In Catalonia (Spain): Discovering Capçanes, Gandesa, El Pinell de Brai and Miravet

On a sunny Sunday we explore the Montsant and Terra Alta region near Hospitalet de l’Infant. In Hospitalet we spend a few days in the apartment of our friends (October/November 2016).

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Capçanes – a success story of some brave Montsant wine growers

My “Little Johnson” says that the cellar of Capçanes produces the kosher wine Peraj Ha’Abib that is to be recommended. We are curious and drive to Capçanes located in the hills not far from the sea with the vineyards slowly turning yellow now.

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The history of the cellar of Capçanes and their kosher wine impresses me. As described on their Website, the wine growers established their cooperative cellar in 1933. In 1995 the cooperative was asked by the Jewish community of Barcelona, whether they could produce kosher wine. We join a tour to the cellar. Our guide explains us that the wine growers decided to face the risk, took a credit and rebuilt the cellar of their cooperative including a separate production line for kosher wine. They were just ready, when the demand for bio wine emerged – and much of the production of kosher wines is similar to the natural and biological production methods (“beautifying” is not allowed for kosher wines). Now they had a regular buyer of their kosher wines (the Jewish communities) and their wines are also in high demand from  all over the world.

The Tagesanzeiger of 27th January 2017 (Michaelis Pantelouris) describes in detail, how strict the rules are for the separate kosher production line. This is the cellar for developing kosher wines.

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It is locked and sealed and only the Rabbi is allowed to access this part of the cooperative cellar. The enologist (Jürgen Wagner) has a cellar with the same setup, and he surveys the development of the kosher wines “indirectly” in cooperation with the Rabbi.

We buy some wines including a bottle of the Peraj Ha’Abib (from the non kosher production line). I will share it with a good friend of mine. Innovative is also their series of four terroir wines “La Nit de les Garnatxes” – I take a selection of two bottles. Furthermore we bought vinegar and olive oil called “Siurana” – gifts for Christmas 2016. I gave one bottle of Siurana oil to my nephew, an agroecologist, and he loves it.

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Gandesa – the welcoming capital of Terra Alta

Gandesa is the capital of Terra Alta, like Montsant also a DO wine region. Narrow streets in the old town. We can see the church of Assumpcio.

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The gate has just closed, because the Sunday service has finished. This is the Romanesque west gate of the church of Assumpcio. The PDF linked in describes the sculptures and freezes  (“Gandesa – a church in New Catalonia”, no author).

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The modillions above the arch and the sculptures on the capitals are, says the PDF document, modelled after Lleida, and they tell biblical stories and give advise for good behaviour.

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We say hello to St. Jacob the pilgrim standing in a shell with his walking stick and his large hat. This is a more recent statue.

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Now we are hungry. We find an unpretentious small restaurant. Inside we are heartily welcomed and the owner-cook tailors our lunch meal according to our wishes. “We are a restaurant, we have salad, we have tapas, we have whatever you wish…”, he says. With us are eating more guests and they all look happy. So did we. Our meal was delicious.

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El Pinell de Brai – the art nouveau wine cathedral or Catedral del Vi

We continue our way through the hills of Terra Alta. Our destination is El Pinell de Brai, marvellously located on a rock.

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We park our car at the entrance of the small town in front of the Catedral del Vi built in modernist style by César Martinell between 1918 and 1922.  The frieze is the work of Xavier Nogues. There are many more such wine cathedrals in Catalonia. At that time cooperatives were founded and many villages joined their forces to build beautiful and functional cellars for the future. As Don Ferranti Wines explains, the people of Pinell had to mortgage their houses to finance their wine cathedral (see Don Ferranti Wines).

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With an audio guide we follow the round tour. We love these stairs hanging on the wall.

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Here we are above the vats (where the wine developed). This viaduct has an Archimedes screw inside to transport the grape pulps. The pressing area is behind us. The high vaults prevent the production area from warming up too much. There is also a cooling system that helps to slow down the fermentation process which gives the wine or more intense taste. The construction of the cellar-cathedral was well thought-out.

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This area is no longer used for producing wine. There is a separate cellar was steel tanks for that (see Don Ferranti).

Also in Pinell we buy some souvenirs such as vinegar, olive oil and wine. One bottle we share with our friends at Monthey, when returning the key of the apartment.

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Miravet – the castle above the river Ebro in the evening light

Miravet is a castle above the Ebro river. It dates from Arabic times and after having been conquered by the Christians in 1153, it was the property of the Order of the Knights Templars.

We look at the defensive walls – the castle has closed its gates just a few minutes before we arrived. We will have to return some other time.

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We enjoy the evening atmosphere of the river Ebro instead.

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Then we return “home” to our cosy apartment in Hospitalet.

 

 

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