Take a look at the label of Barthomeus wines. It is full of dots. 13 dots to be exact. They are there for a reason.
While checking into the Hotel Solvi in Vilanova, I told the clerk at the registration that we were here to visit the Penedès. He raised his thumb to his lips and replied, “ Vins bons”. Good wines. This is the first identity of this very emerging wine region near Barcelona. Driving by Vilafranca del Penedès, for instance, you see the valley carpeted with vineyards.
While this is not going to be a full on discussion of Penedès, some perspective is necessary.
The girls get the last laugh
The Penedès is divided into three regions depending upon its proximity to the Mediterranean. Alt Penedès is farther from the sea, while Baix Penedès is closer to the water. Penedès Central is, as you guessed, in the between the two.
In the olden days when the property was divided among the heirs, the boys got the better and more fertile regions while the girls got the crappy regions which was mostly in the Baix Penedès. But it was later on that it was recognized that the areas with “poor” soils made better wines! That’s how Carme Llasat’s grandmother acquired this incredible property in El Vendrell (pronounced El Ven-thray-yee)
Along the Roman roads
The property of Barthomeus is comprised of 13 separate plots of vineyards. At least one of these lots has been continuously planted with vines for more almost 1700 years! Because of the thin topsoils, the vineyards are terraced with stone walls. According to Carme, the walls were built at least around the Roman times. It could have it’s origins even before that – to the times when the Iberians inhabited this region.
History in the earth
Walking on the property is an incredible treat. Remnants of Greek and Roman pottery are scattered all over in the vineyards. You can find part of a quarry that sourced stones for building the Roman aqueducts. Also, right in the vineyard, you will see a forge that dates back to the Iberian times.
Visiting each of the 13 vineyards of Barthomeus can feel like stepping back in time. When the label for their red blend and rosé was originally designed, they decided to literally show the vineyards on the label with the 13 dots!
An ecological winery
The entire property is designated by the government of Catalunya as a wild life refuge. The winery does adopt any practices that will disturb the ecosystem including the abundant flora and fauna. They do not use any chemical pesticides or fertilizers in their vineyards. This is a dry farmed vineyard. They are a true ecological winery.
Utimately, the wines are what this winery is about. In this region of Penedès, white wines have always been important – Xarel.lo, Macabeu etc. But Carme’s grandmother decided to swim against the current and planted red grapes – Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It was such an unusual thing to do in those days that other vignerons in the region came just to see this. Personally, we like people who swim against the current.
Now about those wines..