Winery Trip — Bodega Perelada

Carlsberg don’t do Mondays, but if they did…

Yesterday I was extremely fortunate to be invited for a trip around Perelada winery in the Empordà region of Catalunya. For those of you not familiar with the winery, it is a large and high quality production in the North-East of Spain very close to the border with Southern France. With interests in Cava, Priorat and typical wines from the Empordà along with international blends, they have quite the portfolio and their brand is one of the most recognisable in Spain, often using the iconic Perelada Castle on their labels. A winery since 1923, they moved towards a high quality production in the 1990’s and have since created a wealth of high quality single-estate wines as well as their celebrated Ex Ex range; experimental wines created from exceptional vintages often with 100% international grape varietals (Spanish Nebbiolo, anyone?). Whilst I am familiar with most of their wines I had not visited the winery, so when they offered me the chance to spend the Monday at the winery, flying around the vineyards on Quad Bikes and then drink a lot of their wine, well, it would have been rude to say no, wouldn’t it?

Perelada: Making normal offices seem inadequate since the 1500’s.

I was picked up in the early morning in Barcelona along with Violeta, one of Perelada’s charming account managers, as well as with a group of Sommeliers, restaurant owners and hotel staff. After a 2 hour drive, we arrived at the winery and were taken on a small tour of the property, including the castle, lakes, gardens… yes, I was suitably jealous at this point. The intention of the trip was quite light-hearted: to celebrate Perelada’s wines and showcase the team and production to commercial interests in both Barcelona and Girona whilst having a good time and drinking plenty of wine. Throughout the trip, our hosts were full of good humour and cheer, something I think is often overlooked with commercial trips of any nature, and made the entire day a pleasure. That and the quad bikes. This was my first experience with quad bikes and for anyone who hasn’t had the chance to try them; they are just as fun as they look.

Mad Max Fury Road 2: The considerably more light-hearted sequel

We headed out as a group of around 20 bikes, heading across fields and villages in search of the vineyards that create their single-estate wines; Finca Espolla,Finca Garriga, Finca Malaveina and Finca Garbet. Having a wine come from a single-estate means just that; all the grapes sourced for the wine come from 1 vineyard. When you drink a Finca Malaveina from Perelada, the grapes all come from vineyard Malaveina and so with the others too. I love this; not only does the wine have a real sense of place but there is vintage variation and an expression of terroir that you don’t see too often in Spanish wines. Commercially speaking, I believe this practice will become more prevalent amongst premium Spanish wines as customers become more demanding and wine-savvy. Consider the Gran Cru system in Burgundy — these wines have created a reputation and appellation system based on the vineyards rather than the producers, several of whom can own areas of vines in a single vineyard, a reputation that sees some of these bottles sell in excess of thousands of euros. If Spain truly wants to be competitive at this level, we will have to see more of this individuality in it’s wines.

Introducing: Finca Malaveina!

During the day we managed to visit the vineyards of Malaveina, Garriga and Espolla but sadly didn’t have the time to visit Finca Garbet. I recently read a lovely blog post about Finca Garbet here: CLICK ME. I will be back to visit myself! The differences between the vineyards are substantial and this allows for huge variety in style. Garriga, Espolla and Malaveina are of a similar quality and price point, 15–20 euros, whilst Garbet is a limited bottling and would set you back around 90–100 euros. Garriga and Espolla are both situated in the shadow of the Pyrenees mountains and benefit from south facing slopes which allows for longer sunlight hours needed to mature the late-harvested Carinena, Monastrell and Syrah grapes grown there. Their soil composition, however, differs with La Garriga enjoying well drained soil composing of sand, gravel and clay and Espolla sitting on slate and schist more in the mould of Priorat. Malaveina is different to them both, being further away from the humidity of the mountains and with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc enjoying well drained red clay and limestone. One thing is for sure — drinking a glass of the wine in the vineyard it comes from certainly increases your appreciation for the product and is a luxury that was not lost on the group.

I have yet to find a problem that a 7 glass wine tasting set to music will not solve.

Upon returning to Perelada winery we were shown into their beautiful tasting room looking out towards the castle. We were to conduct a blind, 7 course wine tasting where each wine was set to music, all wines naturally from their vast portfolio. If you’ve ever watched the documentary SOMM, and if you haven’t you should, you will see that at the elite level of wine tasting Master Sommeliers are given 4 minutes to analyse the wine, factor in the appearance, aromas, tastes and make a conclusion of where this wine is from, the grape varieties and vintage. It turns out that is actually pretty difficult, even when you know the winery the wines have to be from and are familiar with the products! I managed to get 6/7 correct but stuck around for a long time afterwards completing my notes (Yeah, I’m that guy) and asking more questions than anyone really has time for. My thanks to Oenologist Eduardo (I didn’t get the second name) for taking the time to answer my questions and discuss these lovely wines; as mentioned before, it really shows when the staff are proud of their work and connected with their products.

“Life is too short for bad meals”: Very easy to live by when you don’t have to cook or clean.

We finished the day with a late, vast lunch of 3 (huge) courses with wine pairings, both of which never seemed to stop coming despite (admittedly feeble) protests. This gave me the chance to stop being such a geek and actually talk to some of the other people around me who were universally lovely and forgiving of my still-quite-clumsy Spanish. It turns out that the owners of one of my favourite Argentinian restaurants, Mi Gracia, were there and just as charming as they are in their working life; a recommended visit if you enjoy top quality Argentinian food and warm service in Barcelona. After spending the day visiting the vineyards, trying the wine and conducting a blind taste, this was the perfect finish. To sit down and stop analysing, just to enjoy and take it all in. On that note — I will leave the tasting notes created on the wines below the main article and leave it at this: This was by far the best winery visit I have yet been on and whilst not representative of a normal winery trip, it show-cased the winery beautifully. Perelada are creating some excellent wines, reflecting not only the stunning countryside but also the hard work and commitment of their staff. Bravo!

  1. 2013 Perelada Collection Blanc Empordà Well balanced on the nose — two very typical varietal flavours blended. Grapefruit composes the citrus but the majority of the notes are tropical with banana and melon being prominent. The greenness of the Sauvignon Blanc is present but less significant.
    Very smooth and creamy on the palate — MLF affected Chardonnay with some elements of grapefruit and black-currant leaf under the tropical notes. Very pleasant drinking. Very good quality Chardonnay blend from Emporda, Catalunya. Drink now as this won’t develop further. At 8–9 euros a bottle, excellent value and a great way to drink good quality Chardonnay that Catalunya so struggles with. The addition of Sauvignon Blanc and very mild acacia usage adds the missing elements and makes the wine more complete.
  2. 2010 Perelada Empordà Finca Espolla:
    Spicy and herbaceous on the nose with rich black fruit complimented with balsamic notes, garrigue and thyme. The developing Monastrell adds a gamey note which in combination comes out a little funky — this generated a lot of mixed feelings amongst the group!
    The rustic and not entirely balanced flavours continue to the palate with herbs and spices winning out. The oak usage is more prominent here with pepper and baking spices coming into place. The tannins are significant but very smooth. Very good quality Monastrell blend from Emporda, Catalunya. Can drink now but has the structure to age for another 1–3 years which may take the edge of the nose slightly and allow the aromas to fall into balance. At around 13–14 euros a bottle, fair QPR.
  3. 2010 Perelada Empordà Finca La Garriga:
    Slightly closed on the nose — deep flavours but without the strength of expression. Strawberries, cherries and some minor herbaceous notes sit over a smoky background. There is some vanilla from barrel ageing but it is not prominent.
    Lively and smooth but big, mouth coating tannins and a vibrant acidity. Fruit is prominent but fades to a leathery finish. With more intensity and a longer finish this would be a very good wine. Good quality Carinena from Emporda, Catalunya. Drinking well now but will age for the next 3–5 years gracefully. At 14 euros a bottle, fair QPR. Very similar in quality to Finca Espolla but with a very different style.
  4. 2011 Perelada Empordà Finca Malaveïna:
    Balanced and expressive on the nose — ripe bramble, plums and strawberries are complimented with vanilla, cinnamon, smoke and a soft leather note. Quite international in style and very pleasant.
    Fruity and lively on the palate, the flavours are clean and easy to pick out. Big and mouth-coating tannins are well integrated and smooth, the finish is easy and slightly sweet. Great drinking wine and a significant step up in quality from Finca Espolla and Garriga. Excellent quality Bordeaux blend from Emporda, Catalunya. Can drink now but has the structure to age for another 3–8 years. At 20 euros a bottle, excellent QPR and a very friendly wine.
  5. 2006 Perelada Empordà Finca Garbet: Gorgeous note of blackberries, bramble and mint dominate — clean and pronounced. Soft vanilla, tobacco and leather are coming through along with rosemary, thyme and an earthy minerality. Complex, pronounced and very terroir-driven, just beautiful. Mouth-coating, fruity, balsamic, expressive. Powerful and elegant with rich dark fruit fading into leather, herbs and spice on the long finish. Outstanding, unique.
    Outstanding quality Syrah from Emporda, Catalunya. Can drink now but has the structure to age and evolve for another 10–15 years. At close to 100 euros I don’t have a frame of reference for QPR at this level, all I know is that this is a special wine and if your personal economy allows it, get a bottle or two!

Wine Cuentista: The literal translation is ‘Wine story-teller’. We run high quality wine tastings in central Barcelona, Borne area, with the intention of tasting and learning about high quality Spanish and Catalan wines in a relaxed atmosphere — perfect for a fun evening out in Barcelona! If you would like to get in touch or see our services, check out the website here: Thanks!