Pares Balta Winery, Spain


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Pares Balta, an organic Spanish winery, is truly a place of enchantment.

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Pares Balta Winery, Spain

  1. 1. ParésBaltà WineryA Place of Enchantment<br />Pacs del Penedès, Spain<br />
  2. 2. Penny McKinlay<br />Saskatoon, SK, Canada<br />April 2011<br /><br /><br />
  3. 3. With thanks to:<br />Martí Mensa<br />Photographer<br />Joan CusinéCusiné& Joan CusinéCarol<br />ParésBaltà<br />
  4. 4. On the final day of my holiday in Mediterranean Spain, I took the train south from Barcelona to Vilafranca del Penedès. <br />I was met by Joan CusinéCusiné; Martí Mensa, his friend and amateur photographer; and Martí’s wife, Carmé. <br />
  5. 5. We were on our way for a two-hour journey of enchantment through the vineyards, and I fell head over heels in love with the land, the people, and the wine.<br />
  6. 6. Pacs del Penedès in April is alive with fresh spring greenery.<br />The light southern breeze carries moisture from the Mediterranean, just 15 kilometres away. The air is filled with birdsong and the scent of wild rosemary and thyme. <br />
  7. 7. Narrow dirt roads lined with olive trees intersect the fields, and the vineyards are speckled with cheerful red poppies. <br />
  8. 8. My host is a chivalrous knight, leaping out of the car to pick yellow roses for Carmé and me. <br />
  9. 9. ParésBaltà is an organic winery, and it becomes clear very quickly that the grapevines are simply one element in an interlinked ecosystem. <br />
  10. 10. We bump our way up a hill on the east side of the river valley. It’s a warm day, but we close the car windows. <br />We’re visiting the bees who are returning to their hives after spending the day out in the fields, fertilizing the grapes within a 15-kilometre radius. <br />
  11. 11. “It’s the small things that help you make good wine,” explains Joan as we watch the bees buzzing in consternation at our intrusion into their territory.<br />
  12. 12. We ford the river Foix just below its source. Joan and Martí joke about sharing the harvest with the 200 to 300 wild boars who live in the valley. <br />The boars aren’t interested in the green grapes; they wait for the ripe ones in the fall. <br />
  13. 13. The grapevines share the hillsides with the pine trees and shrubs rather than displacing them. <br />
  14. 14. Two to five rows of vines are shoehorned into narrow spaces where the lay of the land permits. <br />There’s no room for equipment. All the work is done by hand.<br />
  15. 15. “You must love the vine if you are going to grow organically” explains Joan as he strokes a leaf. <br />
  16. 16. We stop to admire a pool where the locals swim in the summer. <br />
  17. 17. The hillside is part of the Parc Natural de Garraf, and we drink from the Font del Pèlags (the pilgrims’ fountain).<br />
  18. 18. At the top of the hill is the 12th century Santuari de Santa Maria de Foix, where Mass is still celebrated once a month.<br />
  19. 19. ParésBaltà is a family winery.<br />
  20. 20. It is Joan CusinéCusiné’s son, Joan CusinéCarol who introduces me to their wines. <br />He shares the management responsibilities with his brother, Josep.<br />
  21. 21. Their wives, Maria Elena Jimenez and Marta Casas, are the winemakers.<br />
  22. 22. Both women are engineers. They started helping with the harvests and enjoyed it so much that they enrolled in the University of Winemaking in Tarragona. <br />
  23. 23. They now share full responsibility for winemaking at the bodega, visiting the vineyards every day at harvest-time in order to judge the fruit’s ripeness. <br />
  24. 24. In response to the wide variety of soils and climates on their land, ParésBaltàgrows 18 different grape varietals (12 red and 6 white) and makes 25 different types of wine.<br />
  25. 25. Catalonia is the birthplace of cava, a sparkling wine made in the champagne style. <br />ParésBaltà makes three cavas. <br />Cava Brut is the most traditional, and it is widely available in Canada. <br />In fact, it’s the best-selling Spanish wine in Nova Scotia. <br />
  26. 26. Blanc de Pacsis the winery’s top-selling wine and, like Cava, is made from Parellada, Xarel.lo and Macabeo grapes. <br />The grapes for Cava are harvested first as cava requires more acidity.<br />
  27. 27. Of the red wines I tasted, my favourite was Mas Elena, named after Joan Carol’s wife, Elena. <br />It’s made from Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon and is aged for 8 months in French oak barrels from the Allier forest.<br />
  28. 28. I was intrigued and long to have another taste of Electio, a white wine made from 80-year-old Xarel.lo vines, a native Catalan varietal. <br />It was unlike any other wine that I have tasted with a tropical, sugary aroma and a complex flavour. <br />Seize any opportunity you may have to taste this wine – it’s currently available in business class on FinnAir.<br />
  29. 29. As a small family winery that grows all its own grapes, the family is always planning ahead and discussing what they can do to move forward.<br />
  30. 30. In recent years, the Cusinés have extended their scope by opening two additional wineries. <br />Gratavinumis located in Priorat (near Valencia), and Dominio Romano is located on the Ribera de Duero. <br />
  31. 31. My dream is to return to ParésBaltà for a much longer visit. <br />In the meantime, I’ll enjoy a glass of their wine, which for me will always be accompanied by the scent of yellow roses, wild herbs and mountain streams. <br />