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