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WORKING WITH LANDSCAPES AND METABOLISM. ELENA ALBAREDA

WORKING WITH LANDSCAPES AND METABOLISM.

Elena is an architect, and she has devoted her professional career to working with landscapes and urban planning, understood as urban regeneration in the city, and regeneration also at a territorial level, always from a metabolic perspective.
She created an architecture cooperative with colleagues from university, a cooperative which is called Cíclica, espai, comunitat i ecologia (“Cyclic, space, community and ecology”). They are involved in architecture, but understood in a broad way: the territory, the landscape… and not just buildings. Energy rehabilitation of buildings or creation of energy communities, for example, “as well as landscape management, working from the productive or reproductive landscape (as I prefer to call it), because it is one that allows, not only to produce at a given moment, but also to reproduce over time,” Elena tells us.
Regeneration is based on understanding sustainability. It’s not just about greenwashing, it’s about changing the system. Degrowth as an approach, and above all, understanding that this system by which we are ruled is not sustainable either economically, socially, or environmentally, and therefore, change strategies are needed.
Social metabolism allows us to understand how society works. Just like a living organism in its anatomical and physiological form: the body metabolises the resources it consumes, and it excretes the waste it generates. Society also works the same way. If architecture has usually focused on what is anatomical, on the structures we inhabit, “social metabolism allows us to understand how we live in these spaces: what it means living there, how we live there, the resources we consume, both at the level of the building, and at the level of the territory. And what is pursued is what we call circular social metabolism. In other words, closing cycles. And to close cycles, things cannot work in a single way, or in isolation, but in a systemic relationship. A holistic view that allows us to understand that no system is independent in itself, and that it needs another to complement each other and generate a richer ecosystem,” she says.
When we talk about metabolism, we mainly talk about 4 vectors: water, organic matter, inorganic matter, and energy. In nature, water closes the cycle naturally. Organic matter closes its cycle thanks to water, and the sun. Inorganic matter has minimal mobility in nature because, basically, it is produced by water entrainment. However, in urban metabolism, it is the vector that generates greater impacts. And, finally, energy, which is not a material flow, but in the natural ecosystem is solar energy or its derivatives, such as wind or hydraulic energy.
Recovering traditional knowledge gives us many keys to understanding the different territories, and it will allow us to adapt the management strategies used by the vectors to current needs, obviously different from those of the past.
In the past, water was managed only by gravity, and differentiating the several qualities for the different uses that were made of it. The productivity of a territory or a landscape was always understood according to its relationship with water (closer, more distant, scarcer…). Water is the largest vector, an average of 100l per person per day is consumed, compared to 3, 4 or 5 kg of another waste matter. Inorganic matter was always extracted from the immediate environment, and was renewable or of minimal mobility, like stone. And concerning organic matter, human capital was invested in recovering and maintaining the productive or reproductive capacity of the land, the soil.
The problem came with the industrial society, because it uses, mainly, fossil energies, and in the case of the other vectors, the cycles have been opened, and the system follows a linear metabolism. The resources we extract from the lithosphere are returned to natural ecosystems in ways which cannot be assimilated. The situation becomes unsustainable, adding to this, the resulting local and global impacts, such as climate change, the biggest impact we know.
To give a specific example, in the case of Gallicant (an abandoned village in Camp de Tarragona), they carried out a landscape analysis to see how the use of the landscape had changed in the different historical moments. The landscape was marked by dry stone walls, explaining that it was a landscape of vineyards in the past. Vineyards that generated an economic return that allowed investment in making terraces. Therefore, the landscape was built, it wasn’t urban. The landscape is anthropogenic everywhere. Now, that landscape is in a process of abandonment and forest recovery. The terraces allowed for more optimal water management, and also allowed for strategies of accumulation to have punctual irrigation, or even provide water to roe deer and wild boars, which live in the forest and are a danger to the crop, especially in periods of heat when they look for hydration in the fruit.
“We must change the productivist view of the landscape that prioritised the mobility of horizontal resources with large mobility infrastructures, and once again, know the productivity of each piece of landscape and each ecosystem. This way, we will work again in favour of sustainability. Luckily, vineyards and winery economically allow an integrated management of the landscape that other agricultural systems do not allow, and it is therefore a privilege,” Elena tells us.
Thank you, Elena, for this master class on social metabolism and, above all, for making your contribution in this big change that we are dealing with.

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ADAPTING TO CLIMATE CHANGE

ADAPTING TO CLIMATE CHANGE

One of our biggest concerns today is climate change, and how it will affect our crops and our lives. We can have two very different attitudes to face this major issue. We can be passive, waiting for climate change to affect us fully and adapt to its consequences, if we can, or we can be proactive and try to do everything we can to minimise the negative effects that this change will have.

We already have examples of this change in the exceptional nature of the meteorological accidents that affect us, the warmer temperatures year after year… It will be more evident when we can put a certain distance and look at it with some perspective, quantify it, etc. But in the meantime, we find ourselves in different situations that must be solved day by day, and that we cannot postpone.

This is the case with new plantations, when there is a need to propose a new vineyard or redirect one and replant it again. This is when the Keyline method can play a very important role in decision-making: how we will plant it, what form it will take…

“Learning to intelligently design and manage the agricultural landscape, in order to make the most of water resources, and return its depth and fertility to the soil, is exactly the goal of Keyline cultivation,” explains Jesús Ruiz on the www.liniaclave.org website. He is a Keyline expert since 2007, and the most experienced and veteran person in this system and its application in our country.

The Keyline design combines water collection and conservation with earth regeneration techniques. In other words, it uses the water that we naturally have, it distributes it regularly throughout the vineyard and, in addition to this, it uses soil regeneration techniques that guarantee the survival of new plants while preventing the erosion of the new cultivated space. Besides, the design of the new space usually includes the integration of trees because of their contribution to increasing biodiversity, and the role they will play in capturing CO2.

With this design, we learn to look at agriculture in a different way. We will continue to have the same water, but we will make it stay there instead of it going away by evaporation, or just downhill. We will also have more plants and more roots. And if we manage it well, we will create soil, enrich the landscape, stabilise the climate and increase the profitability of authentic agriculture.

“To develop fertile and biologically active soil, capable of retaining water wherever it falls, and also capturing huge amounts of atmospheric CO2” This is the objective of the Keyline system, and a possible solution to the environmental problems that we are currently dealing with.

Jesús Ruiz is clear about this, and he explains it in his training and advice. His knowledge base as a topographer has given him the ability to read the land. His master’s degree in organic farming, a holistic vision. His training in permaculture, the ability to design and seek the regeneration of soils through crops. His help at Mas Martinet has allowed us to design new plantations that meet the new challenges of the new climate horizon which is approaching.

Thank you for teaching us to see everything clearer.

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A WINERY BORN IN 1942

A WINERY BORN IN 1942

August Vicent welcomes us to the Cecilio Winery with a glass of delicious sweet wine… a sweet, a natural and sweet Syrah wine with 15 years of barrel ageing… and a very good mood. Joking and friendly, he says “I have tried to keep the winery as it was”, and so it is. A very welcoming, detailed and well-maintained visitor reception area that takes you back in time.

The Cecilio winery was born in 1942. August’s father, Cecilio Vicent (of Valencian origin, specifically from the province of Castelló) was recruited by the troops of the International Brigades without knowing how. They put him in charge of the troops who settled in Gratallops to closely monitor what would be the Battle of the Ebro and the end of the Civil War. The brigade members installed the command of the troops in what would be their home. There, his father met the daughter of the owners of the house, and they fell in love. And when the war was over, he came back, and they got married. Once they were married, his father began to work and recover the very degraded and even lost lands of his mother’s family. And he became a member of the cooperative, as could not be otherwise. The plain of La Vilavella, where he came from, was a plain rich in orange trees but it had no vineyards, so he didn’t know anything about wine. But he was very interested in bringing wine to his town, and he could not do that from the cooperative, because its rules did not allow the private sale of wine. For this reason, he learned to make wine by himself. He followed some elementary oenology courses in Tarragona and Penedès, until he managed to make his own wine at home. And he started from his small winery. Then, the Regulatory Council of Priorat became official in 1954, and it was the first registered winery.

“The decline of Priorat began in the 60s” he says. Moving to Barcelona became a tendency, and working in a city meant working in a different way, maybe more hours, but also having more, “they could buy a SEAT 600 and go back to their villages to show it”. Many lands were no longer worked, and the villages, little by little, were ageing.

“There was a lot of innovation in Priorat when the machines for making terraces and vehicles were introduced” he explains. It was a turning point in Priorat because the animals could rest.

“At home” says August, “we were lucky, because my father had a very good idea. People from Barcelona went to visit the villages, and he started selling wine in retail sale”. They were selling it directly…people would drive by, come into the house and buy. Later on, the cooperative also did it (it could have been the other way around, but it happened this way), because there was little production in Priorat, and there was very little margin for trading with wine. Selling it directly was an option that offered greater profitability to their business.

That’s what they did, until his father got sick and died in 1986. His father wouldn’t let him do anything. He tells us that father and son did not get along very well, they were not friends at all. He says it’s a past chapter, but one that he particularly regrets. But the winery has never stopped. The winery survived. Many other houses in the village also made their own wine, but they couldn’t continue with their businesses. “We were lucky” he tells us. However, I think it wasn’t luck, I think they knew how to take advantage of what they had, and that allowed them to overcome that crisis and continue until today.

In the 80s, those “hippies” arrived, and until then, people worked the land, but only for subsistence. At first, he felt a little compassion for them, but they started to uproot and work in a different way, and they revalued the wine and the land. “Perhaps, the village has been reactivated economically, but not socially. The people who come to work are from outside” he points out.

Now, the winery is run by his daughter and his son-in-law. The whole family participates in the project to take it forward. He is 76 years old, and he tells us that “I can’t complain, I’ve overcome some health scares, but… here I am”. He goes to the field with the tractor every day and ploughs. And you can see him happy and satisfied.

Thank you very much, August. For your welcome, for making us feel at home, for being so straightforward and accessible. And good luck and strength for the survival of the Cecilio winery for many, many years.

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THE NEW WINE MUSEUM

THE NEW WINE MUSEUM

“From 1935 until here…. Who would have imagined this?” These are the words of Xavier Fornos, director of the Museum of Wine Cultures – Vinseum, in Vilafranca del Penedès. And he makes this comment after briefly explaining the history of the Museum, from its beginnings until today. Many things have happened throughout this period of time, and it has gone through different stages. The museum was an initiative from before the Civil War which was paralysed by this war, and it was consolidated in 1945, already in full dictatorship, as the first Wine Museum (Museo del Vino, at that time), of the Spanish State, and probably of Europe too. In this first stage, the museum was basically local cultural facilities that tried to bring together not only all kinds of wine heritage, but also historical and artistic heritage. Little by little, the material collection of the museum was expanded thanks to private donations: “A museum of museums” says Xavier.

In the 1990s, both the facilities and the internal organisation of the museum were old, and a transformation process began under the direction of Monserrat Iniesta, who took over the museum. The main objective of the new management plan was for the museum to be consolidated as a tool for conservation, restoration and promotion of cultural heritage, as well as promoting collaborations between the associative, cultural and business fabric of the territory.

A project which hasn’t stopped at that point, but which has also marked a much more ambitious challenge for the future that seeks to meet the needs of modern museum facilities with national vocation. The intention is to turn the Vinseum (name given to the museum since 2007) into a different wine museum, taking advantage of the diversity of collections it has and, above all, explaining its added value, and its cultural, social and historical legacy that marks the identity not only of Penedès, but also of a much wider territory such as Catalonia.

The museum that was located in the old medieval palace of the kings of the Crown of Aragon, in order to be registered in the official museum register of the Government of Catalonia as a museum of national interest, needed some improvements to its infrastructure and facilities. For this reason, and driven by the spirit of improvement, they started a new project funded by all the governments (local, regional and state governments) and European funds. A huge investment that has served and will serve to completely renew the project, providing it with a new stable exhibition space of more than 3000 m2.

This new space has a large reception area, “a covered agora,” as Xavier describes it, where two large-scale works will be exhibited: a press from Cunit dating from the eighteenth century, and a mural painted by the local artist Pau Boada showing the cycle of the vineyard and the wine, and which was relocated, which meant a relocation of great technical difficulty.

In addition to this, there will also be a large model of Catalonia locating the different wine-growing areas of the country.

The tour of the museum will explain the world of wine from a previous exhibition dedicated to the roots of the area, focusing on Penedès as the nerve centre of wine. The main exhibition, dedicated to the wine cultures of Catalonia, will occupy the three upper floors of the new building, and one of the historic one. It will make “a marked reference to the wines of the country (…) talking about the wine cultures of Catalonia from their origins until now, from an anthropological, social and cultural point of view…” explains Fornos.

The first floor will be dedicated to complementary cultural activities. “The space is and will be full of activity all year round”, says Xavier Fornos. Besides, the architectural project has managed to communicate in a very organic way the old space with the future space, and it allows the visitor to pass from one building to the other without realising it. It has also recovered old medieval walls and alleys of Vilafranca, and they can be seen perfectly integrated into the modern space. 

The transformation process is nearing completion as they plan to open the doors in the last quarter of 2023, if all goes well. At the moment, the museum is closed to the public, and you can only visit an exhibition located in the Gothic chapel of Sant Pelegrí (next to the new building). The space was rehabilitated as a temporary exhibition hall, but it is also a space with a lot of history, since the chapel was burnt down in 1934, transformed into a monument honouring the dead of Franco’s side and, finally, rebuilt in the 1980s. At the moment, the exhibition “Raise a glass”, which can be visited now, explains the new project of the museum, and it invites the visitor to leave a glass in the room to raise it on the day of the inauguration of the new space.

After all this, we are impatient to see this new project in action, and we are convinced that it will be very faithful to the project described and written (“paper can wait” its director rightly says, but your work also makes it possible). We will raise a glass with you!

Thank you for welcoming us, and for doing what you do with such passion and professionalism.

 

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HISTORY, THE FALSET COOPERATIVE, 1919

THE FALSET COOPERATIVE

We go to the Falset Cooperative to talk with its president, Ricard Rull, and the head of wine tourism Maria Martí. We are welcomed outside the most emblematic building in Falset: the Wine Cathedral, a modernist building designed by the architect Cèsar Martinell. Like most of the cooperative wineries at the beginning of the century, and thanks to the financing obtained by the Bank of Valls (Banc de Valls), the Falset cooperative winery was able to be built in 1919.

If the outside part of the building impresses, the inside impresses even more. Its height and the basilica plan (main nave and two side ones, a church) show us that utility and aesthetics can be perfectly combined. And as a relic, the two wooden tanks full of vermouth, original from 1919, incredible! And the building materials are very simple, cheap and easy to get: bricks and stone; but used with exceptional functional grace.

Catalan vaults support the tanks, now made of stainless steel and cement, and “make sure there is a constant circulation of air,” as Maria explains. Therefore, they avoid overheating, and they also communicate corridors and make work easier. Also, the cylindrical underground tanks are separated by ventilated insulating rooms. The building was designed jointly by Cèsar Martinell and the winery’s first wine maker, Erasme M. Imbert, who explained his needs for making wine, and the architect knew how to incorporate it into the design.

The roof is made with wooden trusses, the central nave keeps the original trusses, and Alicante tile, to allow more ventilation. Its lightness made it possible to work on rather decorative brick columns, highlighting the elegance of the building. Also original, there is the water tank on the outside part that we can now see by accessing one of the outdoor terraces where the empty demijohns rest, but in a very few days they will be full of wine kept outside day and night (sol i serena), the future rancio wine. Considered one of the stars of the winery, especially in the 60s and 70s, when a large part of the production was sent to Barcelona.

Back inside, we access one side of the building where we find the experimental winery, the old access to the oil mill, which now houses cement eggs and demijohns. Trying new things. “It’s never being still,” Ricard tells us.

The Falset Cooperative is currently made up of 350 members and, obviously, the most important section is the wine section. But it hasn’t always been like this. “Other activities, such as the sale of eggs, apples or cereals, have become economically more important activities for the members at other times,” explains the President.

This building, like others from the same period, represents the visible architectural manifestation of what agricultural cooperatives in Catalonia were at that time. At the end of the 19th century, in the middle of the phylloxera crisis, the country looked for new ways to organise the economic and social interests of the countryside.

Farmers and owners made a united front against the crisis: through structures of vertical solidarity, they tried to adapt agriculture to the new conditions of the agricultural markets; keep a certain social peace and invest to “adopt new agricultural techniques to promote agricultural growth, and appease the social demands of farmers”1 This investment entailed the construction of complex and efficient infrastructures such as this winery that we are dealing with.

The professionalisation of the cooperative meant a before and an after, and above all, it was the key to the survival of the entity. The members are organised in a Governing Board made up of 12 members, from among whom the president, the secretary and the treasurer are elected. But the cooperative would not need this Board to work, because the members set the guidelines and collaborate in everything they can with goodwill.

The Cooperative’s infrastructure is very expensive, but nowadays it is clearly committed to the quality of the product. “Nowadays it’s not about producing a lot, but about producing little and with value,” Ricard tells us with conviction. Those years when more than 3 or 4 harvests were owed to members are long gone… Thanks to the good work, the situation has been reversed, and now they are in balance. And the farmer is happy.

The future is about continuing to bet on quality, wine tourism (where the Cooperative has also been a pioneer) and innovative sections, such as the future local energy community, the details of which are being finalised in order to start its activity.

1 Jordi Planas, tesi doctoral.

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CAMÍ PESSEROLES AND HER ORIGINS

CAMÍ PESSEROLES AND HER ORIGINS

And what can we say about the estate of Camí Pesseroles that we don’t know yet? The Camí Pesseroles estate is located on the edge of the old rural road between Gratallops and Porrera. The licorella (fine slate) soil and the coastal planting influence the character of both, the vineyard, and the wine that comes from it. 

1939 is registered as the date when the vineyard was planted. It is strange that, at a time when the war was ending, or just ending, someone would venture into such a risky adventure. But, as far as we know, many official records were burnt, and all the vines, which were planted between 1930 and 1940, were assigned the same date, 1939. Therefore, we are talking about a vineyard which is more than 80 years old, and which specifically contains Carinyena vines planted with goblet pruning. In the Camí Pesseroles wine, we also include Garnatxa, but it comes from a neighbouring estate, and the vines were planted more recently, approximately 35 years ago. 

We are referring to a very interesting period in the history of Priorat. The phylloxera was already over, and with it, those who had profited from the commercial activity generated by wine. People decided to close the doors of their houses, leave the vineyards and open new horizons far from terraces and vineyards. Far from Priorat. Those who remained continued to work the vineyard with the same methods and ways as before, but the outbreak of the First World War, first, and then the Second, caused exports to fall, and the commercial dynamism lost a lot of weight The dictatorship didn’t help either. The region of Priorat closed in on itself, and it would not begin to open until well into the 1970s. 

Regarding wine, it was a time when the Carinyena variety took centre stage. The process followed was very manual. The grapes were harvested by hand and placed in baskets or buckets, and these, once full, were poured into portadores, which were oval and deep wooden containers that were filled with grapes to transport them by cart to the winery or house, where the wine would be made. The grapes of the portadores were even crushed right there so that there could be more grapes. In the winery, the grapes were stepped, and the presses were filled, where the grapes would ferment, and once the wine was made, it would be put into wooden barrels, usually chestnut wooden barrels, until it was sold or consumed. 

The past ways of working have changed, but in the Camí Pesseroles made by Mas Martinet nowadays, we wanted to respect the personality of the wines of the past. And the harvested grapes are transported in portadores to the winery, grapes which we have previously stepped in the estate to put the maximum amount possible of grapes. Once in the winery, the grapes will ferment in open wooden vats until we decide to press them. After the pressing process, the wine will be aged in chestnut barrels and demijohns until bottling. With this process, we try to transmit the personality of an old vineyard with a strong character, and also respect some forgotten methods in order to make them last over time. 

Today’s Camí Pesseroles wine is pure minerality and rusticity, a reflection of the vineyard from which it comes. A tribute to Priorat in the 1950s, during the post-war and the industrial revolution.

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ANOTHER ORBIT AROUND THE SUN.

ANOTHER ORBIT AROUND THE SUN.

And we’re back. We are grateful to continue one more year with our learning and accompanying. We face a 2023 with renewed resolutions, and we go back to good habits. We don’t want to miss the opportunity to involve you in all the things we do, the new projects we propose, the people we collaborate with, all this great web of which we are part. 

But first, a moment of reflection. The world is changing, times are changing, conventions are changing… Everything seems to be in constant motion. Meanwhile, vines, vines and nature, in general, have another rhythm, slower, more organic. And yet, it is not without receiving the consequences of the acceleration of the world.

One of the first things we do when we start the year is to check Maria Thun’s lunar calendar. We consider the new cycle based on this calendar, observing how the year will go in general. And we search for the perigees* in the calendar. We check that they are far from the full moon. We don’t want to repeat another 2020 (a vintage when we lost more than 80 % of the harvest). Luckily, there won’t be any case like that one this year, and this should be a joy for us, but Sara’s comment was: “I’d prefer there was a case like that one, because that would mean water is coming.” 

And, if there is something we need in 2023, it’s water…  The Mas Martinet water tank is empty, water does not enter since we can’t remember when… Not a drop… which means that the mountain is dry, the forest is dry, the vineyard is dry. Everything is dry. 

So, if we must ask for something, if we can ask for something, we ask for water. Water, water, and lots of water. Water, and that’s it. 

And that you continue to accompany us on this trip. Keep reading, listening and, above all, drinking wine.  Happy New Year 2023. 

Mas Martinet.

* Perigee: It is the point in the orbit of a satellite at which its body is closest to the body around which it orbits, that is, the point at which the Moon and Earth are closest. Perigees and apogees (the opposite phenomenon) occur in each lunar orbit, because the Moon traces an ellipse (and not a circle) around the Earth. This causes the perigee moon (or a moon full of perigee) to look larger and brighter than the rest of the full moon nights (in fact, the difference is practically imperceptible to the naked eye, but it is there), and this is why the perigee moon is sometimes popularly called a supermoon.

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TORNER, SINCE 1739

TORNER, SINCE 1739

The surname Torner is linked to the trade of barrel making and selling since 1739, when Simó Torner married Teresa Estalella. Agustí Torner, the current manager, is the 8th generation. Not much has changed with respect to the barrel making process. The barrel workshop was located in Vilafranca, and all the work was carried out outside. This has indeed changed. Now they work in a huge warehouse in Sant Cugat Sesgarrigues, but the barrels are made in the same way, some processes have been mechanised, but the essence is exactly the same. 

Torner is a small barrel making and selling company which produces on demand. They work with different woods: chestnut wood, acacia wood, French oak wood, American oak wood, cherry wood… Different sizes: 200, 300, 400, 500… Different toasts: light, medium, plus… Always depending on what their customers ask for, and, as everyone knows: each to their own! 

The wood they receive from the sawmills is kept outside for at least a couple of years so that it dries out, loses its astringency, and improves in sweetness. It must be in contact with the elements: air, sun and water, Jaume explains. Over time, the wood can lose some fibre, and it is more difficult to tame, but it improves in sweetness, elegance, and fineness. 

Jaume Ramos, the person in charge, is the one who takes care of us and teaches us everything. He is 56 years old; he was 16 when he started working as a cooper. He tells us that, when he started, the wineries only used chestnut wood and some French oak wood. Chestnut wood was the cheapest wood, and it worked well. But, little by little, oak wood was introduced, due to the demands of consumers, until the situation was completely changed. However, winemakers and consumers are now asking again for more diversity, and this means that they are working with traditional wood again, this is how they call chestnut wood; along with acacia wood, cherry tree wood… without forgetting the French and American oak wood. 

Jaume makes us realise that each type of wood has different characteristics and, therefore, a different influence on the wine grown inside the barrel. So, for example, the sweetest wood is the cherry tree wood, and the most porous wood, the chestnut tree wood (which has a very fast growth process and, consequently, more separated growth rings). The most consistent and heaviest wood is the American oak wood, and the thinnest wood, the French oak wood… The wine, therefore, changes depending on the different characteristics of each wood. 

The barrels they make doesn’t contain any synthetic elements. Everything is natural. The staves are stuck together only with the pressure they exert on each other. The pieces of the barrel head are similar. It’s a job prepared for the 21st century, because it doesn’t pollute”, he tells us. And it generates very little waste. Once the useful life of the barrels is over, they are disassembled, the hoops are recycled, and the wood degrades… it doesn’t pollute… it is organic. 

They polish the wood, they saw the pieces to the size they need, and they use the rest to light a fire and keep it warm. Let’s go back to the topic of waste: they reuse both the hoops and the wood scraps. These are the only fuels they use during the process, and they achieve a completely natural warmth. The wood is heated in order to shape it, little by little, with patience, because if it is done too quickly it could break. The wood must be moisturized while it heats up… and we make it flexible. During this process, the toasting penetrates the wood and caramelises the tannins, making them sweeter, finer. 

They can also repair and prepare barrels to be used again, reducing the wood almost 0.5 cm to completely clean it of the wines that were previously aged in it. Once cleaned, they can be retoasted according to the customer’s preference and used again.

Once the heads are added to the barrels, a gluten-free flour-based silicone is used. The manufacturing hoops are changed to the definitive ones. The barrels are polished again so that they are clean and fine. They are checked to ensure there aren’t any leaks, and then with a laser they are stamped with the name of the winery, the type of wood, the year, and the toasting.

As Jaume rightly says, wood is a living thing which helps to make a better product.

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JOAN CARLES LLACH

JOAN CARLES LLACH

Joan Carles Llach is a potter from Penedès. A lover of Catalan architecture and its importance for the architectural heritage of the country and the world: the Catalan vault (volta catalana), the long 50 cm tile, the tiles gutters (he is maybe one of the only ones who still makes them by hand)…  And he enjoys making tiles in the traditional way, with wooden moulds, respecting the different colours given by clay… creating paintings on the floors of the houses, and a curious workshop, as it hangs the wooden moulds from the different roof tiles. 

Joan Carles also makes wine. “My grandfather was a farmer, and I harvested grapes since I was 10. I hated the world of winemaking because of everything it involved at that moment (…).”  But he finally decided to make wine with the minimum intervention, just as his grandfather made it: stomping them with his feet, without touching the cap, aged in jars… And he offers us a glass of one of his wines. A very wild parellada made with a white clay jar (a very porous one) which gives very drying notes to the wine, and a good structure too. A rock’n’roll. 

It took him 10 years to have a more or less consolidated workshop, because he chose a privileged place at 550 m height in Penedès, specifically in the municipality of Font-Rubí. But despite being a privileged place, it was inaccessible too, especially at the beginning (it took him a year and a half to have a phone). Now, obviously, communications and infrastructures have changed, and luckily the world has approached to him, making the job much easier. 

In 2010, people asked him if he could make jars to age wine. He agreed to make them, but he didn’t know which clay to use, so he started carrying out tests which lasted between 1 and 2 years. He carried out the tests in very small containers and with already finished wines so that he could get the results faster. He tried different types of soils and mixtures. He currently works with three different types of clay, although he could offer many more. 

He thinks that not every kind of clay is good for all wines. Each clay provides different characteristics. In addition to this, each soil has different electrical charges, negative or positive. “Ceramic has always been a great conductor and a great insulator too (depending on the formulation of the soil), and it can be used to get the best of each wine” he explains.

He shows us where he keeps the soils (white, red), and the workshop too. In the workshop, we are surprised to see many potter’s wheels. He does not know how many he has (about 16 or 17), but they are of the same kind. A potter’s wheel from a Catalan manufacturer that has already disappeared, but which is very durable, and it is the one he prefers for his work. All the jars are made using the potter’s wheel. What he doesn’t do is repeating shapes, he respects more or less the capacity, but not the shape… it depends on his mood and on how he feels: “if I had to repeat the same piece over and over again, there would be a day when I wouldn’t get up” He likes working with a certain freedom of creation. He works standing and using a ladder. First, he moulds the amount of clay that he can take in one go, and then he gradually adds more. Since he has to let the piece dry because he can’t work it all at once (it would fall down due to its own weight), what he does is working on several pieces at the same time, and then he goes from one piece to another, from one turn to the next one, until continuing with the first piece. 

He also shows us one of his kilns, the big one where he can fire the jars. He modified it himself to work from the floor so that he can put the piece directly without having to lift it. Potter and inventor? No, he says he only solves the problems he faces along the way.

It takes him around 10/12 days to mould each piece, 1 month to dry it, 3 days in the kiln, and 2 days more to cool it. After this, he must fill it with water and leave it full for a couple of weeks to check that it doesn’t have any leak, any crack. It is a long and expensive process, customised for each client, because he likes to adapt to everyone’s needs. 

And at the end of our visit, he makes us a small piece… with such ease, such practice, such grace … he raises the clay, little by little, in a delicate way and with great care. He is making us a small vase. It’s hypnotic for him, and for us to look at him. “The potter’s wheel is therapeutic, it has the ability to make you escape” he tells us. In addition to this, the potter’s wheel is rhythmic, it follows the rhythm of the body, of the breathing…. And when the vase is finished, he takes a fishing line, the vase folds on itself, and it is completely destroyed in a matter of a second. Then, he tells us: “life is as fragile as this”. 

It makes our hearts pound.

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AMFORES JORNET

AMFORES JORNET

Entering Josep’s workshop is like going back in time. We can see the previous generations (his grandfather, his father) on the walls as dried clay. Other times… other ways of working that have been preserved, but not the means, because, luckily, some movements have been automated.

He does the clay himself; he makes a mix of refractory clay from Pinell de Brai and clay from Tortosa. Before, they took the clay directly from the river, but now “it doesn’t go down the river like before, and it contains a lot of dirt” according to what he tells us. He shows us the two materials that he has outside in two piles, and he tells us that, in order to make the clay that he uses, he takes half of each material, and then he puts them in a mixer which stirs them. The mixture is taken out through a tube, it is filtered, and it fills the pools. It takes him 9 hours to fill each pool, and another day to go over, which means stirring and filling again, because otherwise it would solidify, and it could not be used. From the two pools, he produces around 17 or 18000 kg that he must take himself to the workshop, little by little. Carrying weight up and down, “you end up clumsy” he tells us.

Back at his workshop, we visit first a room full of towers of different size ready to be fired. He works for wholesalers, and while we are with him, he prepares an order for a client related to gardening. The time it takes to the pieces to be dried depends on the weather and their size, “now it takes a week, and in winter it takes a month” he tells us. He only works with big pieces, the 7th generation of potters who work with big pieces. He has worked with clay since he was 14 years old, but his parents made him use the potter’s wheel when he was 6 or 7 years old while his sisters were in the pool.

He gets ready to turn. He puts on his apron, and he takes a piece which is already started to continue working on it. Big pieces are not made at one time, because the clay would not stand the weight and it would get flattened. His turn is bent because, as he works with big pieces, he cannot put them in front of him. The truth is that it is not a very comfortable position, but on the contrary… “the times I go to see my physiotherapist” he remarks, smiling.

He works… And it seems easy when you see him. Strong but delicate hands at the same time working the clay, making the piece bigger and finer. He says that, sometimes, it falls, and he must start again. He cannot leave it half done, once he starts working on a piece, he must finish it. This means that he must work every day until it is finished. Clay ignores the concept of holidays or working days.

And the saddest thing is that he does not have anyone to replace him. In his case, he does not have any apprentice, there is not anyone after him, he is the last member of his family. And apart from two other young workshops in the village, the remaining workshops in Miravet are in danger. It is a trade which is disappearing. A local tradition which finishes.

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