containers with it straight from the Celler? makes perfect sense to me. And whilst they are getting their wine they can admire the beautiful ceramic tiles depicting the grape harvest.
On Saturday we caught up with the Celler el Masroig at the fair. They were deep in conversation with people about the wine. A lot of people were wandering away from them with glasses containing their favourite wine, and smiles on their faces. Such excellent wine, such a relaxed atmosphere.
The vineyards are spread out over the surrounding hills. With the vines dressed in their spring greenery, the ground between the rows freshly cleaned, neat and tidy. Here the vines spread out their young green leaves to greet the sun, hungrily soaking up the nutrients necessary to produce the grapes.
These wines are as diverse as any and go from a young fruity full-bodied red, to oak aged deeply balanced reds, to a light fruity Rose, full of wonderful flavours. The golden colour of the white reminds you of the other product of the area honey, served chilled it is a very pleasant evening drink. There are so many others that to mention them here would spoil the next visit. This is a Celler with many parts and a history to match, add to this Inka a fountain of knowledge and a very nice young lady. In the immortal words of Arni ‘I’ll be back’……
By Michael Douglas Bosc