Sunday, January 04, 2015

Spanish Vineyards: Two Starkly Different Wine Tours at Freixenet & Pares Balta

Sean and I decided to visited a couple vineyards, seeing as there are EIGHTY within a one hour drive of Barcelona. Eighty?! Wow, I did move to the right part of the world! Simply using Google to decide, we picked the first two that were actually open the week we wanted to go. It turns out we chose two starkly different wineries - one, a corporate, global, cava producer and the other, an organic, local winery. 

Remember my trip to San Francisco in 2012 with Sheena? This was definitely a completely different experience. We took the car, rather than a tour bus and were allowed to see the wine making process, rather than simply taste the wine. Going deep into the cellars of both wineries reminded me of Edgar Allan Poe's gothic short story The Cask of Amontillado ---what vivid descriptions Poe used of the dark, deep, moist, and creepy cellars. It's the story of a man who lures his enemy into a deep, dark cellar by playing on his tragic flaw-  his ego with regard to his wine connoisseur skills - and then tortures and kills him (the full text is here). 
Sapna and Sean at Freixenet Wineries, January 2, 2015


  • This winery is a cava producer and has worldwide production
  • All their wines are produced using 3 of the 9 grape varieties found in Catalonia - Macabeo, Parellada (the  sweeter one) and Xarelo (the dryer one)
  • We toured their cellars, where they keep the original machines that were used back in the day when grapes were crushed by feet, and wines were homemade. They still use them for two wines today - grand reserves, I think it was!
  • The cava is left in chesnut barrels, which give it a smoother, softer flavour than oak
  • We even got to take a mini train around the cellar, where we saw different aspects of the production process
  • We didn't see the vineyards themselves, but the overall feeling was very corporate - a family business that had turned into a corporate triumph. The tour guide wore a business suit with a purple tie, and we had cava in the adjoining restaurant style tapas bar afterwards

Pares Balta

  • Pares Balta had a completely different vibe, though they also produced wines and cavas from the same three grape varieties
  • The winery is certified as both "organic farming" and "biodynamic farming", the latter of which means they use no pesticides and also no yeast additions; everything is natural. 
  • They also had some "mystical" beliefs and follow a specific calendar that relates to the weather/moon position as to when they plant their grapes. Hmm, perhaps a bit too mystical for me!
  • We had the chance to actually see the vineyards; some of the vines are still harvested by HAND! 
  • We tasted our wine in a room filled with barrels, giving a much more rustic and home-made feel to the wine than the Freixenet cava bar
  • Sean much prefered the oakier wine (they use French oak barrels)
  • Did you know that the type of glass you have your cava in determines where the bubbles fizz? The expensive glasses have a small circular glass dip at the bottom, making the bubbles fizz in a straight line up the centre of the glass (rather than dispersed all over as in glasses we use at home)
  • We tried one that was 100% Syrah (the grape that I learned in California is the key to a smooth finish to a full bodied wine). 100% Syrah was too much though - too light tasting!
  • I REALLY wanted to try the blend - Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah - but guess how much that bottle was? --- 270 EUROS! Eeek - talk about expensive tastes!

Check out the Flickr slideshow of the two wineries we visited below. Once again, thanks for driving, Sean!  I LOVE wine! 

Oh, and stay tuned for my next post on our day trip to beautiful Girona...

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