1st Wine Pleasures Live Wine Tasting at Bohigas

24 08 2009

Wine Pleasures live wine tasting

Finca Mas MaciàTo celebrate the launch of the new *Wine Plesures Website 2.0, we have organised a live wine tasting direct from the Finca Mas Macià data 1290 of the Bohigas winery (DO Catalunya).

Jordi Casanovas BohigasJordi Casanovas, owner and wine maker will lead the wine tasting in the old family house, starting at 20.00 (GMT+1) on Friday 28 August 2009.

The following wines will be included in the live tasting: Blanc de Tres (Garnacha, Xarel.lo & Sauvignon Blanc), Chardonnay Limousin, Cabernet Sauvignon & Syrah. Pairing suggestions will be made for each wine. We will also be chatting about the various wine tourism activities on offer such as winery visit & tasting, wine & food pairing, 4×4 to the top of Puig Aguilera crag, balloon trips, segways and the harvest parties.

Audiences will be both off – line (limited number of places) and on-line and anyone is welcome – wine lovers, bloggers, sommeliers, wine buyers/retailers, wineries…..

Bohigas is a smallish family run business boutique winery so don’t worry ifCava Bohigas you have not heard of them before. They have importers around the world so if you want to get hold of the bottles of wine and taste them during the live tasting please contact Bohigas prior to the event and ask for contact details of the distributor in your regi. They will be able to tell you the closest retail outlets to your home.

To follow the event just visit the Wine Pleasures website and we will be live from our home page. You will be able to post comments, put questions to Jordi Casanovas and of course follow and see the whole event as it happens

Copa Wine PleasuresYou can also follow the event through the Wine Pleasures twitter account @winepleasures. We will be using the #winepleasureslive hashtag to actively exchange questions and comments with the community. You’ll need to have a twitter account to participate in the twitter discussions.Wine Pleasures live tasting at Bohigas

If you are able to physically join us we have a limited number of places available at the tasting table. Please contact us prior to the event to reserve your place or enrol through Facebook Events - the tasting room door is open and it’s free!

* New website available from 26 August 2009.





Enjoying Malvasia Wine with Chocolate in the Company of Royalty (Sort of) At Vega de Ribes

20 08 2009

Wine tourism in SpainMalvasia has a place in history, Shakespearean literature and Vega de Ribes, as I learned on a recent trip to the winery. Legend has it that the Duke of Clarence, brother to King Edward IV, chose to die of drowning in a cask of malvasia when sentenced to death for treason. Napoleon supposedly brought malvasia wine with him to enjoy in exile in St. Helena. Shakespeare makes several mentions of malmsey, the English term for malvasia wine, in his plays; in “Henry IV”, the Prince of Wales is accused of having sold his soul for a glass of malmsey (“an absolutely penetrating wine”) and a chicken leg. At Vega de Ribes, malvasia is their featured wine. Twenty years ago the Bartra family began growing the grape, which was taken from the only other vine in the region (at the Hospital Sant Joan Baptista in Sitges).

The family’s ownership and involvement on the land, however, dates back Family tree Vega de Ribescenturies – specifically, the 16th century A.D. In the tasting room, Enric Bartra proudly showed us the family tree drawn up in 1869, which traces his ancestors and the property back to 1540. Just as impressively, some parts of the house though are from the 13th century when a castle and its fortifications stood on the land. While we strolled through the vineyard and winery, Enric pointed out some examples of the history that visibly remain: the dry stone walls still standing, the carob trees that are hundreds of years old, and the old and “new” wine cellars. The new cellar is Cellar Key Vega de Ribesunlocked by an oversized key that could be used in a movie set in the Medieval Ages. Engraved on the key is the year the new cellar was built – 1766. He estimated that the old cellar, still functioning and in use, is from the 15th century.

Vega de Ribes produces several other wines besides malvasia, including a sauvignon blanc, a merlot and syrah. Wine Pleasures was lucky enough to try their newest wine, a sparkling malvasia (likely the only one on the market so far). The 100% malvasia bubbly is less than a year old, undergoes only one fermentation, has no added sugar, and derives its bubbles naturally from the pressure built in the bottle rather than artificial injection. As Enric said, the best way to judge it (and the only way to enjoy it!) is to taste it. Sadly, for those of us not in Northern Spain, due to limited production the sparkling malvasia will be available only at the winery for the time being.

The Bartra family still lives on the land today and grows a large variety of chocolate tree Vega de RibesMediterranean fruit trees and aromatic plants. Aside from producing grapes for wine, Enric spoke of the family-pressed olive oil used at family dinners and the fruits picked and enjoyed during the warmer seasons. All plants are grown organically as a result of the family’s respect for and sustenance from the land. The family also appreciates their history and place in the local community. In fact, the Slow Foods Foundation for Biodiversity has awarded Vega de Ribes with its Presidium title for the cultivation of a local grape to accompany locally grown foods.

Anne Shih Wine travel writerOn offer at Vega de Ribes are several options for touring the vineyard and learning more about the estate or wines. Each tour is five euros and lasts approximately one hour. The tours range from wine tasting (a general tasting of their wines, or a tasting of their malvasia paired with chocolate “Malvasia de Sitges Tour”) to bird watching (“vineyard Birds Tour”) to specific vineyard tours (“100 Vineyards Tour”, “Centennial Carob Tree Tour”, “Dry Stone Walls and Cabins Tour”, “Mediterranean Aromatic Plants Tour”). Additionally, the property is wheelchair accessible. And of course, the only way to try the sparkling malvasia wine is to visit the winery!

Anne Shih, wine travel writer for Wine Pleasures

Enric Bartra tells us about the Malvasia de Sitges grape variety:

Tasting Vega de Ribes wines including the famed Malavasia:





Wine Pleasures Workshop: Buyer meets IBERIAN Cellar

17 08 2009

banner_72890_Workshop10

shanghai1Los próximos días 10 al 12 de febrero 2010  se celebrará en el Hotel Barceló Montserrat situ La Beguda Baixa (Barcelona) la 6ª edición del Wine Pleasures Workshop.

A diferencia de ediciones anteriores damos la bienvenida a Bodegas Portuguesas al evento y como consecuencia hemos pensado que el titulo del acontecimiento Buyer meets IBERIAN Cellar sea el nombre más apropiado.

Lugar de Celebración

Hemos seleccionado de nuevo el Hotel Barceló Montserrat para barcelo1celebrar el workshop. Dispone de un salón espacioso para trabajar con luz natural y vistas impresionantes a la conocida atracción turística – la montaña de Montserrat. Además está rodeado de una zona vinícola pero a la vez muy cerca al aeropuerto internacional de Barcelona.

Concept2A diferencia de Ferias de Servir el Vino, el Wine Pleasures Workshop permite que tanto la bodega como el comprador se beneficien de la posibilidad de establecer una comunicación previa al evento con la finalidad de concertar entrevistas de mutuo acuerdo. Así tanto la bodega y el comprador tiene parte de su agenda de entrevistas ya hecha con antelación. El resto de las entrevistas se pactan cara a cara durante la cata de vinos el primer día del workshop.

Selección de Compradores

Ya hemos empezado con la selección de compradores haciendo primero hincapié en los compradores ubicados en los países más lejanos de la peninsula tales como EEUU, Canada, México, Brasil, China, Singapur, Japón, Filipinas, India y Malasia.concept3

Después del verano empezaremos con la selección de compradores europeos haciendo más esfuerzo en los compradores de Alemania, Reino Unido y Irlanda, los país nórdicos y los países que forma el conjunto que es Benelux.

Programa de Seminarios en el Workshop

nicmyerswebEl reconocido blogger Nic Myers abrirá la 1ª edición del WP Workshop Buyer meets IBERIAN Cellar. Nic, considerado uno de los mejores conocedores americanos de la Red Social (Internet 2.0), participará en el WP Workshop en los seminarios “Cómo conseguir nuevo clientes y fidelizar a los que ya lo son con el web 2.0″

El lunes 17 de 09.00 a 10.00 Nic Myers impartirá un seminario para las bodegas participantes en el Workshop: Blogging para Bodegas. Cabe destacar que de más de las 5,000 bodegas en España sólo una docena tiene un blog – una estadística que esperemos cambiará después del Wine Pleasures Workshop 2010.

Comidas y Cenas

Lunches Wine Pleasures WorkshopLas posibilidades de reunirse con los importadores, se extienden más allá del espacio del workshop, con los numerosos eventos que tienen lugar cada día. Desde la cata de vinos el primer día hasta las siempre populares comidas y cenas con los demás bodegueros y los compradores, todos los participantes encontrarán algo que les resulte interesante.

Inscripciones

Las bodegas interesadas en aprovechar de la tarifa “Early Bird” deberían inscribirse antes del 31 de agosto y así se beneficiarán de un 15% descuento. Plazas limitadas.

A continuación les proponemos dos video reportajes que recogen opiniones de una bodega y un comprador, ambos participantes en el Wine Pleasures Workshop Buyer meets Spanish CELLAR 2009:

Vega Privanza (DO Ribera del Duero):

RMB Associates importadores (EEUU, Mexico y Canada):





ArtCava lets YOU DECIDE: tailor – made Cava

14 08 2009

bikeWe saddle up for our 2 hour ride to the Artcava Winery at 9 am needing to be there by 11:30. The beginning of which was a wonderfully winding 12k downhill. I remember feeling a bit guilty that I had the pleasure of cruising down the mountain upon seeing the faces of several unfortunate souls riding up. Speeding along, wind in my face, Rod Stewert in my ears, a Zen-like feeling overwhelms me – one with everything. As I also feel I AM the one with everything. Life is good this morning.

I reach the bottom thankful to see the petrol station, as that was what Anthony said our landmark was for this first leg of Wine Pleasures bike tour round two. Going inside, a blast of cold air hits me in perfect timing. Making a bit of conversation with the lady behind the counter, ever practicing my Spanish, I remember that Catalan is the language here, and I feel a bit foolish. I purchase my lemon flavored Fanta and head out to wait for the others. Mmm, Fizzy, cold, citrusy, all the qualities of my favorite Cava (minus the sugar of course). Finishing my beverage, up rides Anthony asking if I have been here long. I suspect he wants to get an idea of how difficult it might be to get home first. Emily and Nic arrive after Anthony, cruising around the parking lot, shifts my bike into the fastest set of gears.

Biking through a seemingly empty town, up this side street, and down the next, we pass a vineyard; Right in the middle of town! I am beginning to understand how dedicated this area is to it’s grapes, and therfore wine… Much of the rest of the ride to the winery is fairly nondescript other than that it is a nice ride through rolling hills and Back roads twisting and turning.

Although there is one thing I must mention.. We reach Vilafranca some 20 km from the Wine Pleasures base. Upon realizing this, I can’t believe how far we’ve ridden!

ericOn time at 11.30 we arrive at our destination, Art Cava, desaddle, and head inside. I am hit with the smell of fresh paint as I come through the door. I can see they are lighting up the entrance a bit, white washing the interior walls. Eric Enguita is there to greet us and asks if we’d prefer the English tour or the Spanish one. I am hoping the only difference is the language!

The first bit of the tour is in the “museum.” Inside there are all sorts of ancient looking, wine making devices along with many old looking bottles of wine from when I can only imagine. He leads us over to a glass case and flicks on a light inside. There on the shelves are bits of Pre-Roman pottery. Many of which had contained wine since this was the major wine making region, and the major marketplace of its time.

pupitreThe next part of the tour is about the process by which Cava is made. Artcava also caters to groups that come here and make their own! There are seven steps, I can’t remember them all but basically they fill the bottles with ‘base wine’, add yeast and suger to make the carbonation, then cork the bottles. Once corked they are refrigerated and aged in the cellar, tilted at such an angle so that the yeast will fall to the neck of the bottle for easy removal.

degorgeTo remove the yeast, the neck is frozen and the bottle uncorked. The yeast is forced out by the newly carbonated Cava. The bottle is then recorked and ready for consumption. One more thing to mention about this process is the amount of ageing while the yeast is still inside the bottles. The more time that the wine is in contact with the yeast, the more full-bodied flavor the Cava will have. The longest being 30 months, earning the title “Gran Reserva” and, not surprisingly, the heftiest price tag. Artcava’s is quite reasonable at about 20 Euros.

olivoEric continues to lead us around the facility, showing us restored rooms of an authentic wine making home centuries old. There is a central courtyard which overlooks the vineyards rather pleasantly. The courtyard is also adorned with an olive tree more than 1000 yrs old. I am told it weighs in at over 5400 kilos. Short and Squat looking, it is something out of Tolkien’s Shire. While looking out over the vineyards I ask Eric about the vines and their ages. 15 yrs being the oldest vineyard, and there is one within site that is the baby at just one year. Six years is optimal for maximum harvest; Although, older vines, produce the better grapes and have much less harvest.

As we are led to the next part of the tour I am really hoping it is the tasting. After the long hot ride, a craving to consume Cava is building inside me. It is also probably the result effective tour strategy. We sit down in a small theater for a 10 min long video, which results in the ever-increasing infamy of this beverage. Probably translated from Catalan, many of the words used to describe Cava are a bit “out there” to me as i can’t help but to giggle to myself. All in all the video is quite informative and yet another effective strategy toward creating Cava cravings.

Just before the climax of the tour, we are shown the cellar in which the bottles are stored. At a chilly 16c the bottles age with the yeast still inside. The air conditioned cellar is also a welcome change from the unrelenting heat I’ve come to know since in Spain.

copsa de cavaWe are led upstairs and Eric motions towards a small bar where we all gather on typical looking bar stools. Voila! An ice cold bottle is brandished from a cooler behind the bar. As Eric opens the bottle I can’t help but notice just how silently he does so. No matter how hard I’ve tried in the past, I can’t keep from producing a small “pop” upon opening. He pours us all a glass, and pleasantly, himself a glass too. It’s all I can do to not to wolf it down! Lucky for me, the only type that is produced here is “Brut Natura” which contains no added sugar. I believe sugar to be an additive to disguise poor quality in wine. We try two varieties, first their standard economy variety and one aged for 12 months. The first is very light, and because of its “light body” the carbonation really flourishes. The second tastes a bit more full bodied, almost like a carbonated Chardonnay with less emphasis on the “fizziness.” I must confess i prefer the first, although most wine enthusiasts would probably go for the older variety because of it’s meal drinkability.

chocsWe spend the next hour or so drinking, eating chocolate coated almonds and talking of many things Catalan. Eric tells us about his family (he and his parents run Artcava) and his interests outside winemaking. After polishing off about three bottles, we decide that we had better head out and find a spot to refuel for the ride home. Looking forward to, and somewhat dreading, the challenge of the 300m elevation increase, we gear up and ride off in search of protiens and white carbs.

Alec Cruickshank cardman9to5@yahoo.com
Photos courtesey of Nic Myers





Water to Wine Pleasures… cont

7 08 2009

Wine Pleasures country bike tour.

The ride into town is, once again, a pleasantly rolling downhill cruise. I am beginning to wonder, “all that goes down must come back up right?” The thought passes as my stomach, growling at me, brings me back into the moment. 

We ride through town in search of a simple sandwich and a glass of fine bile la llacunaPenedès wine.  Along side streets paved with stone, I begin to realize that every store seems to be closed. Banners hang from open windows displaying messages like, “Ball de Diablos” and “La Fiesta Mayor.” Upon reaching what seems to be the town center, it dawns on me that everywhere is closed because of the festivities here before my eyes. We park the bikes out of the way and take in the unique sights. A group of younger boys and girls wrap eachother in long green cloths around their torsos. One holds the wrap tight while the other spins themself until wrapped. I am not sure why… 

human towersOnce everyone is wrapped, they begin to build human structures. Some are five people high! I look in astonishment as a very brave little boy, crash helmet secured, scurries to the top and stands fearless. All the while, horns serenade the event. This is followed by, what must be, a traditional dance involving wooden sticks that are struck together rythmically.  

After the dancers clear, a group of several children near where I stand suddenly scatter. Moments later several men dressed in devil costumes emerge carrying pitchforks.  Most in the crowd seem as oblivious to what is about to happen as I am.  “Los Diablos” gather in a circle and attach little red diABLOSfireworks to their pitchforks. One devil lights them all and, sparks flying everywhere, they parade around in a circle. Those in the crowd that had not fled to safer ground certainly did now! Luckily I am standing halfway behind a pillar and get very little of the hazard.  The danger, though, is well worth sight as sparks rain down in a most amazing display. Suddenly, POW! Then again, POW! Nearly coming out of my shoes, I realize it is from firecrackers and not gunshots. Checking to see if my reaction was noticed, I see a few children laughing at me. 

estrelaOnce the excitement has passed Anthony tells us of a place that is open on the edge of town to get what we came for. Arriving at a little sidewalk cafe we park our bikes and sit for some much needed refueling and refreshment. With no fine wine available in this bar (strange as we are slap bang in the middle of a wine region) it’s an easy choice. The local beer is Estrella Damm, and it has become a favorite of mine for it’s heavy maltiness and full bodied flavor. We order a round and three “omelette” sandwiches. The sandwich is very tasty and simple: scrambled egg, diced tomato, olive oil and salt served on hard crusted white bread. 

Refueled and refreshed, the ride home is all that is left for the day’s bike uphillevents. Almost all uphill, I guess the saying IS true. We are undoubtedly going back up! 

Alec Cruickshank – cardman9to5@yahoo.com

Photos courtesey of Nic Myers

Here are a couple of videos of the Fiesta Mayor de La Llacuna:

Theater: Dance of the Devils:





Water to wine bike tour (Penedès) – taste the difference!

4 08 2009

panormaic view montserratI am quite pleased to say that I survived the 30 km excursion winding through the hills (sierra) of the Penedes wine region. We started out on a 3 km trek up the hill where, Wine Pleasures base is located.  Road winding this way and that, magnificent, panoramic views jump out from around the next bend as we ascend to the top.  Just as we get there, Nic’s bike gives out, and our breakdownexcursion stalls until Anthony can zoom down and retrieve another bike.  Seemingly moments later, up pulls the support vehicle and we pull the bikes out and Nic familiarizes himself with his new ride. 

We are off again, this time a pleasantly winding cruise down the other side of the hill leads us to our first scheduled stop, a natural spring (Els Canals).  The clear, fresh water pours from a rock just at the perfect spring waterheight for filling our water bottles.  Once refreshed and bottles no longer empty, down the little gravel road we shoot, skidding a bit here and there only adds to the excitement.

Our next stop after about a 20 min. ride is an ancient oak tree over 1000 years old.  Its massive trunk juts up to about 2m where several thick, gnarled limbs curl their way toward the sky.  Nic, all the while snapping photos, climbs the trunk to a perfect spot to sit and have your picture taken in this arborous wonder. 

Continuing along, not far from our oak stop, Anthony pulls his bike off the road and stops.  Seemingly there is something wrong, there doesn’t seem to be anything in sight.  He motions for us to follow, and nearly falling into our next sight I realize what we are stopped for!  A pot hole some 30m deep opens at our feet.  Only about half a meter wide and a meter and a half long, very little light is shed into the potentially massive cavern below.  There is just enough light to see some impressive stalagtite formations near the rim.  Without any climbing gear we are unable to explore any deeper than we can see; but all is well, It is rumoured that past inhabitants of the area used it for disposing of dead livestock, and who knows what else!

Before reaching the pinnacle of our bike tour, one more stop is made. abadoned houseThis time at a vacation house of Belgian Royalty used 200+ years ago.  Nearly intact, the structure is beautifully constructed from locally found stones.  A well house is also on the site. Nearly 3m across, I am impressed with the size and depth, and peering down the well there are still thousands of litres of water contained within.

abandoned monasteryAfter a short ride we reach the monastery ruins that we set out to see.  One partial exterior wall is all that remains.  All around though, we see the outlining foundation where the walls once stood.  Walking from room to room I can almost picture how the ancient inhabitants lived.  Several fairly small rooms (maybe 4m x 3m), probably living quarters shared by two or more monks at a time, connect to a larger, likely communal room.  Erected in 1155, these monks only lived here until until 1168 when lack of water forced them to move on to nearby Santa Creus. 

Water bottles empty, the same has forced us to do as well.  Only drops of the crystal clear spring water remain from our first stop.  Anthony tells us of another spring nearby, and we’re off.  Once again an exhilerating downhill leads us to this much needed refreshment.  Like the one previous, the water rushes from a hole, seemingly pierced into the face of a rock.  Strangely enough, the cool water has a distinctly different taste.  More like a difference in texture explainable only to the palate.  Drinking our fill, we top off our bottles and head into La Llacuna for lunch, fine wine, and La Fiesta Mayor…

                                         To be Continued…

Alec Cruickshank – cardman9to5@yahoo.com

Photos Nic Myers

Here’s a video we took during this fantastic wine country bike tour organised by Wine Pleasures:





Wine Pleasures visits Chozas Carrascal (Utiel-Requena)

28 07 2009

Chozas Carrascal 1Everything about Chozas Carrascal exuded heat, literally and figuratively. It was 37o C in early June, but only the vines were standing up to the blazing sun. While we conversed in the cool of the shaded patio and main house, I felt the passion the family had for their vineyard and business, and their natural warmth towards guests.

Chozas Carrascal is a family effort which began about 17 years ago when the Lopez-Peidro family purchased forty hectares of land in San Antonio Requena. They dedicated eleven years to planting and cultivating before deeming the grapes good enough to offer under the Chozas Carrascal name. Their patience and care have begun to pay off – Las Tres, their blend of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and macabeo, was a finalist in a sommelier competition (La Nariz de Oro 2009); Las Dosces, their young red, and Las Cuatro, their young rose, have been listed as two of the best Spanish wines (Guia de Los 300 Mejores Vinos de Espana, 2008-9, Vino y Cata Magazine). Their attention to detail is evident on the grounds of the vineyard and winery, from the rose bushes planted at the end of each row of vines, to the sparkling cleanliness of each room used in the winemaking process.

Their main house, tasting room and cellar are also enhanced with several stylistic features and details – a beautiful chandelier lights the way to their cellar, bottle corks are playfully set into the restroom flooring, and a tour of the partially excavated old wine cellar beneath the house highlights the rich history behind the land. Their cabernet franc is an example of the family’s labor of love and attention to detail. Each bottle is signed by Julian Lopez or his wife, numbered by Julian’s father, and hand labeled by his children.

During my visit I met most of the members of the team, or family, and Chozas 2quickly saw how uniformly motivated they are by their love for Chozas Carrascal. Julian Lopez, owner and manager of the business, was clearly energized by the subject of the vineyard and his plans for the future of the business. Pieter Whaley, their export manager, translated Julian’s quick words and added his own serious sense of enthusiasm. Francesc Giron, or Xesco as he is affectionately called, is the winemaker and answered all our technical questions with good cheer. (The family was proud to tell us that Xesco is also the author of a winemaking manual, “Credenciales de Chozas Carrascal”.) And as Julian is the head of the business, Maria Jose Lopez Peidro, Julian’s daughter and marketing manager, may be its heart. She was our tireless hostess and guide, and passionate about the family’s efforts and her own individual studies to obtain an advanced degree in oenology.

During my visit I met an important guest of the winery’s, Bernadette Gerth of Qualyvines. A Dutch importer of niche and “unusual” wines, she was making her first trip to Chozas Carrascal with her team of interns and half-jokingly making large reservations for several of the wines. Aside from the importance of the quality of the wine, both the family and Bernadette emphasized the importance of the quality of their relationship. Julian is focused on developing longer term relationships with distributors that are also emotionally invested in the winery. Bernadette looks for quality, “different” wines with “style”, but also only partners with wineries that are interested in helping her promote their wines in the Netherlands.  The pair met two years ago at the Wine Pleasures Workshop Buyer meets Spanish Cellar now named Buyer meets Iberian Cellar for 2010 – a match made in wine heaven, you could say perhaps.

Chozas3We had the option of trying the wines with a light repast in the airy tasting room or charming outdoor courtyard. After touring the house, enjoying the wines and light conversation, and leisurely dipping our toes in the pool, we were on our way back to Valencia. We discovered that Maria, a young and native Valencian, is an authority on local information and city hot spots. Sadly, we didn’t have time to try her recommendations for sights and nightlife, but my friend and I enjoyed a great paella negro at one of her favorite paella restaurants.

Luckily, for those of us in the States, Chozas Carrascal’s wines are available in a few specialty shops and restaurants (i.e. Jean Georges in New York City)!

Visits are 5 euros per person, and includes a tour of the vineyard, the winery, the main house, wine tasting and light (Valencian) refreshments. You’ll want to allot at least two hours to view and enjoy the premises, wine and company. 

Anne Shih. Wine Travel Writer for Wine Pleasures.

Here’s a video (in Spanish) on how to make a paella from Requena as opposed to one from Valencia. The latter claiming superiority in paella making. What’s your experience with paellas?








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