Is Catalonia so different from the rest of Spain that its people are willing to officially defy the central government in Madrid and break away from the country? It's certainly looking that way. The Catalan parliament has recently voted to formally begin proceedings toward secession from Spain with the hope of declaring independence by 2017. I hope the Catalans are ready for a long and bumpy ride!
If you haven't kept up on Spanish politics lately, the level of Catalan dissension toward the central government of Madrid has become so strong that the move to secede is underway. With its own language, a 1000 years of recorded history as its own separate region, and a population around the size of Switzerland (7.5 million), Catalonia lays a strong claim for sovereignty.
On a buying trip in October 2014, I was struck by the emotion throughout Catalonia and the passionate arguments to justify its crusade toward independence. I was there a month before a November vote was to take place about whether or not the region should secede - a vote that the central government in Madrid was claiming to be unconstitutional. As you can imagine, emotions were high.
It's obvious that things ARE distinctly different here. Anyone who has experienced the electricity of Barcelona would agree that it's like no other city in Spain. If Gaudi's eccentric architecture doesn't blow your mind, La Rambla, that funky, street performer strip in the heart of the city, certainly will.
The Catalans take great pride in their culture and region. They have worked hard to preserve an indigenous language that is closer to French and Italian than it is to Spanish or Portuguese. Their innovative cuisine often mixes seafood and meats in the same dish which is something unique compared to the rest of Spain. And the wine? Well, now we're talking! This might just be one of Catalonia's biggest steps forward in making a world-class name for itself.
Having sold Spanish wines for the last 20 years, nothing excites me more about Spain than the incredible wines being made in and around Barcelona. From the big reds coming out of the hilly Priorat region to the Cava producers along the coast, there is an evolution of quality wine making that serves to establish just the kind of individuality the Catalans so deeply crave. So it's my pleasure to introduce you to a couple of fantastic new producers I discovered and now importing into the US.
Inland from Barcelona about a hundred miles lies the appellation known as Costers del Segre. Wine making goes back to Phoenician and Roman times in this region but some of the most intriguing evidence for winemaking is from the 12th Century. Local monks at the time dug out stone vats throughout the valley just like the fermentation vats you see here on the property of Costers del Sió. This valley is fed by the Segre River gushing down from the Pyrenees Mountains which nurtures some of the finest Tempranillo, Garnacha and Cabernet I have tasted anywhere in Spain.
Two brothers manage Costers del Sió and they run a truly eco-balanced property with naturally raised pigs, cows and grapes that are grown using organic and sustainable farming techniques. Modern equipment and the soft touch of a female winemaker add up to an amazing lineup of balance and style. Costers del Sió is doing everything right and one taste of Les Creus and Petit Sios will make you a believer.
From the Priorat region I'm thrilled to introduce you to Maius Estate - a micro-winery run by Josep Gomez and his father. The reputation of the Priorat has grown in cult-like fashion and today it is home to the most expensive reds in Spain. What I love about Josep is his passion for the vineyard first, and the wine second. In other words, Josep and his dad are true farmers. They understand the importance of caring for the vines and what it takes to produce top-shelf wine.
There is no question that the Catalans have their work cut out for them as they travel down the road to independence. Right or wrong, I can't help but admire their passion for preserving their language, their history and a tradition that goes back centuries. I may not be able to aid their cause directly but I'm happy to be importing their wines, raising a glass of their delicious juice and wishing them all the best. If you would like to join me, go to www.bloodhoundwines.com and order some of these stunning bottles for yourself. Salut!