This is the third part of my three part series on DO Montsant from my March 2018 visit.
One of the most exciting things to experience is putting foot on ground where your wines are being sourced from. Especially if it is a distant place and it is most gratifying when the first crunch of earth is beneath your foot. The photo below documents my first crunch of beautiful soil of broken slate “Llicorella” at Mas de l’Abundància.
My memory and relationship with wine is that it is not just while visiting but to seek out wines from Montsant in my marketplace. The best pairing is with Montsant and food. Montsant’s Garnaxta, Carinyena, Garnaxta Blanca, Macabeo and other wine varieties are optimum for food and to enjoy without food as well.
The wide range food is not just limited to Catalan, Mediterranean but a wide range of foods from around the world. Not all wines varieties and regions are versatile to a wide range of foods as is DO Montsant.
Monstant food and wines
What you will find in the cuisine style of Catalunya is that the inland area away from the Mediterranean are focused more on lamb and pork than seafood. This makes perfect sense as this regions access to seafood would have been limited in the early part of last century. But today the update in cuisine is to enjoy the offerings of the Mediterranean but also join with the traditional foods of regions inland. I was in time for the Calçots season (Calçots are very large green onions) they are served grilled and the fun is pealing off the smoked and blackened portions and to enjoy the delicate sweetness of this green onion with fresh Romesco sauce. Romesco originates in Tarragona and is easy to prepare with that which is local – sweet red pepper, almonds, olive oil, tomatoes and parsley.
The rustic serving tray (as pictured above) with charcoal on bottom of grill with lamb chops and sausage reminded me of Korean BBQ and more delighted in the coals didn’t exude an intense smell but cooked the lamb. This was most intriguing and fun!
The parade of great foods from Montsant were not overly prepared; the foods were nicely and simply prepared with as many local ingredients as possible. In several dishes was salted cod which is a yesteryear ingredient of great practicality and gives a wonderful flavour of the Mediterranean and historical connection.
One of my favourite dishes is the Catalan rice dish with peas and Artichokes–nicely rich like a Risotto–just enough salt to capture the flavours of dish and rich enough to enjoy as one’s main plate (second dish).
The thematic of certain flavours remind me of the ground tour as well as sitting in the dining room chair in Falset. The taste and smell of Montsant Olive Extra Virgin Olive Oil, the richest and sweetest green onions Calçots, Rosemary, Thyme, almonds and hazelnuts encapsulate in my mind this glorious experience. While the earth is ideal for Calçots to not grow everywhere they can only grow here. The richness of earth, sacredness of soil can only perfect the Calçots there. There was also a rich assembly of local cheeses and charcuterie that make one’s journey to Montsant easy to get to know and appreciable to taste and enjoy that which is local and a nearly universal custom for wine.
Food & Montsant Wines
Wine of place is important not just while your visiting a wine region but for the long haul and to share with those closest to you. My way of sharing is get these wines in my marketplace and share with family and friends (I have listed a few retailers in the US where you can purchase Montsant wines). When I talk to people about what wines they pour at their dinners there is a tendency or desire to get matchy-matchy with cuisine to wine (e.g. Italian wines with Italian food). Instead I change up and yes it is fun to pair wine with the cuisine style where the wine comes from but I get a sense of excitement when I share a potential new wine region with my guests. I am adventurous and pair a mild Mole Poblano and wine; a mushroom Risotto with Iberian wines; Pizza with Beaujolais, German food with Croatian wines.
Here is what I will pair in the future with Montsant wines (white, rosé and red) and food on my dinner table this summer:
- Three mushroom Risotto (Crimini, oyster and Porcini)
- Rotisserie Chicken
- Orecchiette Bolognese
- Salad with hazelnut and strawberries (reminding me of the salad I had in Falset)
- Oven roasted chicken
- Chicken and rice
- Rice and arthicoke
- Pork chop with rosemary
- Salted cod
- Pork Loin
I cannot always be in Montsant which, of course, I will visit again. But until then the sacredness of the wines of this region–a style of Garnaxta that is distinct from Aragon regions Somontano, Campo de Borja, Calatayud, and Carinena) , Empordà, Terra Alta, France, Sardinia, North or South America or Australia. Montsant represents to me red, blue, black fruit, hint of florals, savory qualities of dried herbs; a dense colour and nice weighty texture. Some Grenache can be lighter in style and hint of crushed red candy qualities (I love this descriptor–not a negative comment). I love Montsant and all of the wines of this distinct young DO but ancient land of wine, food and culture with a small and welcoming people.
I recommend a visit to this region on your next journey–the visitas and experience are a rich reward.
My Sketching While On My Travels
This section shows how I love to capture in a brief and casual sketch the place I am visiting. Below shows not a one-on-one relationship but a feeling like the impressionist of the 19th century. My intent is not to create a master work but to give a quick impression and more of feeling that an actual point-for-point sketch. I am also trying to capture any relevant video to capture, taking photos, notes, and listening to the winemaker; as example when I was visiting Mas de l’Abundància I was also listening to Jesus Del Rio talking about his love and stewardship of his land and the wines his vines are producing. And I also was joyously multitasking to taste the wines on site where they are being produced.
I was intrigued by the tank room at the Portal del Montsant – this building is over one hundred years old and was built for the Marcá Wine Cooperative. The intricate wood work on the “V” roof was appreciable distinct and regional in architecture and design. I like that this is an architecture that is distinctly old world and I know there is no example like this at least in North America.
It was exceptionally nice to taste on this great view point tasting Acústic Celler’s with the winemaker Albert Jané. The windswept point was beautiful to see budding of the vines.
Vinyes Domènech was a beautiful incline with glorious vistas – the site is 450-500 meters above sea level / 1,400-1640 feet above sea level between Llaberia and Montalt mountains. The site inspired me with it’s abundance of wild Thyme and Rosemary–the vines preciously planted on the hillside.
Retailers where you can buy DO Montsant wines:
- Wine.com – available through many US states
- Noe Valley Wine Merchants – San Francisco, CA
- Sherry-Lehmann Wine & Spirits – New York, NY
- Flatiron Wines & Spirits – New York, NY and San Franisco, CA
- K&L Wine Merchants – San Francisco, Hollywood, and Redwood City, CA
- Arlequin Wine Merchants – San Francisco, CA
Two previous articles I wrote on DO Montsant:
James the Wine Guy
Demystifying Wine…One Bottle at a Time from all wine regions around the world.
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