We leave the Pyrenees-locked country of Andorra on the 104th day of our EU Austerity Drinking Tour. Spain is our next step: land of Cava, Rioja, Bierzo, Ribera del Duero and countless other wines.
The bus winds and weaves through breathtaking, somewhat nausea-inducing, scenery.Cliff castles, shrub-dusted hills, Romanesque churches, and deep ravines all zip past like a slide show. Then fingered rocks form the most surreal horizon.
After a few hours, the road straightens, the land flattens, and agriculture and industry take over the landscape. We grow tired of a chatty traveler from Israel. Now, less dramatic villages crawl by, occasionally peppered by a ruin or two.
Finally, we arrive in Barcelona. Its urban sprawl challenges our apartment hunt. But we find our Art Nouveau foyer, meet hosts, dump bags, and head out for food.
Everything seems closed thanks to All Saints Day. So we venture into the human crush of Las Ramblas: Barcelona’s endless avenue of shops, food, tourists, and devious pick-pockets. A vegan diner in the gothic core delights and we watch the sunset fall over Barcelona’s port.
The next day sends us back into the Gothic core. Repurposed Roman fortifications still form the outline of Barcelona’s ancient center.
But we came for wine. Luckily, excavations under Barcelona’s modern streets found just that: a Roman winery from the third century.
The winery spreads over 600 square meters and preserves each step of Roman wine-making. Let’s start with one press:
Here’s a transfer tank with an overcomplicated, gravity-feeding system:
From these spaces, fresh grapes juice would run to cement-lined fermentation and settling vats:
Finally, wine would be transferred to a cellar full of large ceramic dolia or pithoi:
Underground, the vessels would remain a cool constant temperature, aging, and seeing a barrage of additives before being shipped throughout town or beyond. Roman wine likely tasted nothing like today’s purity obsessed drink. Imagine something more akin to chai tea: full of spices, stabilizers, and sweeteners.
Back above ground and in “modernity”, dark medieval alleys open to beautiful courtyards, trellised with vines:
We even find a Temple of Augustus in a club hallway:
Barcelona’s Gothic core is a fascinating mess of history. The present’s endless reuse of history allows one, for free, to walk through this living museum. To even sip coffee in cloister:Exhausted after hours of meandering into temples, churches, cloisters, and the like, we discover Barcelona’s best wine shop: Vila Viniteca:
The walls ring with bottles of fabulous-ness:
But this being an Austerity Drinking Tour, we close the night with a rare (but reasonable), vintage Cava. Llopart organically grows 230 mountainous acres not far from Barcelona in the Penedes.
Their Brut Nature Reserva, Cava, Spain is vintage 2008 and a mere 10.10 Euros
It looks a clear, mild lemon color, with small bubbles. Young, calm aromas smell of white pear, lemon and lime. This being a Brut Nature, no sugar is added, so it is dry, tart, and lighter than most fizzes. Med intense flavors of chamomile, lemon and lime juice, and soft pear last for medium length.
Overall, Llopart’s 2008 Brut Nature is a very good (4 of 5), naturally produced Cava. It is extremely lean, with rapier-like acidity, which makes it massively refreshing: the perfect cap to a sunny day in bewildering, ancient Barcelona.