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CHEESES LA BALDA, CARE AND LOVE FOR GOOD CHEESES

CHEESES LA BALDA, CARE AND LOVE FOR GOOD CHEESES

In the Vall de Llémena (“Llémena Valley”), located in La Garrotxa, Pablo Garcia makes high-quality cheese from raw cows’ milk. He collaborates with livestock farmers who are near him to ensure the use of organic, freshly milked milk in his cheeses, and therefore, keep all its infinite good properties. The fact of working with raw milk gives the cheeses a more enhanced flavour, because it has bacterial flora from the environment where the cows are bred. And the most important thing is that the cows are calm, they let the farmers milk them, because animal welfare is basic and principal to get good cheeses.

For Pablo, making cheese has always been his passion. First, it was a hobby for him, and then finally it became his profession, and he has been fully committed to his business. Initially trained in his country, he was able to put into practice all his knowledge acquired at Torre Marimon in an intensive course, in Ardèche, and later in the Abondance valley, in France (in the French Alps). 

He is making three kinds of cheese at the moment: the Fermió, the Golany (both soft paste cheeses) and the Baldat (which is a mature cheese). The first cheese comes in a small format, with a mouldy rind and a lactic character, and it is presented in the shape of a plain cylinder with rounded corners. The rind, which is natural, is homogeneously covered with a white-ivory mould layer which is completely edible, and which also provides an important part of the cheese organoleptic richness. 

The Golany has a mixed rind (mouldy-clean) which is edible. Made with vegetable rennet, it is a square-shaped piece with a creamy texture which, as it matures, it can melt. It has a complex flavour between the aromatic strength of the rind and the elegant and balanced notes of the paste. 

And the Baldat, inspired by the large format maturing cheeses which are typical in the Alps, where they have plenty of milk. A Gruyere cheese made in big pieces of 12 or 20 kg which matures slowly in a drying room, and which is matured on a weekly basis with water saturated with salt. The rind is created with this erosion effect. The elastic paste gets brittle, and its colour may change depending on the feeding of the livestock. 

The cheese factory La Balda makes part of the traditional cheese producers that we can find in Catalonia, a market which is in full expansion. In his workroom they follow the cheese traditions from here and there, increasing the diversity of traditional cheeses made with raw milk. 

Thank you very much, Pablo, for receiving us and welcoming us so warmly.

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CEMENT EGGS

CEMENT EGGS

In December 2020, 2 new cement tanks for refining the wines were brought to Mas Martinet, specifically 2 cement egg-shaped tanks with a capacity of 2000 l each one. We didn’t know whether to laugh or cry! Harvest was expected to be low, and we didn’t have wine to fill them… but we were there, in the middle of the new room, ready to use them. 

Cement has been a material used in wineries, but with straight lines, and designed mostly for fermentations, taking advantage of the fact that it allows the heat from the process to be regulated more easily and to keep a more stable temperature, therefore enabling longer fermentations and a slower extraction of the tannins. Although we have used this kind of tank for the ageing process, it isn’t the most common situation. The cement eggs that we bought in 2020 were purchased thinking of a refinement process of the wine, using the microoxigenation produced by its porosity and, specially, looking for the moment, the circulation of the wine, which is caused by the shape of the container. 

Cement was already used in ancient times (the concrete lacus found in Roman villas built in the first centuries of our era). In the 19th century, its use was extended to wineries regarding both, fermentation and storing of wine. However, the tanks were used with some kind of coating to prevent direct contact of the material with the wine, therefore preventing the degradation of the tank too (which is vulnerable to certain components of the wine, and especially to its acidity). They were also coated to avoid the taste that they could give to the wine and, of course, to make their cleaning easier. Recently, this coating has consisted of epoxy resins. Nowadays, the cement used is suitable for food use. It has a degree of porosity which is similar to that of other materials, and it isn’t coated on the inside, only a layer of tartaric acid is applied to make it waterproof. 

The cement eggs have a thinner layer, of around 10 cm. thick, and it enables us to get a softer acidity. And, the most important thing, its egg shape. This shape produces a vortex effect which is very valued (a rotary flow, sometimes swirling, like a spiral), and it enables the movement of the finest lees, adding volume and smoothness to the wines. In other words, it creates a constant bâtonnage, but saving us oxidation and contamination problems that can be caused by opening a container.

An end to oxidative ageing that finishes and polishes the wine, leaving it ready for the next step, the bottling process.

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THE FORAT OF LLABERIA

THE FORAT OF LLABERIA

Today it’s Cesc’s turn. He is the last incorporation to the Mas Martinet team, now a year and a half ago. He is the one who takes care of the wine during the entire process, from when it enters as grapes, until it leaves the winery already bottled to your houses. 

Cesc moved to Priorat some years ago attracted by the world of wine and vine growing. However, wine wasn’t the only thing responsible for this decision. The landscape of the region and, specially, the place that he has chosen to show us was especially important for him too. 

The Forat of Llaberia offered him the peace and the connection to the region that he needed to settle there. It is a place which always makes him feel comfortable because it is an extraordinary viewpoint of the agricultural plain and the mountains surrounding it. Today, the weather seems foggy, but it is exactly this fog which paints the landscape with charm and mystery. 

The Forat is a small cave of 16 m with two entries. To get there, we follow the path of the guerrilla fighter Carrasclet, and after 30 minutes of a brief but very intense climb we get to the viewpoint. The Llaberia mountain chain presents very steep reliefs and big precipices. The calcareous nature of its rocks, eased by human action of the water and the wind, caused the creation of caves and caverns like this one. 

Another to discover for the trekking and wild nature lovers.

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AN UNFORGETTABLE EXPERIENCE

AN UNFORGETTABLE EXPERIENCE

Our sincere appreciation and thanks to each one of the producers who, with their work, help us offer an unforgettable experience at Mas Martinet winery. You are the main contribution to economic development in Priorat by creating, in a sustainable and continuous way, richness, better quality of life, and stable employment for its inhabitants. Their love and care for their work provide us a range of high-quality products that we have used to present them these past weeks on the blog. Because together we build a more sustainable world.

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THE FORO ERA (SERRA ESPASA)

THE FORO ERA (SERRA ESPASA)

Today it’s Antonia’s turn. She is another colleague of Mas Martinet who works in the office, and she is in charge of the management of the material suppliers and the company’s logistics, among other things. In short, she is the person who makes the bottling process physically possible and ensures that the international orders come out according to the thousand details of our dear customers. 

She didn’t give us any detail about where she was taking us, but the time at which we were meeting gave us some clues. In the evening, at sunset… And yes, indeed, the place, the moment, the light, the energy… 

She tells us that she is a person who loves walking, and one of the routes that she usually follows starts from the slope of Els Arcs, then she jumps to the road to get to the side of Els Marmellans, she walks around Els Marmellans, and when she gets to Eugeni’s vineyard (she points Mas d’en Pou from there), she takes the last line, and she walks up to this point. She sits down for a while (always at sunset time, or the tardet, as people call it here), and for her, it is a moment of calmness, peace. It is a magical place for her because of all its hidden history. 

A place which is very close to Capçanes, and which can be reached walking along a small path which was repaired a few years ago. A short and easy route which takes us to an era, the Foro era on the Espasa mountain range. An exceptional view of nearly 360º: Serra de Montsant, Serra de la Figuera, Serra de Cavalls, Serra de Cardó, Muntanyes de Tivissa i Vandellós, Serra de Llaberia and Mola de Colldejou. 

An ancient Iberian settlement of the Bronze Age and the first Iron Age, 2nd – 1st century BC, and a possible Iberian sanctuary which probably was a territorial control point because of the vastness of the landscape which can be seen from there. The many boxes of remains found at that place (tools, cups, metallic objects, ceramics, among other things), we can find them at the Salvador Vilaseca Archaeological Museum in Reus. 

Again, the landscape, the territory, the history: PRIORAT in capital letters, and in all its fullness. 

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THE VIEWING POINT OF THE BATTLE OF THE EBRO IN LA FIGUERA

THE VIEWING POINT OF THE BATTLE OF THE EBRO IN LA FIGUERA.

Gemma is the person who writes all this to you. In other words, I keep the Blog of Mas Martinet alive, and I am also the person in charge of receiving you in the winery if you come to visit it. I am a talkative and easy-going person, and I will receive you as well as possible so that you leave with a good memory of your experience.

It was not an easy choice, but I finally chose one of the best places to enjoy the vastness of the landscape of Priorat. The place chosen is La Mola de Sant Pau, in La Figuera, where the Sant Pau hermitage is located, and from where people say that you can have a view of six regions (Tarragona, Lleida, Saragossa, Castellón, Teruel and Huesca). In fact, if you look northwards, you can see the Pyrenees, the Segre river area, Les Garrigues, Els Ports, the Maestrazgo and Aragón.

But near the hermitage, at a distance of only 500 m and with a much easier access, we get to the place where, during the Civil War, there was the viewing point of the Battle of the Ebro, a control point of the high command or the republican army. From there, you can see up to 40 kilometres of the river Ebro.

It is a trench reinforced with cement, and part of the roof which remains in good condition. And from there, you can have an incredible view of the old battlefields. Behind the viewing point, there are still some walls and dry-stone huts which were used as shelters by the soldiers who stayed there. 

The most shocking thing for me is thinking that, not so many years ago, from there, the most recent and cruel war that has ever taken place in our lands was organised. You know how it ended, Franco’s troops took down the viewing point and they settled there during a period of time. Finally, in 1998, this place was recovered, and it was prepared to keep it as a proof of what happened.

A piece of our recent history which does not leave us indifferent, and that we do not forget.

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CORNERS OF THE PRIORAT

MONTSE AND THE ROUTE OF LES TAULES IN CAPÇANES.

Montse is the person who keeps the accounts in Mas Martinet. She is the one who deals with the suppliers and their accounts, the invoices, the banks, and thousands of statements! She does all the things that people don’t see, but which need to be organised and updated for an effective activity of the company. 

We ask her to choose a place, a route, which represents something special to her, or for which she has a particular preference. She chooses her village, Capçanes, and one of their most emblematic routes: the route of Les Taules. 

Les Taules is an area in Capçanes, located on the east of the village centre, where you can find a great variety of constructions built with dry stone. It is an area which in the past was grown by the poorest farmers and daily workers who worked the less productive lands. 

Along the route, we can see slopes, cabins, shelters, pens, tree-guards, a lime kiln, among other things. Different constructions which have received the name of the house of their owners (l’Espardenyer, Mas d’en Francisco…), therefore recovering the names and the fame of the construction and their former owners.

A big chance to know this heritage which is so valuable.

For Montse, this route is a chance to appreciate the relationship that people had with the nature resulting from their effort and work to survive. Besides, during the toughest months of the pandemic, when people couldn’t leave their municipalities, this route was an inexhaustible source of freedom. 

You can follow the detailed route on the Turisme del Priorat website.

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Economía Local Uncategorised

OLI DEL RAIG, OUR OLIVE OIL

OLI DEL RAIG - FIRST PRESSED OLIVE OIL

In Priorat, olive growing has been present for many years, along with vine and nuts growing, which are the Mediterranean cultivations par excellence. Olive oil production has become one of the main cultivations, with a clear trend towards integrated and eco-friendly cultivation methods and systems.

Olive oil is considered to be the golden elixir, because of all its nutritional properties. It is the basis of the Mediterranean diet, and an authentic delicacy for our palate and our health. It contains mainly oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid which lowers bad cholesterol and raises good cholesterol levels in your body. Besides, it is rich in vitamins E and K; the first one is an antioxidant par excellence, and the second one, a natural protector of the brain neurons. Olive oil also contains carotenoids (precursors of vitamin A, and antioxidant too), phytosterols (structures similar to cholesterol which help to lower its content in blood) and polyphenols (with a great antioxidant capacity).

In Mas Martinet, we have always used olive oil, basically for family consumption. But, for four years now, we have bottled some olive oil to invite our visits to try it. The main olive variety is the arbequina, which is the most common variety in the region too, and which also produces an oil which is really appreciated for its excellent organoleptic properties of a delicate, smooth, and slightly sweet aroma. Our olive trees live together with the vines, being taken care of and treated with minimal intervention, following the same philosophy which characterises us.

The olive harvest is carried out during the winter months, usually soon after finishing the grape harvest. In our case, it usually takes place in November. It is a manual harvest, as could not be otherwise. We carry the harvested olives, in boxes of approximately 12 kg. each one, to an oil mil in Bellmunt that works with small productions to ensure the highest quality and respect to the fruit that is being processed.

The olive oil that we manually bottle in the winery is an oil made from the juice which has been let to stand so that the remaining volatile microparticles of the olive settle to the bottom in the shape of dregs. In other words, it is an olive oil obtained exclusively through mechanical processes, from the first cold pressing (under 27º) on the same day of the harvest, so we keep all its properties. Then, we keep the oil in a tank which is always full, at a controlled temperature, to achieve a good decantation that removes to the greatest extent possible the impurities and the solid matter that it may contain. Olive oils produced this way have a more intense flavour, and they keep their nutritional properties intact. After letting the olive oil stand, we bottle it depending on the needs in order to ensure its quality.

You won’t find this olive oil in stores, but you can taste it during our wine tourism experience

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VILLAGE SHOP: CAL CENTRO

VILLAGE SHOP: CAL CENTRO

Cal Centro is a village shop where you can find a wide range of pork products which are traditionally made on site. But it is not a regular shop… the shop is over 100 years old, and it is surprising that it has access to a room where there is a fireplace and a bar. The bar has the same opening hours as the shop, but after all, it is a bar. Because the place where we are now is over 100 years old, and Enric, the man we are talking with, is the 4th generation to run it. His son is in the workroom, so we expect a 5th generation to come.

The shop has been, and it is still, a meeting point in the village. It has been a meeting point for as long as the bus station has existed, at the beginning of cars, when the arrival of a new convoy in the village would bring the neighbours together with curiosity and wanting to know more about the newcomers. And before this… where there is the bar now, the traders could park their carriage and spend the night in the rooms which were upstairs. The animals and their owners could rest, and the following day… they continued their journey.

Later, his grandfather was an animal trader in a period when there was a mule or another animal in every home. Enric proudly shows us the photos on the wall… a small summary of his family history: his parents’ wedding (where, surprisingly, the brides were dressed in black), him on a groomed mule which was going to be blessed by St. Anthony… Details which are full of joy, happiness, life.

Nowadays, it is a supply point of food and other products, a village shop as any other, but it is mainly a point of sale of his cold meats and sausages, which are made two houses further down, and he invites us to go there.

There, we find his son, Jordi, and three more workers. They are making botifarres (“sausages”) with rice, and blue cheese pâté. It implies a lot of work because it is a very traditional process… When we get there, they tie the sausages with a red string. After this, they will have to cook them, and then the sausages will be ready.

Pork is the base of their products. They follow the same natural processes used by their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents, but they have increased their variety of products, and they have combined them with fruits from Priorat, such as hazelnuts, almonds, Arbequina olives, olive oil, aromatic herbs or rancio wine.

We are especially interested in secallona (a sausage similar to fuet), which accompanies our wine tastings, and although it is being dried at that moment, they tell us that it is a dry sausage made of the pork’s shoulder and leg, and filled into a natural pork casing. It is delicious!!

Thank you for welcoming us into your house, and also for being a reference in our region.

 

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Economía Local Economía Local Uncategorised

GEMMA LLORCA: EL BOLI BAKERY

GEMMA LLORCA: EL BOLI BAKERY

Gemma Llorca lives in Poboleda, and she has replaced her father-in-law, Lluis Porqueres, in the adventure of baking bread. The business is physically located in Escaladei, where he worked, and she uses the same bakery and, most importantly, the same wood-fired oven.

From him, from Lluis, she has learnt the trade, and she has also inherited, besides the enthusiasm and excitement about baking bread in the way people used to bake it before, the sourdough starters that he used. Now, she shows them to us when she has just activated them, they will not be ready until the next day. First, she starts feeding them 24h before mixing them with water, flour, and salt: “This is the white bread sourdough starter and the wholemeal bread sourdough starter, all our breads come from here”, she shows them to us. It is what is known as the pre-ferment. When it is ready, it is time to mix. “The white bread sourdough starter must be about 10/15 years old, and the wholemeal bread sourdough starter, a baker that he visited gave it to him, and I think it must be over 300 years old”. We talk based on the fact that it has been kept active since then, because, over time, the sourdough starter is modified. The same sourdough starter, from one place to another, changes over time, and it can become a completely different sourdough starter, because environmental bacteria influence the sourdough starter and modify it. “That is why they are unique!” she tells us.

To make bread from these sourdough starters, besides flour, water, and salt, you need to add a bit of fresh yeast. It is a way of keeping the speed and give a boost to the process, because, otherwise, it would depend too much on the temperature and the environmental humidity.

Another treasure which Gemma uses is the flour. In this case, she trusts Can Mestre, an agricultural family business from Sta. Coloma de Queralt which has recovered ancient wheat varieties. They grow them in an environmentally friendly way, and they mill them in a stone mill to treat them in the best possible way and respect as much as possible all their properties and special flavours.

White and wholemeal bread made with spelt and kamut, only with kamut, multigrain bread with sunflower, pumpkin, and oats seeds; gluten-free buckwheat bread, which is not suitable for those with celiac disease because, as it is made in the same bakery, there may be cross-contamination. Olive bread, nuts and raisins bread, milk bread, hamburger buns and frankfurt rolls… The list increases as time goes by.

Usually, the first thing she does is build a fire to light the wood-fired oven and heat it at 300º. She spends two hours kneading the different breads, which is enough time for the oven temperature to drop at the ideal temperature to bake. She can bake 20 breads in a batch, and with a load of firewood she can bake two batches. When she finishes: she takes the ashes out, she sweeps, and she cleans. Then, she also must deliver the breads. “A long working day, but it is worth it” she tells us. Because, at the moment, she does not have a shop, she only works to order, but she is thinking of setting up a stall at the weekly market in Falset more or less in the immediate future.

Thank you, Gemma, for wanting to take over the business and keep working on this art of baking bread, and let us enjoy the taste of your bread, which is so authentic.

 

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