Passion and Pampering in the Priorat

In the Priorat, the passion for wine is palpable.  August Vincent, winemaker for Celler Cecilio in Gratallops embodies this fervor in his poetic descriptions of his craft.  When we spoke (via Rachel’s translation), he explained that growing grapes is an activity that “absorbs you completely.”  It is a task that requires great punctuality, as the vines require attentive pampering to prevent them succumbing to the many obstacles that nature might throw at them.  He said that the vines “always want me to be contemplating them,” and in return they are very appreciative of the effort exerted.  He asks, rightly, “what other fruit can give decades of satisfaction?”

August took over the role of winemaker from his father, Cecilio Vincent, and explains that the family knowledge is always applicable, no matter the technology of the time.  He said that the the cultivation methods have changed little since his father began growing grapes in Gratallops in 1942, but that most importantly, he has inherited the passion for growing grapes.  His son-in-law, a trained winemaker, is now working with him in the vineyard and winery, and they share duties in the vineyard and winery, especially during the harvest, when things are busiest.

In what I’m beginning to learn is typical Priorat-fashion, August has strong opinions about the question of trellising.  Like Mr. Capafons, Celler Cecilio started trellising their vines about 3o years ago, and now are realizing that this is not the way of the future.  August explained that because of the dry climate of the Priorat, the vines don’t want to have a lot of excess wood on their trunks, but trellising eliminates the possibility of cutting back the wood, contrary to plants which are kept as bush vines.  By keeping the wood to a minimum, the plant is able to circulate sap to its extremities, keeping the vines healthier.

August left me with some sayings which help to elucidate his deep affection for wine:

“Good wine warms men’s hearts.”

“Penicillin cures men, but really what makes them happy is wine.”

With August in his cellar.  The barrel on the right is called “dida,” Catalan for “wet nurse” because everyone drinks from her.

Old-fashioned press in the cellar.

Whilst in Gratallops, we also stopped into the wine shop, where I met Jaume who gave me a brief tour of his small winery.  Traditionally, he makes only one wine, a 100% Grenache (one of the few in this area).  He explained their general process for making the wine, but made it very clear that variation may result from doing what they (he and his father) deem needs to be done in any given year.  He presented a fabulous analogy to explain why they age their wine in bottles for at least 7 months.  He suggested that one might grow up in a country house, with lots of acreage and space to play and explore.  You get used to these surroundings (the barrel) and then suddenly, one day, are forced to move to a small apartment in the city (the bottle).  At first it is shocking, and you may not be at your best, but eventually things calm down and you get used to a new lifestyle.  Thus their reasoning for bottle-aging is to acclimate their wine to its new surroundings.  He poured his Grenache alongside two other Gratallops wines and his methodology seems to hold up as he is able to produce a surprisingly complex wine from the single varietal.

As a side-note, I wanted to share a few non-wine related photos from this weekend:

Friday we went to the Ebro River Delta, where rice paddies abound (in Spain? who knew?! But makes sense given the prominence of Paella in this region).  I was very surprised to get out of the car and be surrounded by the distinct smell of boiled rice!

Yesterday, Jo and I took a trip to the nearby city of Reus, which is the birthplace of Antoni Gaudí.  We went to the Gaudí Centre – an interpretation center which explains a lot about his life and works.  His major inspiration was nature, which provided an interesting perspective on art and science, as one of the videos described Gaudí’s workshop as being turned into a lab to experiment with natural forms, particularly those of paraboloids and hyperboloids, which he discovered when he realized that many natural materials are made from fibrous materials, which are straight lines with particular orientations in space to make three-dimensional objects.  Here are some quotes presented in the Centre:

“To be original doesn’t mean to do strange things, but to go to the origin – nature.” – Antoni Gaudí

“The great book, always open and which we should make an effort to read, is that of nature; all other books are taken from it, and in them there are the mistakes and misinterpretations of men.” – Antoni Gaudí

“My structural and aesthetic ideas are of an indisputable logic.  I have thought deeply on why they were not applied before, on why i must be the first to do it.  In any case, this would be the only thing that would make me doubt.  Nevertheless, I believe that, being convinced of the perfection they represent, i am obliged to apply them.” – Antoni Gaudí

A video display of photos of natural features of the region (many of which are places I’ve been to or seen) and how  Gaudí implemented his inspiration in his designs.


Today Jo and I got up early to go on a long hike around the area, including through a dry riverbed between Capçanes and Marçá.

After getting ourselves quite lost trying to cross to the other side of the dry bed, we emerged triumphant!

3 thoughts on “Passion and Pampering in the Priorat

  1. Wow, Alissa – really enjoying your postings – & learning a lot about wine! Seems like you’ve landed in a fantastic area! Have fun! Love, Bev

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