Spanish Wine Bike Tour to Penedès J.Miquel Jané

On the approach to Masia Cal Costas, as the road ends, the large white masia gleams in the morning light while the roof tiles glow an earthy red.  The view stretches out towards the sea with field after field of vines with a mixture of manicured straight rows and more sporadic, free-standing, old and twisted vines.  In the opposite direction the pine trees are still visible covering the slower slopes of the Penedès. The crowd is slowly gathering on a sunny Sunday morning for an Oenology and Tasting course at the Bodega J.Miquel Janè.

The course is split into three parts: Viticulture (the vines), Oenology (wine making) and Tasting.  We head off down the road, passing the odd tractor and other farming implement, to get up close and personal with the vines.  Our guide, Simon, explains about the different varieties grown and the benefits and drawbacks of the trellised rows that are harvested by a machine versus the free standing vines harvested by hand.  March is a great time of year to visit as Simon also gave us a lesson in pruning the vines.  He explained how they are training the plant to grow in the most productive way possible.  While the vines may look dead at the moment, one quick cut shows that the vine is very much alive, with water seeping from both ends of the cut branch. Simon was also quick to point out that he much prefers talking about it, rather then actually doing the long, slow process of pruning the endless fields of vines.  The explanation of Viticulture was a great part of the course and is often over-looked on most winery visits.  A little bit more knowledge to cast a bit more light on the infinitely complex task of wine making. 

From the warmth of the sunshine outside, we went into the cool crispness of Masia Cal Costas to have a closer look at the wine crafting at J.Miquel Janè.  Surrounded by stainless steel, Simon explained the various pieces of equipment from destemming, to the press and fermentation tanks.  We learnt about the different processes involved for making white, rosè or red wine.  By this stage though, the group are running out of questions and are getting quite thirsty.  Time for some tastings. 

We arrive in the tasting room which is already laid out with a long table, a white tablecloth, and covered in empty wine glasses, complemented by a selection of cured meats, cheeses and other tasty-looking treats.  Everyone takes a seat and begins to chatter with anticipation.  We start with a delightful blended white wine, the Blanc de Blancs.  The wine is typical of the Penedès consisting mainly of Xarello and Parellada varieties.  Simon offers some help on how to taste the wine, and while the setting is formal, he keeps the mood light and enjoyable with some laughter.  As the mood has been all day, a great mix of information and entertainment.  We continue the tastings and try a rosè and two red wines, including a reserva.

After around 3 hours the course is over and the crowd dissipates to continue their Sunday afternoon, with the glow of a few wines and a little more knowledge.  At 35 euro, it is not something that you would do every weekend, but might be great as a one-off or as a birthday present for someone looking for a bit more than just a tasting session standing around an anonymous counter.

Michael Fuss, wine travel writer for Wine Pleaures

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