“Guaps,” I texted our friend from Barcino’s, “what do you suggest I do in Barcelona for 72 hours?”
“Hola guapa! Wanna visit any winery??? It’s to die for!” he replied.
Honestly, when I sent him the message, my intentions were purely to get recommendations for restaurants and activities, but hey… Who was I to pass up an opportunity to sample wines straight from the source?
Backtrack: The trip technically involved me tagging along while Chad attended the Mobile World Congress with some of the most awesome tech writers from Manila.
So, the trip had nothing to do with alcohol… That is, until we spent an interesting unplanned 10 hour layover in Singapore. What was there to do while agonizing over a major airline gaffe?
Raid SilverKris Lounge’s bar, of course.
Photo courtesy of Michael Josh Villanueva of Gadget Match
They had a selection of decent wines representing some of the nicest from the regions they came from, and a bar with sufficient ingredients to make a killer martini.
Several hours and an unintended stopover in Dubai later, we finally arrived with 62 hours left in our Barcelona trip.
Prior to that excursion, everything I knew about the place I learned from friends who were from/have been/are still there. I heard about legendary tapas and an extremely relaxed lifestyle enjoying cerveza and glasses of cava.
Alhambra in a restaurant along La Rambla
That being said, I decided to spend an afternoon lounging about and people watching in La Rambla over beer and tapas*. I ordered a bottle of Alhambra Reserva 1925 to go with my pulpo (octopus). This award-winning beer has a rich, amber color and bottled in a sparkling green label-less bottle. The intensely flavored extra lager made me think of orange trees, caramels… And an intense desire to stay there forever.
For dinner, I met up with some friends for Cava Sangria. Barcelona has an interesting take on Sangria, using readily available cava instead of still wine to create a beautiful, sparkly cocktail.
Since I’ve been going on about cava, let me go back to the initial master plan: A quick afternoon trip to Sant Sadurní d’Anoia for a visit to Vilarnau.
Messi versus Messy: Messi won 😉
I’ve been to a lot of wine houses on earth, but I’ve never been welcomed in a more awesome manner. I managed to pop in just in time for the manager and winemaker, Damià Deàs, to let me join in a truly Catalan tradition: partaking in calçots (onion shoots, which were char-grilled) with salvitxada (a salsa with tomatoes, olive oil, and nuts as some of the ingredients), and drinking wine out of a porron (a traditional glass wine pitcher). Damià said he was like the footballer Messi when shooting wine straight from the porron into his mouth… I said I was just plain messy (like the amateur that I was… Maybe I needed more practice).
I knew Vilarnau in an intimate way. Years ago, I was first introduced to cava (the exquisite Spanish take on sparkling wine involving some of Catalan’s indigenous grapes: Macabeo, Xarel-lo, and Parellada) through the brand… And you know what they say: you never forget your first.
The fantastic Eva Plazas of Vilarnau as we sampled wine straight from the vat… #lifegoals achieved 😉
Needless to say, I was thrilled when the fabulous Eva Plazas showed me around their property, explained their winemaking procedures, and had me try their wines before and after the secondary fermentation (done in nothing less than the traditional method, a delicate procedure that involves doing the secondary fermentation in the same bottle which introduces bubbles into wine).
Enough text. I’m letting the photos say the thousands of words.
Sharp still wine after the first fermentation. This will undergo a secondary fermentation to get fabulously bubbly.
Up close and personal: Yeast slowly settling to the bottom of the bottle
Frozen yeast, ready to be disgorged and topped up
How corks actually look like before being plugged into a bottle of sparkling wine (before looking like a ‘shroom!)
Left: Brut Reserva Rosé, designed as an homage to renowned Catalan artist Antoni Gaudí; Right: Xarel-lo Castanyer, which made use of chestnut tree barrels for fermentation, giving it a nutty, creamy taste and texture
I feel like the 62 hours were certainly not enough to explore Barcelona’s awesome food and wine scene. I guess that’s my way of saying, moltes gràcies, i que tornarem Barcelona.
*tapas: bite-sized snacks popular in Spain
Muchas Gracias to Ricardo Infante of Barcino’s for setting the trip to Vilarnau up. Moltes Gràcies to Eva and Damià for showing me a wonderful time. Special shoutout to Karen and Ice for showing me around (we owe you another dinner), and the fabulous Michael Josh Villanueva of Gadget Match for making the awful layover more fun with martinis and wine.