Montsant Wine Country

After a week of being here, my friend Raquel finally got back to me. It turns out she had some tests the week of my arrival, and was busy working and studying. To make up for it she invited me to go with her family to Capçanes. Capçanes is a really small town in the Tarragona region of Catalonia. It sits in the D.O. (denomination of origin) Montsant, which surrounds the more famous Priorat (if you’ve drank red wine from Spain I’m sure you’ve had Priorat). The town is a wine town through and through and this weekend was the beginning of the harvest.

As you walk through the streets you address everyone either by saying “hola” or “adeu.” Most everybody knows everybody, and while we were walking to the pool we had to stop several times to catch up and to introduce me. Spanish is unheard of, and they were caught off-guard when they found out I only speak Castellano and not Catalan. There is one restaurant, which is also the local bar, and life seems to revolve around the “cope” or co-op. It is the one store that the town has, and it sells the wine from the wine-makers in town. We left town and walked on the dirt roads through the vineyards to where Raquel’s grandparents live.

Her grandparents’ house is on the side of a hill looking over the vines in the valley and the town perched on another hilltop. The pool used to be something that was used for wine, but they cleaned it out and painted it. Even though it was probably 20 feet deep, the water was still 75 degrees from the heat. Even now in September it’s about 85 degrees with 65% humidity. A perfect excuse to swim. This was our relaxation before the work that we were to do that afternoon.

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Lunch was a buffet of jamón, chorizo, cheese, bread, shrimp, mussels, and then a huge pan of paella. The five of us went through 3 bottles of local wine starting with the simplest and ending with the best. They’re generosity comes across aggressively and when I knew I had had enough wine, it was still flowing. I lost track of the conversation, and they noticed me trying adamantly to stay awake. Through the fog of sleepiness they told me it was time to work.

I walked off the wine and we climbed the hillside to where they were harvesting grapes. They gave me clippers and a basket and taught me which grapes were good and which were bad. I was instructed to toss the dry grapes and the ones that were still red instead of purple. My work was slow compared to the others, but we went through three lines in the vineyard in just over an hour. There were enough grapes to fill 5 small trucks. When we finished Raquel and I walked back to her apartment, and promptly began a much-needed siesta.

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