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.

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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:





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:





Parés Baltà open for “extreme wine tourism”

16 07 2009

Second part of a Wine Pleasures winery visit programme I was lucky enough to witness. 

extremeOur visit to Parés Baltà was the complete antithesis to Rimarts. For starters, Parés Baltà is an older (established in 1790), much bigger winery with a staff of over fifty and five estates. Rather than wandering around the depths of the cellar, a visit to the grounds and vineyards was the order of the day. Piling into the sturdy and muddy landrover, we went around one of the five estates, seeing innumerable types of grapes as well as some breathtaking vistas. Some of the sites of the vines had been vineyards for thousand of years, since pre-roman times. 

As we travelled around the estate, our guide Sylvia let us into the silivia1secrets of grape growing. There are many factors that effect the grapes. The first, and most important, is climate. Sylvia explained that though it can sometimes rain heavily, often there are long periods of little rain. When this happens they don´t water the grapes and just let nature take its course. This seemed counterintuitive until Sylvia argued that by watering the grapes you are influencing the wine and so the wines no longer reflects the environment it is grown in. Pares Baltà want their wines to be completely natural, a philosophy that is assuredly organic. The second important factor is the soil type. Over the estates the soil quality varies hugely. I picked up many soil facts as we went, for example with clay, colour doesn´t matter to the grapes. The clay colour is the result of mineral make up and the key factor with clay is the lack of water. 

silviaMany of the grapes we saw were being grown for experimental reasons, to see how they´ll turn out and if they can improve their wines. Many of them are not yet on the wine list: as Sylvia puts it- grapes need to learn to make good wine. She claims to have caught the winemakers talking to grapes, giving them advice and encouragement. Some of their grapes are grown on land that is protected, meaning they have to work around the forest, using the land around the trees. During Eagle nesting time they can´t make any noise and have to wait to carry out any work on their grapes. Luckily the eagles weren´t nesting while we were there so up we went to investigate. The terrain by this time was getting rockier and rockier, the car lurching about as Sylvia attempted to get us to the peak. After a couple of tries we managed it, but it was a real taste of extreme wine tourism. Nestled at the top were the company bees, which were angered by our tour. Safe in the car, we learnt that the bee´s have an influence area of 10km. This means they can track their hives close to patches of rosemary and thyme and the bees will carry the aromas down to infuse the wine as they pollinate the grapes. The bees are not the only animal workers on the vineyards; sheep are also kept purely to eat the leaves after harvest and keep the plants healthy. 

As Sylvia chatted about her work and her home I really got a sense of wine as a way of life. Or, as Sylvia puts it “Everyone round here has wine in the veins.” Sylvia has worked at Parés Baltà for three years and has lived in the area all her life. Her childhood experiences are entwined with the area and the wines, with an open bottle of cava always on the table and the summer highlight of going through the grapes after the pickers had gone and bringing home brimming baskets of leftovers. 

AmyBy the end of the day I felt that I´d had a real back to nature experience and a reminder that the wine you see in a bottle has a natural beginning. And talking of wines you see in a bottle, we fit in the time to taste a few bottles before heading to the restaurant for a feast of a lunch. We tried Absis (2003) a 88% tempranillo, 12% cabernet sauvignon mix. There was a sense of caramel on the nose, smokey. The finish was subtle and complex. Oaky spicy yet chocolately, with a tanginess at the top of the lip. This wine is eighteen months in the barrel and solely hand harvested. The soil where the grapes are grown is poor and stony so the grapes are concentrated and have a low yield per acre.

We also tried the 2008 Calcari, made from a native and typical grape variety- Xarel-lo. With a grassy quality on the nose, it was creamy and tasty. Not as fruity as many of the wines I´d tried.

Amy Wilkerson. Wine Travel Writer for Wine Pleasures

Here is a video taken during part of the extreme wine tour visit. Enjoy!

Wine tasting in Parés Baltà with Sylvia and Joan:





Wine tasting tours in Catalonia’s Cava region, Spain

8 07 2009

Before today, I had not realised that some 95% of all cavas are produced in the Penedès region. Armed with that knowledge, it was with mounting excitement that I looked forward to my visit to one of the renowned cava producers of the region, Pages Entrena. Joan Pages Entrena met us as we exited the car and took us along with him whilst he shared with us the benefit of his experience as a winemaker. 

pages entrena 4On first sight, Pages Entrena is an impressive mixture of the rustic and the sophisticated. The premises are an old 18th Century paper mill, now filled with state of the art wine making equipment. With Ivy creeping up the walls and dogs milling in the yard, it comes as a shock to enter the wrought iron doors and be greeted with a plush, high-tech and professional environment to learn about wines. It is a small operation, with a staff of only four, but nevertheless produces a large amount of wine. A huge emphasis is put on quality, to the extent that although they grow their own grapes, they bring in other grapes if they believe their own not to reach the standards they have set. Owing to year on year differences in climatic and other factors involved with grapes, each year the highest quality is selected for their wines. 

pages entrena1We move straight past the stainless steel fermentation tanks, familiar to me from previous winery visits, and downwards to the cellar. Cava wine has a second fermentation once the wine is in the bottle, which takes place in the cool environment of the cellar. The wine is left to ferment in the bottles with sugar and yeast for months in the dark, whilst the winemakers wait patiently. Juan took me downwards, explaining the process of fermentation and holding the bottles to the light to elucidate his statements. All the while, my attention was partly on my surroundings, the atmospheric and gloomy rooms with dim lighting, stacked with thousand and thousand of cavas. The temperature is always kept between 18 and 21 degrees, a cool and refreshing change from the constant summer heat of Spain. The cellars smelt incredibly welcoming, aged and balmy; exactly what I would expect from a well stocked wine cellar. Some of the Cavas in there, for example the Gran Reserva, will have to wait at least 40 months until they see the light of day again. 

Emerging from the cellar, we took a tour of the grounds, seeing the tasting rooms, the  lab where they test quality of wines and an old, separate building, where Joan voiced long term plans for conversion into a hotel, as a retreat for visitors to Barcelona. horseWith the property surrounded by vineyards and attached to a stable with 12 thoroughbred horses, it was easy to see it as a haven against the vibrant bustle of Barcelona. I went up to have a quick peek at the horses and stroke their noses, and was slightly overawed by their obvious quality.

pages entrena2Finally, it was time to try one of the cavas, I´d heard so much about. We tried the Cava Pages Entrena Rose, made of 60% garnacha and 40% monestrell grapes. To earn the title of Cava, it must be aged for at least nine months. However, all the cavas they produce are aged for an absolute minimum of twelve months. Unlike the wines you buy at a supermarket, the bottles are dated from when they have completed second fermentation, ensuring that you always know precisely how old the Cava you are drinking is. The nose was aromatic and intensive and upon drinking it I found it fresh, cool and fruity. The taste was pages entrean3definitely that of a summer wine, for drinking on balmy evenings outside. I was favourably impressed by the overall experience of the Rose. 12,000 have been produced.

Amy Wilkerson Wine Travel writer for Wine Pleasures





Martinez (Sicilia) bring Marsala and fortified wines to the Wine Pleasures Workshop Buyer meets Italian Cellar

9 04 2009

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Wine Pleasures is pleased to announce a first! – fortified wines present at a Wine Pleasures Workshop.

martinez-1In 1866 Carlo and Francesco Martinez founded MARTINEZ, a winery destined to become one of the most ancient firms in Marsala.

Marsala is the west part of the island of Sicily. In 1798 the Sicilians managed to substitute their own wines in place of the standard rum in an English naval shipment. In those seafaring days, something had to be done to wine to allow it to last the long ocean journeys. Brandy was added to allow the wine to last longer, and to be more resistant to temperature changes. These were called “fortified wines”. production-area-marsala

Once the British had a taste of Marsala, demand grew quickly. In the US during Prohibition, things became even more interesting. The typical Marsala bottles made the wine look like medicine. People found that getting Marsala was less risky than other types of wine. While not as popular now, it is still used quite frequently as a cooking wine in Italian dishes.

Marsala uses the following grapes:

  • white skin/berry grapes: Grillo, Catarratto, Inzolia and Damaschino for golden and amber Marsala
  • dark red skin/berry grapes: Pignatello, Calabrese, Nerello Mascalese, Nero d’Avola for ruby red Marsala

Marsala is made in the “solera” tradition – a melding of years. First, a keg is filled with wine from the current vintage of grapes. Subsequent years with similar tastes are placed in kegs above the first. When liquid is drawn out of the bottom (oldest) keg, it is refreshed with liquid from the next keg up, and so on. In this manner, the taste remains the same throughout the cycle, and every bottle you get has (potentially) some liquid from the very first vintage.

Types of Marsala

  • Fine: 17° alcohol, aged >1 yr
  • Superiore: 18° alcohol, aged >2 years
  • Superiore Riserva: 18° alcohol, aged 4 years
  • Vergine Soleras: 18° alcohol, aged 5 years

Marsala was traditionally served between the first and second courses. It is now also served, chilled, with Parmesan (stravecchio), Gorgonzola, Roquefort and other, spicy cheeses.

Martinez are now in their sixth generation as they continue to elevate the tradition and the quality, looking always to improve and fulfill in modern market needs.

The Martinez winery covers about 6,000 square metres of area and includes the wine processing one, the Marsala wine ageing and the bottling area. It has a capacity of 40,000 hectolitres,  8,000 of which in oak and cherry-wood casks, necessary in Marsala wine and fortified wines ageing process.

Martinez have always been interested in long ageing wines and old reserves. They produce six kinds of  Marsala:

 In Fortified Wines they make 5 kinds. They also have 4 table wines to offer buyers attending the Wine Pleasures Workshop.

If you would like to find out more about Marsala, Marsala substitutions, sweet vs dry marsala, storing marsala, matching suggestions…. please feel free to contact the winery through their website.

martinez-museo1If you are a wine importer/merchant then come and meet Agnese of the Martinez winery at the Buyer meets Italian Workshop. Just complete the enrollment form.

 Wine tourism

Good news for wine tourists! Martinez is open for visits and would be delighted to see people who are interested in learning about marsala wines and wine making.





Sfriso Pier (Veneto) to participate in the Wine Pleasures Buyer meets Italian Cellar

8 04 2009

Wine Pleasures Workshops

sfriso-lagoonSmall boutique Venetian producer, Azienda Agricola Sfriso Pier are to participate in the 1st edition of the Wine Pleasures Workshop Buyer meets Italian Cellar (May 18 – 20 May 2009).

Pier and Réka run a traditional family business which was created by Grandfather Luciano almost 100 years ago!. That’s three generations back!

Pier and Réka’a philosophy on wine making clearly demonstrates that they that both passionate and caring when it comes to getting grape to glass. This is an important point for wine buyers attending the Wine Pleasures Workshops – many want to see passion in the wine makers. If they don’t see/feel this passion then it’s one reason they do not buy.

Background of  “Della Dosa”

“Dosa” (wife of the Duke of Venice) is a derivation from  “Dogaressa. It is said that Dogaressa, together with other nobles from Venice, would occasionally travel to the winery region, visiting their properties, spread all over Chiarano, journeying by boat upstream the Piavon canal which flows along the end of the winery vineyard. Consequently today their village is also known as “Land of Villas”. Nowadays, part of these Venetian Villas are abandoned. To remember this profound and important heritage of theri countryside, Pier and Reka have decided to honor their wines with the name “Della Dosa”.

foto_tutti_vini_normThey say “Our wines are typical of our region, they mirror the exact sensorial identity that are specific for the wines from our territory. These characteristics are sapidity and abundance of soft tannins for our red wines. The white wines are fruity with a good acidity making them particularly fresh and pleasant. Our wines are to be drunk young because of our vinification methods, in accordance with the historical local tradition”.

Wines are monovarietal and are: Cabernet Franc Della Dosa, Merlot Della Dosa, Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso Della Dosa, Rosè Della Dosa Prosecco Spumante Della Dosa VSQ, Chardonnay Della Dosa, Pinot Grigio Della Dosa & Gaio Spumante Dolce da Dessert Della Dosa.

If you would like to contact Azienda Agricola Sfriso Pier about their wines please do so through their website. If you would like to meet Pier and Réka and taste their wines at the Wine Pleasures Workshop Buyer meets Italian Cellar please complete an enrollment form.

Wine Tourism

If you are ever visiting the Veneto and of course the Sfriso Pier winery one accommodation option is the Casa di Paola – a delightful bed and breakfast in Chiarano close to both Venice and Treviso.