A Celler On Every Street

by Michael Douglas Bosc

Donkey and Wagon with empty wine barrels

Donkey and Wagon with empty wine barrels

Donkey and Wagon with empty wine barrels
Batea Square
There is a soul you can feel here
Stainless Steel vats

After leaving Gandesa (not in this cart pictured, I might add, the barrels are empty), I headed for Batea a small town situated in the mountains about 19kl further on. You approach Batea along a country road past vineyards gently lazing on sunny slopes being tended by their owners and workers.

What I did not know was this town seems to be built on wine, it’s a wine lovers dream with a celler on almost every street, so many in fact that I shall be wandering in and out of here for some time.

As you enter Batea along its main road, you pass several neat and tidy buildings before noticing a small shop selling wine and olive oil. It is just past this you see a small press sitting in its own garden, a symbol that says a lot about Batea. Here the road begins to climb towards the town centre and looking down some of the small side streets, I noticed several large painted posters advertising wine from another Celler.

We arrived in the square which has adequate parking for cars on either side of the tree-lined central plaza with benches under the trees to give shade to those sitting and watching their world go by. Here there were groups of old men sitting on benches discussing the world and remembering how it was in years gone by.

Like Gandesa, Batea was on the front line during the Civil War, and received quite a battering. In the old quarter it has still managed to retain its individuality being one of the few remaining examples in the Terra Alta. Some of it’s porches, covered walkways and mediaeval buildings still remain, giving an insight into the architectural styles of those times. The largest example is the main street, with its arcade with ogive arches from the fourteenth century.

Well that’s a condensed history of Batea, but I was after wine and the Co-operatieva in particular. I parked our wagon in the main square and wandered off in the direction of the Co-op. It was whilst walking down little side streets there that I passed several other Cellers, three in fact, and none of these was the Co-operatieva.

Walking down a street the countryside became visible and there was the new buildings and Botiga for Batea’s co-operativa.

This is an imposing modern building, unlike the others I have visited. There is a soul you can feel when you enter the shop, it is light and airy displaying the wines, olive oil and other products. However, there is an almost spectral aroma, it is not there, yet…. it has to be the spirit of their total love for their wines. Farmers here had been producing wine and selling it individually in the local community for centuries but in 1961 they grouped together and the Celler was born. The wine is produced in the traditional ways using concrete vats both above and underground, which as always adds to the final product.

The working part is mainly on the other side of the road, so we crossed over to take a look. Here I found the concrete vats standing square and proud with more underground, maceration vats, very much, you might think, like the other Cellers, but there was something different here, once again that presence. These concrete vats are used for the production of the white wines. The grapes are first placed into stainless steel vats for one day to macerate naturally. Then over night the final press is carried out and the ’musk’ is transferred to the concrete vats where it spends 3 weeks fermenting, from here they go to the French oak barrels to mature. These concrete vats each hold 20,000ltrs of wine with 60 vats underground and 33 above.

The Grapes used here to make the white wine are White Macabeu, Garnatxa, Muscatel, Chardonnay and Parellada.

The red wine is fermented in Stainless steel vats in the new building next to the Botiga. There is a total of 29 imposing structures with each vat holding 50,000 ltr. The grapes are Garnatxa red, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon red, Tiempre negre and Carinyena. These wines provide some of the nicest sipping wines I have tasted in Terra Alta. There is also a wine which gets a second pressing, this I will be looking at later in the summer.

The Celler has around 1445 Hectares of vineyards, and uses natural cork in their bottling plant. The vineyards are located in several different micro climates within this region it is as the names suggests ‘The High Country’, with little valleys giving the wines rather peculiar characteristics but make for some interesting and pleasant drinking.

The Wines: I have selected a few of the wines which I think you might like.

The First is a Rosat: Vall Major. This wine is a bright pink cherry in colour, with just enough acidity to appreciate its freshness and elegance. There is the hint of raspberries and roses, a fine combination that served chilled is a good early evening drink. The grapes used to achieve this wine are Garnatxa Red and Syrah.

The Reds: this is Vivertell Negre
This wine has a rich ruby colour and good legs indicating a high llevel of alcohol. There is a spicy aroma with the hint of fruit which gives it a Nadal feeling, christmas. It sent my taste buds on an adventure, being both soft and fresh. This is most definitely a wine to be sipped and enjoyed.
The grapes used to produce this wine are: Cabernet Sauvignon, Garnatxa Tinto, Tempranillo and Syrah.

The next red is Tioicitat This wine has a deep dark colour well bodied. Here there is an intense nose of fruit and spices, rich and sensuous. The flavour is full with again a hint of spice. This one reminded me of a very good Sherry or Port, definitely one for relishing or complementing a good meal.
The grapes used for this are: Garnatxa Red, Syrah and Tempranillo.

I now come to the white wines. Terra Alta is known for their splendid white wines and I have picked Primicia Chardonnay and Vallmajor. I will start with the Chardonnay.

This wine is a fresh tasty wine pale yellow in colour tingeing on pale green at the edge. The nose is fresh with hints of tropical fruits and an underlaying touch of citrus. It’s fresh to the mouth not too acidic and very moreish with a pleasant lingering taste. One for the fridge and cool evenings.
The grape used in this wine is: 100% Chardonnay which gives it that pleasant sensual feel.

Now the Vallmajor Blanca
This wine is pale yellowish green in colour, and has a balanced taste. It’s nose again reflects floral notes with a hint of freshly cut grass. This is one to be sipped whilst enjoying the late evening sun and reminiscing. The grape used in the wine is: Garnatxa Blanco.

You will find these wines on www.cellerbatea.com or you can contact them on cellerbatea@cellerbatea.com . I can say that you will not be disappointed; in fact you may even feel like visiting them and seeing for yourself. Their fax is: 0034 977430589. I hope you enjoy Cheers.

For more interesting posts about wine, check out Michael's blog at: http://asoldierswind.wordpress.com/
Photos courtesy of Michael Douglas Bosc

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