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Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Mas Oller, wine-making as it's been done for centuries ...

Yesterday we went for a tipple at the winery down the road.

Here in beautiful Catalonia they have some very delicious wines, and nowhere more so than at the friendly little winery of Mas Oller, just outside Pals.

I should say, by way of explanation that a mas or masia is a typical Catalan farmhouse. It was usually built from local stone, had at least two stories, with the ground floor given over to livestock or working space for the business of the farm. The family normally lived on the first floor, and if there was a second floor that would traditionally have been used as a granary or a pigeon loft. Most of these houses were built to face south or south east, to take shelter from the Tramontana, the dominant wind that blows down from the north.

Mas Ollers, Pals, Catalonia

Empordà, this lovely corner of Catalonia in which we live, has a long history of wine-making as it happens. It all goes way back to its days as a Greek colony. Way back in about 600 B.C. those old Greek overlords first decided to try their hands at growing some grapes in the rich, local soil. The result was an astounding success. Before long this little corner of Catalonia was renowned for the quality of its wines, and they've been going strong ever since.

Mas Ollers, Pals, Catalonia

At Mas Oller, the old farm house, dating back to the 18th century, stands between the mountains and the sea. They've produced many crops on the estate over the years, but when it was rescued by its present owner, the renowned winemaker, Carlos Esteva, it was pretty much on its knees. The old house and outbuildings were falling apart, and had Carlos not come along when he did there's a reasonable chance that they'd have passed the point of no return, and been lost forever. 

Mas Ollers, Pals, Catalonia

There were a few vines growing across the holding, but the local council insisted that, before Carlos turned his attention to what he does best, and set about growing some prize-winning wines, he focus on the farm buildings and restore them so that they could be saved for future generations.

Mas Ollers, Pals, Catalonia

And that's exactly what he did. 

Mas Ollers, Pals, Catalonia

Today the old masia and the outbuildings are restored to their former glory, their thick walls providing cool in the heat of the Catalan summer and warmth in the depths of its winters when the Tramontana blows harshly from the North.

Mas Ollers, Pals, Catalonia


The old cow shed has been converted into a cellar, and the vines have been replanted in what had once been the best wine-producing estate in Pals.

Mas Ollers, Pals, Catalonia
French oak barrels in which the wine matures
And out in the fields they're growing Syrah, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes to make their red wines ...

Mas Ollers, Pals, Catalonia

... and Picapoll and Mavasía de Sitges for their white wine. 

Mas Ollers, Pals, Catalonia

We had a leisurely stroll amongst the vines, and our guide explained that 2014 had been a bit of a strange year. The summer had been colder and wetter than normal, with the result that the grapes are not ripening as they usually would. It's going to mean that the harvest will be later than normal, but, who knows, perhaps the exceptional conditions will produce a vintage of exceptional quality. 

Mas Ollers, Pals, Catalonia

They showed us all their state-of-the-art machinery for cleaning, and mashing and fermenting the grapes after they've been picked.

Mas Ollers, Pals, Catalonia

The white grapes are picked and processed first. And then a few weeks' later they move on to the red.

Mas Ollers, Pals, Catalonia


And finally we went to the bodega to sample the three wines that they produced last year at Mas Oller.

First up was the Mar, a very stylish white that was fruity on the nose, but lighter and drier on the palate with notes of citrus. Then we had the Pur, which had a lovely toffee, vanilla nose, but was light and soft on the palate. And last we had the Plus, which was much less aromatic on the nose and drier with more tannins on the palette. All three were delicious, but both Mr B and I preferred the Pur.

Mas Ollers, Pals, Catalonia

Part of the space in the old cow shed has been given over to a collection of modern art, which contrasts nicely with the timelessness of the solid old walls and the barrel-vaulted ceiling.

Mas Ollers, Pals, Catalonia


If you're in the area and you fancy taking a look at a traditional winery do drop in and have a look around. They're open most days from noon until 6:00 p.m. local time, and are happy to give you a tour. You can find their website here: Mas Oller

All the best for now,

Bonny x

And if you're in the Empordá area why not check out Peretellada ... the village that time forgot


Or Sant Feliu de Guíxols mi pueblo


Or S'Agaró ... the pueblo down the road 



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