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BIODIVERSITY Uncategorised @en

AGRICULTURAL SYSTEM, ANOTHER APPROACH

AGRICULTURAL SYSTEM, ANOTHER APPROACH

When we talk about agricultural systems, first we talk about modified systems in which we simplify nature to achieve our goal: a particular crop. In a ripe, balanced ecosystem, we find different species (trees, bushes, plants) which complement and enrich each other. They work together to ensure the balance: leaves fall, they decompose, and they turn into organic matter. Each one of the elements that make up this ecosystem has a necessary role for its good development. When we want to produce a particular crop like, in our case, vines, we strip an ecosystem of a big part of its components to focus on the plant which interests us, the vine.

Therefore, it is an unbalanced system which needs to be managed as well as possible in order to get our most precious asset: a good wine harvest.
There are many ways to redirect this imbalance. One way would be to use systemic treatments, such as fertilisers, herbicides, fungicides, insecticides… Another way would be the possibility to treat the crops organically, although it comes from the same philosophy: treat the imbalance with a product, which is now organic, that corrects it.

However, there is a third option: chose to correct the imbalance by trying to produce health. It is when we talk about regenerating soils, vegetation covers, biodiversity, etc. The purpose is to provide the plants with all the necessary tools to be nourished healthily so that the fruit that we get and the products that we make are healthy too.

As Eugenio Gras (a pioneer in the field of permaculture in Mexico) said: We do not perform miracles. We understand what happens. We observe our crop, we read its performance, and we decide what we can do to redirect it. The idea is always the same: work with preventive treatments, and specially act on the soil, which will be responsible for providing the plant with quality nutrients, water and minerals. For example, there is the fact of using horsetail to prevent fungus from going up reaching the plant and make them stay on the ground.

We make our system stronger so that there are as few symptoms and illnesses as possible… like with the human body, Sara Pérez says. Having a healthy plant has nothing to do with the medicines that it takes, but with how it is nourished, with who/what it is with, with how it grows (it has to do with the soil and the environment).

Restore the biological balance is something basic, and it allows us to not talk about plagues, diseases and bad management indicators of the crop and/or the plant. A bigger or smaller attack from pathogens (insects, fungus, diseases…) always depends on the nutritional state of the plants (Francis Chaboussou – Trophobiosis Theory)
This approach produces a series of actions to keep an appropriate level of the emotional, physical, psychological and nutritional health of the plant. Obviously, there are things that we cannot control, but we can make our plants stronger so that they can fight against some external agents which may attack them.

To sum up, plants, like human beings, when their nourishment, education, cultural diversity and relationships are better, they are more likely to have a richer and healthier life.

 

Categories
THE ORIGINS

JAUME CIURANA

JAUME CIURANA

This Monday we talk with Jaume Ciurana’s family, a recurring name in all the articles that we have published over the last few weeks. Therefore, he deserves a review of his career given the undoubted importance that he had for Priorat and, above all, for its development during these past 30 years. For this reason, we ask his widow, Mrs M. Dolors Llevadot, and his children, Blanca and Jaume Ciurana, to talk about him and about his life.

Born in Barcelona, and with a mother from Falset (although his son Jaume tells us that he has been able to trace the family origins until the 18th century). He studied Pharmacy (like his father) and Oenology (in Talence, France). When someone asks about his political career, M. Dolors tells us that he was a boy scout (representative of the Catholic Scout Movement of Barcelona). She says it proud of it because this explains everything. If we try to find the philosophy of the association, the goal kept throughout the years is: educate children and young people through the scout and guide method in order to make them become active, aware and committed with society.

He started his oenologist career as technical director of the Masia Bach winery, and some years later, he worked in Codorniu, where he was asked to renovate the Raimat winery. Clos Clamor and Clos Abadia are two wines which owe their names to him (he was very clever, and he found names that could not be translated, because he wanted to give them Catalan names – tells us his son Jaume). And from there, he jumped into institutions. Proposed by the minister Josep Roig (Minister of Agriculture and Livestock of the provisional Government of Catalonia from 1977 until 1980), he took the management of the Catalonia Wine Institute (INCAVI) and the oenological stations of Vilafranca and Reus. There, he started to spread his ideas about wine: the fact of taking care of the whole cycle, taking care of the plant, the making process, the final product and its commercialisation, and he emphasized this last part.

He worked hard to make people understand the importance of the roles of commercial agent and manager, mostly in the cooperatives, in order to free the farmers from this responsibility and give professional status to this part of the business which was so important. He also insisted on the need to reduce the alcohol content of the wines, M. Dolors tells us, because wines from Priorat in the 1980s were wines with an alcohol content of 17 and 18 degrees. In addition to that, he made people participate in the modernisation process of the wineries, convincing them of the importance of investing in stainless steel tanks placed outside the buildings (he discovered it in a trip to California with his daughter Blanca). He always looked for that quality of the wine that he wanted to achieve so much, and he was convinced that it could be achieved with the appropriate means.

His position as director allowed him to meet the priest Ciurana. With him, he had the possibility of creating second-degree studies in vine growing and oenology, and later, with Lluis Arola Ferrer, he created the Faculty of Oenology of the Rovira i Virgili University. With these new studies, he gave to many people the opportunity to study this specialty at home without having to go outside Catalonia and, of course, to train the new professionals of the world of wines that could work later at our home.

From the Catalonia Wine Institute (INCAVI), Jaume Ciurana created the Catalan Wine and Cava Fair. It was an innovative fair format that allowed the final client to be closer to the producer and winemaker. Since the first fair, in 1980, more fairs have been organised until now. It is a resource widely used by all the towns/villages and cities in all kinds of festivals and celebrations.

We ask them to tell us an anecdote that they remember and, obviously, it is hard to remember only one, because there are many which accumulated in his round trips from Barcelona to Priorat, where he visited wineries and cooperatives, and worked to infect people with his taste for good wine and the willing of doing things well. Finally, M. Dolors remembers a strongly worded letter from the Minister of Health (friend and colleague of Jaume Ciurana Galceran), because Jaume always said that people should drink wine in moderation, and that what was harmful were distilled spirits. However, it coincided with a very important campaign in the media, and his comments did not like, she laughs.
But he had a dream: to build his own winery… He would have probably achieved it if his life had not ended so early, when he was 50 years old. He had just planted in Mas Ciurana, the estate of the family that they had in Falset, and that they sold at the end of the 1980s, Chardonnay and Cabernet, two foreign and promising varieties.

We have many things to thank to Jaume Ciurana Galceran: his catalanity, his willing to help the country, his determination, and his dedication to work. He had this vision of Priorat, and he achieved to place everybody in that direction, his family tells us. It is a pity that he did not get to see his legacy and the evolution of the region.

Thank you, M. Dolors, Jaume and Blanca, for the memories that you have shared with us.

We leave a fragment of the interview he did in Joaquim M Puyal program “Vostè pregunta” (You ask) in 1983

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Uncategorised @en

3 STUDENTS FROM THE FALSET SCHOOL MEET AGAIN

3 STUDENTS FROM THE FALSET SCHOOL MEET AGAIN

We bring together Elisabet Anguera (Agricultural of Corbera d’Ebre), Joan Asens (Orto Vins) and Jordi Vidal (La Conreria d’Escaladei) alumni of the first promotions of the School of Viticulture and Enology of Falset. Memories, anecdotes… Below we leave a video-summary of the meeting that took place at the same school on March 2.

Elisabet, Joan, Jordi. Thank you so much for your time.

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Rancis Uncategorised @en VINS OXIDATIUS

OXIDATE WINE BY RENÉ BARBIER

OXIDATE WINES BY RENÉ BARBIER

Today, we went to visit René Barbier, from Clos Mogador. The father. The founder. He has been now in Priorat for many days, but he still says he does not make part of the history of Priorat. We do not agree with him, because he is a big part of it, a part of its most recent history, but a part of its history after all.
He talked with us about rancio wines… We asked him if he wanted to collaborate with our blog, and he gladly agreed to do it: “I’ll do anything for Sara,” he told us.

And the first thing he did was to introduce us to the society Arrels del Priorat, a project which started approximately during the ‘90s to recover and promote rancio wines from Priorat (he put them on sale in internationally known places, like Harrods in London, or Galeries Lafayette in Paris). A project that he is currently managing with Jaume Balaguer (winery Balaguer i Cabré) in a small winery in Gratallops, and which has made him learn first-hand about the history of rancio wines from our region, from each town and from each house… “The history of a time that has to come back,” as he says. Arrels has allowed him to talk with the farmers who still have an old barrel at home, and who have let the old times behind, even though they still remember them.

However, he recognised that it has been a project which has required them a big investment without any kind of repayment. A bottomless pit.

When he told us about rancio wines, he explained to us that “they are the tip of the iceberg of a forgotten world which I think will come back”. Arrels gave him the opportunity to select some rancio wines (12 in total from 12 different towns) and, with a representative drawing of each house done by Isabel, promote them. He wanted to place them in the best places in the world… but he was unsuccessful. Rancio wines are a product which needs to be put into a context, and which also has to be explained in order to understand it and fully appreciate it. The name is the first difficulty. Here, we are very clear about what we are talking about. However, internationally, wines like sherry or Vin Jaune are known… but not rancio wine. “It is an issue we all should think about,” he said.

He told us that rancio wine, apart from being a very local production, is also explained like a way of using the product, which in this case is the wine, as a whole. “There is a lot of imagination, and it is a heritage that farmers have managed to keep and transmit until now”. We set the history of these wines back in the agricultural lands from 1800 backwards, because forwards, in more recent times, the issue gets complicated. But before, rancio wines had a great logic. “All the work was done with animals, and the harvest was extended for more than 3 months…” “…we started next to the river, (…) from white wines. And it is not nonsense (…) it is very fresh. From the river we went up, that is to say, that a bit higher there were consumer wines, and they were fresh, a quality product. They always tasted good, because if they didn’t, they were vinegar, and if they were not vinegar, they were rancio wines (…) And November/December came, their drying/raisining process began, and sweet wines were made…”
They used the harvest in every possible way, and the sale was also adapted. We remembered the wineries in the cities, and he specifically remembered that, when he was young, there were wineries with their own rancio wine, their own barrels, their own fresh wines, sweet wines… “It was what corresponded to the grape harvest” “After a whole life in Priorat, you realise that things were not so badly done after all…” he added, amused.

Then, he compared wines with cheese, any kind of cheese that existed before, which was also a consumer product…. but it was slowly simplified, the different kinds of cheese were unified, and finally there were only 4 of them remaining. Now, we diversify again… and we cannot blame globalisation but economy for it. He talked about “economic engineering”. Looking for profitability, some of the richness of diversity has been lost. “It is like wanting to produce one wine only in the entire region of Priorat, in the cooperatives (…) I will be in trouble again (he laughs), but in fact, what they should have done is to produce the wines for the farmers and be an intermediary in order to promote this general globalisation, like with cheese (…)”.

However, he remembered that, at that time, people went to find the grapes with animals. The garnachas arrived at the cellar at 17 ºC, and the wine “needed time to yield”. “They were not scared like us”. They put the wine inside the barrel of rancio wine because it was not clear for them. There, inside the barrel, the amount of volatile compounds was reduced… the acids changed… the taste changed. It was turned into a rancio wine. What they needed to take into account was that they needed 3 litters of wine to produce 1 litter of rancio wine, because they worked with local chestnut wood. (Chestnut wood and rancio wine, an essential combination, he indicated). The work of the cooper was essential, because the barrels were in the attic, and with the dry weather that we have here, it meant having more wine and taking great care of the barrels. “If you were a cooper, you had to be everything”.

However, they obtained a unique product, a product which has already influenced the local cuisine. A symbol of our gastronomic identity. A very important product for local cuisine, either as a basis or as an accompaniment to a desert… like, for example, the nuts desert known as les postres de músic.

Nevertheless, now that we have worked with this product, we realised that it pairs perfectly well with anchovies and artichokes (which are always so difficult).

And rancio wines were transmitted from parents to their children (it was that family recipe inherited over time). That wisdom that we appreciate so much in cultures different from ours, but that we also have.

Therefore, wen René convincingly told us that this history that we talk about has to come back, it is because, behind rancio wines, there is everything a territory wants: personality, tradition…

Profitability maybe is not as profitable when we lose this tradition and personality. “It is not globalisation that spoils things, but our way to understand it (…) You would need to flatten Priorat in order to be as profitable as other regions (…)”.

He thanks the project Arrels del Priorat for the fact of understanding the product, although he recognises that, over time, the essence has been lost. “Since modernisation, we haven’t worked the periods of the vineyard (…). In fact, we have fed this product with large amounts of wine (…)”. Now, lighter and more still rancio wines are being produced… But it is, anyway, a meeting point… We have lost the ability to adapt that our ancestors had, the ability to adapt to different weather conditions and periods of the vineyard. We have lost varieties which adapted to different territories… “Over time, we have become better oenologists, but worse vine growers. In fact, not worse, but we have tried to simplify, and when you want to simplify, you finally lose your identity”.

Rancio wine does not only have the achievement of the product itself, but also the achievement of continuing tradition. For this reason, for the project Arrels del Priorat, René chose a partner from Priorat, because “I am not the tradition of Priorat. I might be a wine tradition, but not from Priorat, although my grandfather and my great-grandfather produced a rancio wine from Priorat, but only as merchants”. The big difference is doing it as a vine grower, and knowing that rancio wine corresponds to a period of the vineyard, to a moment in time and to a space, making it an exceptional product which influences the cuisine, the people, the traditions…

He compared it with biodynamics. He did not say ecology, “because ecology will be obligatory, but we will get slowly to biodynamics,” he said, convinced. The consumer increasingly demands the traceability of the products. Mas Martinet, as well as Clos Mogador, could sell what they produce to a German engineer, and if we bought it from them, we would be convinced that the product is good, and that it is worth the price they ask for it.

Finally, he proposed to take an approach with respect to Priorat. Because, although it is true that, before, rancio wines were produced everywhere,““as a wine, rancio wine from Priorat has a very big personality”.

Thank you very much, René, for your willing to share.

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THE ORIGINS Uncategorised @en

COOPERATIVES IN THE 1980s

COOPERATIVES IN THE 1980s

In 1983, the president of the Catalonia Wine Institute (INCAVI), Jaume Ciurana, achieved the signature of an agreement with the school Sant Pau to provide an official wine analysis service, which was accountable to the Oenological Station (l’Estació Enològica) of Reus, and a technical consultancy service for the cooperatives in Terra Alta, Ribera d’Ebre and Priorat. Therefore, the Catalonia Wine Institute (INCAVI), besides making the extension of a new speciality possible, which was the advanced/second-degree vocational/professional training (Certificate of Higher Education) in vine growing and oenology, it gave financial support, contributing with a part of our salaries for my dedication as a technical adviser of the three previously mentioned regions, and for our analysis service.

My job as the cooperatives adviser was to give talks to guide them in making higher quality wines and lead them towards commercialisation. These actions gave results during the three or four years that I worked doing them.
Between 1983 and 1985, I surveyed the problems and opinions from the boards of the cooperatives of the three regions. There were two second-degree cooperatives, the Priorat and the Baix Priorat cooperatives.
The Baix Priorat cooperative (the DO Montsant did not exist at that time) was centralised in the Falset cooperative, and they had a big problem. They had sold a lorry of bottled wine 2 or 3 years before, and there was no way of collecting the money. In every meeting they had, the issue of the debt came up, and all of them were very worried. Finally, I proposed them to give me the responsibility of collecting the money. After many journeys to Barcelona, 56 phone calls (I wrote it down), and a “threat” of publishing it with names in the press if they did not pay, finally the cooperative recovered the entire debt.

On another occasion, the president of the Tarragona Regional Council gave a speech in Torroja del Priorat, where he emphasised that the Regional Council had money for carrying out projects if a really interesting one was submitted. That promise publicly made by the president of the Regional Council had validity, and I thought that it was worth keeping that “super promise” for a good occasion. That good occasion came soon…
Around that time, the Wine Fair of Priorat was held (it was a fair which was organised every year in a different town), and that year the fair was in Porrera. Among other events, there was a meeting with all the cooperatives. It was held in the church, and there was the president of the Catalonia Wine Institute (INCAVI), Jaume Ciurana, the director of the Oenological Station (l’Estació Enològica) of Reus, Mr. Vidal i Barraquer, all the presidents of the different cooperatives in Priorat with their respective boards, and many citizens from Priorat. In his speech, Jaume Ciurana quoted the promise made by the president of the Tarragona Regional Council a few days before in Torroja about the “energy fee”, which was money that came from the Ascó nuclear power for the towns/villages near the power plant.
When the speeches were done, we had another meeting with Jaume Ciurana, all the cooperatives representatives and me. Jaume repeated the issue of the money to carry out a positive project for Priorat. Many things were proposed, but any viable one. When the meeting ended, we were alone, the two of us, and I told Jaume:
– Look, Jaume, during the meeting I had the impression that you had tied all the presidents’ hands behind their back, like if you had pulled out a wad of banknotes, and putting the banknotes in front of them, you were telling them: “Take them, take them!” And, of course, they could not take them because their hands were tied.
– Why are you telling me this? – Jaume said.
– Because they don’t give the money now. They must do a project on which they all agree, and this is something they will never do by themselves.
– Do it yourself, you have my permission. For me, the objective is clear. In Priorat, there has been a second-degree cooperative for a long time, and each town/village has an old cooperative without modern resources. This is the project, but do we need to modernise the nine existing cooperatives? Do we need to create one? Or two? This is your work now. You can start now if you want. – He answered.
As the meetings held in the cooperatives were a nightmare, because everyone wanted to be right, and they did not focus on the objective of the meeting, it dragged on and finally we did not decide anything, which scared me a lot. I thought about it for a while, and I concluded that all decisions had to be taken in three meetings, and that every meeting could not last more than two hours.

1st meeting. Point: Decide how many wineries needed to be built: one, two, or remodel the existing winery in each one of the nine towns/villages.
Answer from the presidents: The decision taken unanimously was to build only one winery for the entire region of Priorat.
Now the presidents had to present it in the meetings held in each town/village and bring a summary of the agreement for the next meeting.

2nd meeting. 1st point: Submit, in writing, the answer of each cooperative, if they agreed or not to build only one winery for the entire region of Priorat, and also to share the transport of the grapes equally between all the members.
The answer was affirmative. Therefore, the first point was approved.
2nd point: Decide in which town/village the communal winery should be located.
This was a bit thorny issue, there were many comments around each town/village. Everyone wanted to prove that his/her town/village was the most appropriate for the winery. I expected the presidents meeting, where this point had to be decided, to be a chaos, and I thought we would finish with an endless discussion. For this reason, I calculated in advance the cost of transport, in 9 different situations, pretending that the winery was located in each town/village, from the distances between the towns/villages and the kilos of production of each one. The table showed that transport would be cheaper if the winery were built in Gratallops. The meeting lasted an hour and a half, and everyone agreed, it was obvious!
Result of the presidents meeting: Gratallops, location of the Regional Winery.
Result of the cooperatives meetings: Gratallops, location of the Regional Winery. Proposal accepted!

3rd meeting. Point: The Gratallops Cooperative must give its current winery to build the new Regional Winery.
Answer from the Gratallops Cooperative: The cooperative accepts it, and it gives its building to build the new winery.

From that moment, I started to write the project, and I asked architect Hermengild Pujades, related to Bellmunt del Priorat, to draw a sketch of the new winery building in order to attach it to my project and submit it to the Catalonia Wine Institute (INCAVI) so that the Institute could carry it out.
I am convinced that this winery has been the cornerstone to improve the quality of the wines from the Regional Cooperative of the DO Priorat, and together with the wines that the producers of the “Closos” started, it was the beginning of a change towards a worldwide recognition of Priorat as a specific area of quality wines.
Again, we must thank Jaume Ciurana for his interest in improving the region of Priorat.

Josep Lluís Pérez
Mas Martinet

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THE ORIGINS Uncategorised @en

CONVERSATION WHIT MARIA CARME SIMÓ

MARIA CARME SIMÓ, CAMPESINA ANTE TODO.

And today, on 8th March, our humble tribute to the working woman. We chose a conversation between two women: Sara Pérez, our Sara, and an incredible woman, Maria Carme Simó, from Bellmunt. She is, first of all, a farmer, but she was also president of the CIT (Tourist Initiative Centre), mayor of Bellmunt del Priorat, and president of the Gratallops Cooperative. Determined, with a strong character and full of humility.
The scene: her house, her dining room. The background: the vineyard, the plot. She admits that she likes it, and although now she gets very tired, she still goes there to do the pruning, green pruning, the first fertilisation, the first and the only one (the vine well sprayed, from top to bottom), and then the grapes harvesting.
76 years old, and you can notice her strength and simplicity. She shows tenderness and a great enthusiasm. When we talk about her career, she seems surprised, like she did not choose it, but she did choose it, “because they could have left, but they stayed”. Yes, they were some of those who stayed to work the land, like their grandparents and great-grandparents. Without any female role model, she lost her mother when she was 8 years old. She went on with her life, and she finished working in the fields, like “her father, her uncles and aunts, everyone… the entire family”. And when Sara asks her if she was the only woman, she answers yes, of course. All of them were men, but she was comfortable, so she stayed there, with them, at the top of the hierarchical structures.
The farmer Maria Carme has vines, olive trees, hazel trees, and a couple of almond trees. The task she prefers is pruning, and she does not know why. “I like pruning, even though the vines are old and ugly. (…) Some of them are very ugly. Others are not ugly, they are beautiful and big, like this”. She asks Sara: “You are a technician, (…) Why? Because they had to plant them in a single line…” She tells us that his godfather planted them, and he planted them when he had some money, because they did not go to the bank to find money. But the father did not plant any vine. This means that her vines must be more than 100 years old, but they have never been analysed to be sure of it, logically… She has a vineyard, all the grapes of which are Garnacha, and a very fertile land with a lot of grass in spring: “Every season, there is a different kind of grass. Now, it is blue, now there are small yellow flowers, white flowers, some buds, and finally more yellow and white flowers (…) And I don’t see the vines!”
Sara asks her if there is generational replacement, and she says: “I have my neighbour, a young boy who studied in Falset and Tarragona”. However, she also talks to us about his nephew, who has planted vines, and about other less young people like the boy next to her, who are still young after all. These people have been buying and working estates. In Bellmunt, at least, not so many estates have disappeared.
To talk about the determined Maria Carme, we go back to the old Priorat, where all the farmers were members of the cooperative and “cooperatives were having a difficult time, they didn’t sell the wine (…) and farmers went their own way”, says Maria Carme. A chief executive from Madrid “in times of Franco” thought that Priorat deserved to be considered, and the CIT (Tourist Initiative Centre) was created, a kind of tourism office dedicated to make Priorat known everywhere. It was invited to trade shows around Spain, and Carme was elected president soon after its foundation. She was the president for 25 years. Sara asks her what they promoted, and she, amused, answers “smoke”. Because in Priorat there were not restaurants or accommodation yet. In fact, if the area was known, it was as a wine region, not as a touristic destination. Therefore, “It was something rather advanced for that time, something that maybe didn’t work that much, but…” mentions Sara.
Democracy came, municipal elections for the different councils were held, and Maria Carme was elected mayor of Bellmunt in the first elections. In fact, when Sara asks her “How did you come up with the idea of becoming mayor?” she answers, as expected: “The idea of being mayor didn’t come to my mind”. It came to her by chance, and she could have said no, but she didn’t, and she dared to be mayor in a moment when there were only 7 female mayors in Catalonia.
A bit later, she was elected president of the Gratallops Cooperative. Again, they proposed it to her, it was not her idea. She also accepted this time; she did not think about saying no. She accepted, and she was president in a very difficult moment for cooperatives. We must remind that “farmers went their own way”. In fact, Maria Carme was on the board of the Bellmunt Cooperative, but they decided to distance themselves and leave the regional cooperative, and it was then that she went to the Gratallops Cooperative. The Bellmunt Cooperative did not prosper; as a matter of fact, it disappeared. An intuition? She does not know, but there must be something.
This career gave her recognition for her work and for the fact of being a woman, and as such, she was invited to many events. She talks about gigs that she has always tried to avoid, because “What can I say? What can people say about me?” She has always found excuses to not to go to any event: “A lot of work and many problems”. Sara talks about her being an example, and she admits that maybe she is one, but she adds that “I didn’t ask for it”. She does not remember everything she brought to the cooperative and its way of working. She is aware that she changed things, there was a before and an after. She gives Jaume Ciurana, who was the president of the Catalonia Wine Institute (INCAVI) at that time, credit for the changes. He was a person who loved Priorat and wine, oenologist and from the region, and he wanted to change things: “To sell the wine, things must be done well, and we must take care of the grapes from the moment we plant them until the wine is sold”. They went to the different cooperatives repeating the same speech, and “people listened to them and they thought it was music to their ears”. We need to think that there was no bottling at that time, Escaladei was the only winery that bottled. It was the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s. She tells us that “they came with your father, René Barbier and all those, because yes, people paid well for the grapes, and many people left the cooperative because they didn’t collect money in the cooperative”. The wine had to be sold, but as Maria Carme’s father said: “People have to sell, but they also have to collect money”.
She did many things as president. First of all, she was advised by the Cooperatives Federation (Federació de Cooperatives), which means that she accepted that she did not know everything. Then, and maybe it is the most important thing, she hired a manager. “Because there must be a manager. A farmer doesn’t need to know or spend the whole day there, because he/she has work to do in the plot, so he/she can’t spend the whole day there, in an office”. Little by little, the cooperative progressed, and “now we collect money every month”. She says it as if it was something important because, in fact, it is.
Maria Carme: “Had it not been for us, this group of people. Neither René Barbier, nor Àlvaro Palacios or Carlos Pastrana would have found anything if the cooperative didn’t exist. Faced with the evidence, farmers had to do things well. People from other places had to come here to make them understand, because the locals didn’t believe them”.
Sara: “This has happened in many places, but it also has something to do with tiredness, with seeing things from the inside, when you have struggled, when you have worked, and you don’t progress. You don’t see it, they tell you, and you don’t see it, you don’t do it. Then, someone does it, and you say: ‘Ah, maybe’. But… right? We need to learn. It is what you say… we don’t know about it…”
Maria Carme: “Then, some visionaries that must have believed us or I don’t know what”.
Sara: “You saw it before, but you had an intuition, because you struggled before anything was evident”.

It is curious that they were not aware of the struggle, of everything they defended and all the work they did to keep…. but it is true that, from the cooperative, a good job was done. From the cooperative, and also from Assumpció Peyra from Escaladei, Magdalena from Masia Barril (the winery did not bottle, but it was present in every trade show to defend wines from Priorat), August from Celler Cecilio, and many other people who believed in Priorat when it was nothing, among whom there was “that chief executive… What was his name? (…) If he saw it, he would be astonished, poor man. Because that man saw it too”.
We ask her if she would have done something in a different way: “No, I don’t think so. Maybe I don’t think too far ahead, and now, even less. Now I think of today, because every day brings me something different,” she says, very convinced.
Sara asks her if she drinks wine, and she tells us: “A little, on Sundays” with the family, with her sisters. She likes it, and she always has two bottles in the kitchen, but she only drinks wine on Sundays. She mainly gives wine, as Jaume Ciurana said and always remembers.
And as expected, Sara must ask about rancio wines: “And rancio wines? Have you ever made any rancio wine?” A barrel of rancio wine that her father started, a rancio wine from white wine (because rancio wines from red wine go bad). “And do you drink that rancio wine?” Sara asks her. “Yes, I like it, with something sweet. I like to drink it when I eat something sweet”. We try it, and we made a toast. Rancio wine with pastries, such a luxury!
Thank you, Maria Carme. It has been a pleasure talking with you and talking about everything you represent.

 

 

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THE ORIGINS

THE OENOLOGY SCHOOL OF FALSET

THE OENOLOGY SCHOOL OF FALSET

In 1982, when we got permission to offer the advanced/second-degree vocational/professional training (Certificate of Higher Education) in vine growing and oenology, we became fully involved in these studies, and in the following academic year, we had more enrolled students. Besides the boys and girls from the region, and other neighbour regions, many sons and daughters of cava producers from Penedès also came to attend these studies.
First, in order to learn about this speciality as quickly as possible, we went two summers to Bordeaux to talk with professors at the Oenology University and visit the oenological stations. We talked with the specialists of the region and asked them questions in order to understand the scope of this speciality and the parameters that defined it, which were mostly the importance of the quality of the wines and how this quality defined the prices. All this regarding the winemaker, because this is what interested us. We needed to be clear about how we had to work in order to become excellent oenologists and, on this basis, be able to transmit it to the students.

Obviously, we had to stick to the subjects of the program, but I wanted something more, based on the Confucius’s principle “I learn by doing it”. I already applied this principle at the school Viaró, but there the budget was enough to allow the students to have the material, the tools and the equipment to “learn by doing things”. However, at the school of Falset, we had to manage, both students and teachers, because our department’s budget did not have the basic elements to “do”, what was essential to learn.
Once I understood that we could not only rely on the school budget, I decided to look for financial means through the practices that we were going to do during the academic year.

One of the things we did were the research projects (treballs de recerca). The Ministry of Education (Conselleria d’Ensenyament) launched a call for school research projects every year, the CIRIT awards, with cash awards. This was extraordinary because we killed two birds with one stone! When I was teaching and a subject from which we could take an experience was risen, we established it, and it was given to a group of two or three students who were interested in it. This way, every class did different experiences, and the entire class understood them, because the students saw the results. Every year, we submitted three or four experiences, and the ones which were lucky enough to be awarded represented money which helped us to increase the income of the department. We did it for 5 years, and we submitted 15 research projects in total, 7 of which were awarded. These awards were given at the Palau de la Generalitat, and students and teachers went there to accept them. This was very important because the students were well motivated, and as a consequence, the learning process was much more effective.

Another thing we did was daily pruning. The pruning time came, and I thought to take this opportunity for the students to learn how to prune by pruning.
I contacted the owner of a vineyard, and I proposed him to prune his estate with the students, at a reasonable cost. I promised him that I would always be there, teaching the students and supervising their work. He agreed to it, and we did it for a couple of years.

The third activity was to make a wine, bottle it and sell it. This entailed buying the grapes, between the students and the teachers. We proposed it to the parents, and they found it very positive. Therefore, besides the wine-making practice, they would also practise the commercial concept. Taking advantage of the fact that we had grapes, we did different experiences, such as carbonic maceration and sparkling wine experiences, and more.

The students were really motivated, and there was an excellent environment in the classrooms, which made the students learn very well. Using this good atmosphere, we thought that it would be interesting for the students to visit the most important wine-making regions in Europe. And this is what we did, at the end of the academic year and after the exams, we rented a coach with driver, and we were ready to travel around Europe!

We managed to reduce the overall travel costs. We stayed in campsites, which was something much more motivating and informal for the students. Rafel, a cook from Falset, came with us, and he cooked our meals. We took the cooking utensils from the school residence kitchen and we carried provisions for a week.
Montse and I prepared, months before, the visits to different producers and wineries or wine institutes. We did it for 4 years, from 1984 until 1988. Therefore, we visited the regions of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, the Changins School in Switzerland, the Geisenheim Grape Breeding Institute in Germany, Alsace, the Italian Piedmont, etc.

They were very useful trips, because we made 3 or 4 visits every day, and the students already had some questions written. In the morning, the cook made our breakfast, and he gave us a sandwich for lunch. At the end of the day, we went back to the campsite and the cook made our dinner. After dinner, we sat in a circle and we talked about the visits and the remaining doubts for the following day. Two students had to write a summary of all the visits of the trip to distribute it later to everyone.

Those were very intense years, because I was able to apply the teaching method that I learned from Professor Piaget during my studies in Switzerland. However, when the school began to depend on the Ministry of Education (Conselleria d’Ensenyament), it was all over. We could not buy grapes collectively, to make wine and sell it, we could no longer do many experiences because there was not enough money… Anyway, I will always remember those years like a period when we were able to stimulate all those young people to be trained in order to work for society. Nowadays, most of them are making wine around the regions of Catalonia, and many of them are the ones who make up the group of wine producers of the current Priorat.

José Luis Pérez Ovejero y Montse Ovejero

Mas Martinet

Categories
THE ORIGINS

AROUND THE 1980s… THE TWO JAUMES CIURANA

AROUND THE 1980s… THE TWO JAUMES CIURANA  

This year 2021, in August, it will be 40 years since we arrived in Priorat, Montse, Sara, Núria, Adrià and I (Jordi was born some years later). We came from Sant Cugat, from the metropolitan area where we had many possibilities and offers, but we were looking for the warmth of nature. I grew up and lived in the countryside until I was 25 years old, so it was like going back to my roots.

In 1981, I was offered the management of the school known at that time as Sant Pau. The principal was the priest Jaume Ciurana, who was soon to retire and needed a substitute. This priest had promoted a parent association and founded the school. It included primary education from Year 1 to Year 8, and vocational/professional training studies with different specialties.

40 years ago, Falset and Priorat were not what they are now. There were few young people in the towns of the region, and they worked in Reus and Tarragona. Neither grapes, nor hazelnuts or olives were sold at a price which allowed to balance the accounts. And, of course, old people got older, the crops were neglected, and the few remaining young people left the town and went to the city. Schools in small towns were closed because there were not enough children. This is the situation we found when we came here.

The Sant Pau school was an opportunity for teenagers to learn a trade. It offered agricultural, administrative, mechanic, electrical and electronic vocational/professional studies. The priest moved heaven and earth to make the school work. Later, “the other” Jaume Ciurana, who was the president of the Catalonia Wine Institute (INCAVI) at that time, tried to do everything to include the vocational/professional training speciality in vine growing and oenology. This was very interesting for the young people of the region who were sons and daughters of vine growers, but it was also interesting in general because, in Spain, this advanced vocational/professional training speciality didn’t exist, and if you wanted to attend these studies, you had to go to France.

Jaume Ciurana was linked to Falset because his family was from here, and he was interested in promoting the region. He knew the town well. He told me that, if the oenology school was created, it would give prestige to the region of Priorat, which was already known as a classic wine-making region, but wine in bulk. French traders, and some Spanish traders too, bought the wines, mainly to mix them with their own wines, and raise the alcohol level and the intensity of the colour. He said that the school could be used to learn how to make and bottle quality wines, because the grapes already were of excellent quality. This could be a big enrichment for Priorat, and indirectly, for all the Catalan wines. Jaume Ciurana had it clear, but unfortunately, he died early, and he was not able to see what he predicted.

In 1982, with the priest we visited the wine producers (bodegueros) school of Requena, which gave vine growing and oenology contents, but at a first-degree vocational/professional training level, and we were going to start the advanced/second-degree vocational/professional training. I found it very interesting, because this speciality was very suitable for the area, and from the school, we would try to do everything, and more, so that it had a big influence in the region. Actually, this is what happened.

A special building with a wine-making room/cellar, an ageing room/cellar, a laboratory and a tasting room was built, and we started to prepare all the requirements for the beginning of the academic year 83/84. First, we hired an oenologist and an agricultural engineer, because neither Montse nor I knew nothing about this speciality, and we studied a lot. We spent many hours every day studying, we woke up early and we went to sleep late, specially studying oenology.

During the first two years of the school, the two of us taught chemistry and physics to students from all the different specialities: oenologists, administrative assistants, mechanics and electricians. From the third year, we assumed full responsibility for the vine growing and oenology studies, teaching all the contents.

The president of the Catalonia Wine Institute (INCAVI) Jaume Ciurana made an agreement with the school to provide an official wine analysis service, which was accountable to the Oenological Station (l’Estació Enològica) of Reus, and a technical consultancy service in the cooperatives of Terra Alta, Ribera d’Ebre and Priorat. Therefore, the Catalonia Wine Institute (INCAVI), besides making the extension of a new speciality possible, it gave us financial support, contributing with a part of our salaries for our dedication to these services.

A very active period started for us, which we faced with great enthusiasm. We were sure that a new future was being developed, but we did not expect the magnitude it has had, and I would dare to say that the two Jaumes Ciurana planted the seed.

Josep Lluis Pérez
Mas Martinet

Con el reverendo, en el año 1982 visitamos la escuela de bodegueros de Requena, que daba contenidos de viticultura y Enología, pero a nivel de primer grado, y nosotros empezaríamos con el segundo grado. A mí me interesó mucho, ya que era una especialidad muy adecuada para la zona y en la escuela haríamos todo lo posible, y además, para que tuviese una gran influencia en la comarca. Y de hecho, así ha sido.

Se construyó una nace de bodega de elaboración, bodega de crianza, laboratorio, y sala de cata. Y empezó a preparar todos los requisitos para empezar el curso 83/84. Se contrató a un enólogo y un ingeniero agrícola, debido a que Montse y yo no teníamos ni idea de esta especialidad y nos pusimos a estudiar mucho, dedicando muchas horas diarias, levantándonos muy pronto y acostándonos muy tarde. Sobre todo, eestudiando enología.

Durante los dos primeros años de la escuela nosotros dos dábamos química y física a los alumnos de todas las especialidades: enólogos, administrativo, mecánicos y electricistas. A partir del tercer año ya cogimos toda la responsabilidad de viticultura y enología, dando todos los contenidos.

El presidente del INCAVI Jaume Ciurana hizo un convenio con el colegio para dar un servicio de análisis oficiales de vinos, dependiendo de la Estación Enológica de Reus, y una asesoría técnica a las cooperativas de Terra Alta, Ribera d’Ebre y Priorat. Así, INCAVI, además de hacer posible la ampliación de una nueva especialidad, ayudó económicamente, aportando parte de nuestro sueldo, para nuestra dedicación a estos servicios.

Empezó una etapa muy y muy activa por nuestra parte que afrontamos con mucha ilusión, seguros de que se estaba gestando un futuro nuevo, aunque no imaginábamos toda la envergadura que ha cogido. Me atrevería a decir que la semilla la pusieron los dos Jaume’s Ciurana.

Montse Ovejero y Josep Lluis Pérez
Mas Martinet

Categories
THE ORIGINS

MN. JAUME CIURANA AND THE SCHOOL

MN. JAUME CIURANA AND THE SCHOOL

Last Monday, we were at Mr. Ignasi Puxeu’s house. He was linked for a long time to the Priorat Teachers Association (Associació Docent Priorat), and from there he witnessed first-hand the birth of the vine growing and oenology school of Priorat, specifically the great task developed by the priest Jaume Ciurana to create it.

We met the priest going to Reus with him in one of his business travels. In that time, there were few cars, he remembered. He introduced us to the priest as a man with a very strong character (…) With his strengths and weaknesses. He had in mind the idea of rising the cultural level of Falset and its region. The priest started providing construction and electricity training courses for the Agriculture and Employment Promotion Board (Patronat de Promoció Agrària i de Treball), where the Music Association (Associació Musical) was, behind the church. In its day, that place was a small and run-down sacristy. Because of the courses, the building was repaired, and it became the current building, even though the Ministerio (Ministry) wanted to demolish it, because the works were considered as part of the students’ internship. Mr. Puxeu told us: “He went to Madrid, in times of Franco, to see a minister, I think it was Torcuato, and he told him: ‘Look, here you have the photos of the building as it was before and as it is now.’ He added: ‘What should we do now? Demolish it?’ And, in the exact words of the priest Ciurana: That minister looked at me, and said: You wear a cassock… I haven’t seen you, and I haven’t received anything they have sent me, so do what you want.

The priest reunited the Association and told them that they needed money and a suitable location, and that they had to organise more courses, reach more people. It was on Boxing Day 1961, and as many as 158 people met (in groups of 20 and in different meetings), people committed to make a Pts5,000 non-refundable payment. They continued to provide courses at the abbey, at the music school… and finally at the secondary school… They looked for a place to locate the school (the first idea was the Castle), but Mr. Miquel Puig Cardona, a good citizen of Falset, actually one of the best, because I have met him commercially and personally, a beautiful person, he said, offered him the current plots: “Don’t worry, Mn. Jaume. There, at the mas (farmhouse)… take the plots you need. Go there and choose. Forget about castles.”

And this is how everything started, a 6.5 million pesetas budget, meetings with the Ministry of Education to apply for subsidies, loans (signed by the members themselves): “The Association, 25 members (one of them was me), signed a 2.5 million loan. It was a big amount at that time… quite a lot of money.”  Everything continued to progress until the Association started to provide vocational agricultural training in the plots in front (which were bought for 500,000 pesetas). It wasn’t successful at the beginning, until the vineyard was planted, and that vocational agricultural training was turned into a vocational vine growing and oenology training. He met with Mr. Carol (Falset councillor for Agriculture), different Agriculture delegates… The Government of Catalonia supported vocational agricultural training, but the Association was clear that they wanted professional training. 

Mr. Jaume Ciurana Galceran, president of the Catalonia Wine Institute (INCAVI) and oenologist (and from Falset), agreed that Falset had to aspire to this and more. Falset was between Tarragona, Terra Alta and Priorat, and there was a strong need to have that kind of professional training in the town. Thanks to him, the school carried on, and it was able to provide this professional training with teachers like Josep Lluis Pérez and his wife, Montse Ovejero. “Because we only talk about Josep Lluis Pérez, but I know Montse Ovejero, in the laboratory and in the classes, even though she was in the shadow, she did a lot of work,” he said.

It was a particularly good period for the school and for Falset. People from different places came to attend these studies. The school was expanded, with a building specially designed for these studies, a place where you could follow the whole wine-making process. Mr. Miquel Puig Cardona also ceded the plots, but the Association needed more loans for the construction. The budget was 20 million: a 5-million subsidy and loans, signed again by the Association. Everything was fine, but…

The University of Tarragona offered a speciality in vine growing and oenology, extending the offer in this field. The Government of Catalonia required the school to offer more vocational/professional training, and the Association and the centre wasn’t able to assume all this.  “The priest was old, he wanted to retire, and I was doing the maths.” Finally, it was time to ask The Ministry of Agriculture to take care of it, but they didn’t want, or they weren’t able to do it… No one knows when politics take part in the game. The Association also asked for help from the Council. And this was the end of it. The school had a great success, but it died because of that success.

Mr. Puxeu noted that the school represented a change for Falset and the region, the economic status of the citizens rose. “Before, there were restaurants where the food was substantial and cheap. Then, the food was expensive, but very good.”

We asked Mr. Puxeu where the priest was from, and he told us that the priest was from Arbeca. The priest had estates there, and he sold them. “At the beginning, he brought some apples from his estates to the school. Then, he sold the estates, and I know he did it for the school.” The priest gave so much for the school, even his salary. He told us that, during the first years of the school, they balanced their budget in this way, because the kindergarten was always loss-making. Then, the salary wasn’t enough, so they asked different ministries for money. Thanks to Jaume Ciurana Galceran, the school received help from many ministries of the Government of Catalonia, and this is something to be thankful for, because there was no money at that time.

He finished smiling and saying: “Luckily, it ended well, because today we have the Institute, which does a good job.”  And there is no need to go to Móra, because the general opinion from the Ministry of Education was that the students from Falset had to go to Móra. This is what the priest and the Association wanted to avoid, and what allowed Falset to have, before and now, its own Institute. “Just do the necessary work and send the students to Móra”.  

Thank you very much for all the work and effort put in.

Categories
OXIDATE WINES VINS OXIDATIUS

RANCIO CHERRY WINE IN DENMARK

RANCIO CHERRY WINE IN DENMARK.

Frederiksdal Kirsebærvin

The coast of Lolland, an island of Denmark, seems to be an ideal place for cherry growing.

Winter is respectful there and spring comes early, which allows a generous season in which cherries ripen slowly, developing a great complexity of nuances.

In the west end of the island, we can find a castle. When you get there after having crossed half of the country by car with the feeling of going nowhere, this large house projects a feeling of being in a place with a glorious past. Bathed by the special light of northern latitudes, with a deep blue sky and nice green fields, the feeling of surprise leads to a strange familiarity.

For those who grew up with The Adventures of Tintin, the building instantly reminds of Marlinspike Hall or Moulinsart, the castle that Professor Calculus buys at the end of Red Rackham’s Treasure and that becomes his home, sharing it with Captain Haddock. The large country house of Frederiksdal is like the Danish version of Château de Cheverny in the Loire Valley (France), by which Hergé was inspired.

Harald Krabbe, the owner of Frederiksdal, inherited the country house and decided to get involved in order to avoid damage in the building and its land potential. A dreamer and willing person, Krabbe decided to make cherry wine with a northern cherry variety: the Danish Stevnsbær black cherry, which is often referred to as “the Nordic grape”.

It is a cherry that, once ripe, it keeps an extraordinary acidity, as would be expected given those latitudes, and it shows a surprising complexity and potential. The winemaking process is similar to the one used in our wine, although there are some differences in the harvesting and the grape juice production logistics. The wine produced in this winery has a quite high remaining amount of sugar in order to compensate the acidity.

Harald and his partners have been working for years on a line dedicated to rancio cherry wine, which he relates directly to Catalonia (although it is more prestigious in Madeira, Porto, Banyuls or Maury).
It is impressive to see how so many kilometres away from home this concept remains, although Spanishised with the word rancio. Honestly, we should take this into account.

The subtle but evident charm of rancio wine can be perfectly perceived, with its own features given by cherries, which display all their complexity and ripeness. All this thanks to a one-year rest in a group of glass demijohns full of cherry wine that, exposed to day and night (sol i serena), evolves with the sound of the wind and the Baltic Sea waves. The wine stays for another year in 450 liters Cognac barrels before being bottled.

Despite this early ageing, the final result evaluated from rancio wine perspective is quite good. In fact, with the rather exotic surprise involved by the fact of having a cherry wine in our region, I think it is a wine worthy of the best table talks. Find the reference here in case any reader, in a trip to northern Europe, finds a bottle of this wine and is encouraged to take it home with him/her.

Bernat Guixer – Roca Spirit. Celler de Can Roca