Haunted wine in Catalonia

I love a good visit to a vineyard. Pair this wine tasting with hair-raising stories from feudal times and a unique experience awaits.

On a recent tour of a little known region of Spain, I got a chance to tour the Baronia the Vilademuls Winery in Pla de l’Estany. Owners Joaquim Reig i Aulet and his wife Montserrat are a warm and gracious couple who led us to a vantage point overlooking the vineyard, their historic home, and the Fluvia river valley beyond. The refreshing scent of rosemary and mint was carried on the sunny breeze. “That’s good in a tea” advised Montserrat, pointing to the wild rosemary growing on the hill. This was definitely the kind of place you wanted to set up a table and picnic with a bottle of their finest…or is it?

Delving deeper into the history of this serene setting reveals another picture altogether. Spine tingling tales of envy and rebellion during feudal times culminated in the murder of the ruling Count and the utter destruction of the original stronghold in 957 AD. The castle that once stood on the site was left in ruins, and the raiders covered the toppled building stones in salt to ensure they could not be used to rebuild. The rubble lay quiet for four centuries. Through this time, the legendary Tramuntana winds of the region worked together with the rains to remove the salt; the same winds that are rumoured to make people crazy.

Now cleaned of the salt, these stones could finally be used to rebuild a new community. In 1783 Joaquim’s family bought this land from the local Lord who needed the money; could it have been for a gambling debt? It begs more questions and intrigue.

Upon renovating the impressive structure, Joaquim and Montserrat found secret passageways and cellars. Who knows what tales these walls could tell. As for Joaquim, his only problem with the stone walls is the humidity they carry. He blames the salt.

Joaquim has been making wine for his family since his retirement 12 years ago, but now does it professionally. He explained that the clay soil is good for the three grape varieties he grows: Cabernet sauvignon, Grenache and Tempranillo and how the dry winds from north and summer winds from sea keep down disease. His wines belong to DO Cataluña; http://www.do-catalunya.com/en a relatively new DO having only been recognized in 1999. http://www.do-catalunya.com/en. The grapes are hand harvested, the wine is hand bottled and now they are poured for me by the hands of the producers themselves.

For Joaquim, it’s a serious retirement hobby. “If I played golf, I would spend the same amount of money and not have wine! he explains merrily. I for one am glad he doesn’t play golf.

Website: http://baroniadevilademuls.com

Where to drink it: The limited production of maximum 2200 litres per year are sold to Belgium, Holland and upscale restaurants in nearby Girona. They also offer tastings on-site

Helpful tips: for you wine aficionados, their best year was 2012

Other wineries also offer tastings. Find wine route information here

Winery tour and tasting organized and sponsored by the tourism boards of Cataluña, Costa Brava and Pla de l’Estany. My thanks are extended to them for the opportunity to discover more of off the beaten track Catalonia.

With thanks to Maria Hart for the review. Her website is TravellingwithHart.com and she can be contacted there.