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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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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.