Funny how these things go. I was actually standing in front of a stack of Espelt Garnacha and wondering what I should write about when I thought, "well we just wrote about Urgelia cheese from Catalonia, Spain", and there was Espelt, the best red wine for your dollar in the place. Espelt has been compared to Chateauneuf-du-Pape at a small fraction of the price and it too is from Catalonia!
Too much of a coincidence, eh? Well there's more...Catalonia is a huge wine D.O. (Denominacion de Origen) created in 1999 to cover all of the regional territory not covered by the eleven smaller D.O.s in Catalonia; kind of like the two hundred dairy farmers who supply the milk for Urgelia, except that Espelt is actually from one of those small D.O.s, Emporda, and here's where it gets interesting: Ever the history buff and with just a little time invested in research, I have learned seven thought provoking facts about Emporda. Check this out:
1. Alt Emporda is the actual name for the traditional boundary or "comarca" (marked together) where Espelt is located. It is a peninsula which is sometimes called Emporda Costa Brava to capitalize on the resort area of the same name which, because it is a peninsula with many coves and inlets, encompasses a mesmerizing 360 mile rocky Mediterranean seascape. The Emporda D.O. was also called Emporda Costa Brava until 2006.
2. There are 40-60 winery bodegas in Emporda depending on the bodega defintion. Many are within five miles of each other but not necessarily easily accessible because of the rough terrain. Some bodega treks require moderate uphill or downhill hiking.
3. The Monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes was founded in 750AD and constructed as it stands today in the 11th century. It stands prominantly at a 1600' altitude within the town limits of Vilajuiga, home to the Espelt bodega.
4. Emporda lies sixteen miles from the French border. Workers from both sides of the border cross daily to work in the other country's wine industry. This explains the similarity in wine styles between Spanish wines and those from Banyuls and Roussillon in France.
5. The Espelt vineyards lie in Cap de Creus Natural Park, which is basically the peninsula in its entirety. Spain designates "natural" parks for their natural beauty as opposed to National Parks for more historic reasons. Apparently vineyards are allowable in Natural Parks even though they are set aside for protection from civilization.
6. Emporda is known for organic viniculture which is made easier there than in most venues because of the northerly Tramontane winds which effectively reduce mildew and pest occurrence in the region. Tramontane (think trans-mountain) winds are stong, dry, and cold and span Spain, France, and Italy sweeping southward to the Mediteranean Sea.
7. The largest city on the peninsula is Figueres and it is the birthplace of Salvador Dali!
Please join us Friday February 28th between 5 and 8pm when David Rimmer of Lynda Allison Cellar Selections presents three whites, Italian Soave and French Bordeaux and Burgundy, and three reds, Italian Chianti and French Bordeaux and Burgundy. David has more than thirty years in the wine business so bring your list of stuff you've always wanted to know about wine...and please become a follower here if you like this blog.