Home to great red, white and rosé wines, as well as sparkling, naturally sweet and rancio wines, perhaps it’s a little early to try and pinpoint what it means to be a wine from the DO. Pla del Bages. However, for now the region is known for their red wines, both single-varieties and blends, but especially their white wines produced with the Picapoll grape, a native variety to the region and used by almost all of the wineries.
In wine-making contexts, the name of Bages in the town of Manresa is often said to derive from the name of the ancient Roman city “Bacassis” located in the area. Another, more popular theory is that the name “Bages” derives from the Latin “Bacus”, the roman god of wine. According to many historians, the Bages region had always been a region of good wine and strong viticulture, especially before the outbreak of phylloxera. Although Manresa, the capital of the region, was and still remains the main town, it is Sant Benet de Bages that has been the spiritual, cultural and agricultural centre of the region for many years, where the presence of the clergy and monks was instrumental in the development of viticulture. It was here where monks acquired and held many hectares of vineyards situated near the monastery by the river Llobregat, with the Benedictine monastery dominating the Pla de Bages. The regions success in viticulture was later stunted by the outbreak of phylloxera, which forced growers and farmers to uproot vines and cultivate more productive crops during this period, although the region never ceased to be the main supplier of wine to the Pyrenees. The outbreak of phylloxera arrived in the region in 1892, creating a deep crisis in viticulture. However, this period of stagnation was overcome, with the sixties seeing a period of transformations motivated by the efforts of a small group of vintners, adapting vineyards and cellars, culminating with the creation of the DO. Pla de Bagesin 1995, with only seven wineries, which over the years have expanded to twelve. Today, the viticulture and wine are the backbone of the region’s economy.
TheDO. Pla de Bagesis situated in the northeast of Spain, just north of Barcelona in the Bages region, next to the eastern side of the central depression of Catalonia. The DO currently covers 27 municipalities, and is home to 450 hectares of vineyards (between altitudes of 300 and 650 metres), cultivated by 90 vintners and 12 wineries. Two important moments are still visible in the history of this DO: the first, a nostalgia for the recent past before the phylloxera outbreak, and the second, the replanting that removed all trace of whatever was left of this past. The decision then was clear: the future was best dedicated to exports and bringing back the industry as soon as possible, since Bages was home to the ideal conditions for cultivating foreign varieties. And so it was done. The Bages zone cultivates Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot wines with the best consistency and quality in Catalonia. Regarding their whites however, the registered Picapoll variety is dominant. Therefore, the Regulatory Council of the Pla de Bages deserves the merit of having been the first to claim and recover a native variety and put it at the same level as large international foreign varieties. Today, all the wineries grow Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, but also work with the Picapoll grape to produce either single-variety or blended wines, making it an icon of the identity of wine from theDO. Pla de Bages. However, those involved in viticulture in the region have become aware that the great moment for international varieties has passed, and although their presence is still felt, they are working towards a gradual varietal change in the region, with the aim of recovering native varieties to give the modern market what they want: wines with personality that reflect the territory and variety they come from.
TheDO. Pla de Bagesis also known for their vats and barrels, constructed from dry stone in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, where vintners would make and store their wines. Coinciding with the notable expansion of vineyards in the region, many more of these were constructed, and now around 4,000 are still well-preserved. TheDO. Pla de Bagespromotes a plan to learn about and look closely at the original buildings, which was also necessary so that the farmers could save the farming implements and protect themselves from the weather.
Climate, soil and varieties
The climate is Mediterranean with strong continental influences due to its inland location quite far from the sea. The average annual temperature is 13°C and average annual rainfall is between 500mm and 600mm. There is a considerable temperature variation between day and night, and it is very bright. This oscillation, along with the soil compositions, with clay-loam and sandy-loam soils, makes the area ideal for the cultivation of vines and the production of strong wines with large personalities.
The Regulatory Council authorises a range of different grape varieties. In regards to white varieties, the region is home to Sauvignon Blanc and Gewürztraminer, but recommends Macabeo, Parellada, Picapoll White and Chardonnay. Authorised red varieties include Cabernet Franc and Syrah, as well as Sumoll, Garnacha, Ull de Llebre (Tempranillo), Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The region’s native grape variety is the Picapoll, which produces a fruity white wine with a fresh bouquet, splendid texture and great personality. This grape has become symbolic of El Bages’ identity, being the only place in Spain where this valuable variety is cultivated. Efforts are being made to recover other native varieties of black grape, such as the Picapoll Negro, the Sumoll and the Mandó, all of which add to the unique profile of the region.
Wines and Wineries in the Pla de Bages.
Pla de Bageswould be a small, nondescript region, if not for the Picapoll grape and Valentí Roqueta. The first is a white grape variety, as old as the Moscatel, and produces unctuous and structured wines with high acidity. The second is a man who helped drive the resurgence of the region with his winery Bodegas Abadal. Valentí Roqueta comes from a family that has been linked to viticulture since the twelve century and the family’s estate where they used to make wine during that era. His great-grandfather had to cease production after the phylloxera, moving to Manresa where he set up a small business selling wine. However, the Roqueta family later returned to replant and recover the vineyards, founding a wine company in 1898. In 1982, Valentí Roqueta, who has a degree in oenology, returned home to set up a new modern winery next to the family’s historic farmhouse. The new winery was inaugurated in 1983 and would go on to be namedBodegas Abadal. The winery works with Picapoll and foreign grape varieties, as well as committing to the use of native varieties such as Sumoll, Mandó and Ull de Llebre (Tempranillo). Over the past 33 years,Abadalhas managed to become a recognised brand, producing a wide range of youthful wines: with an Abadal Blanco, which is a blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Picapoll and Macabeo; Abadal Rosado, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sumoll; and Abadal Tinto, a blend of Cabernet Franc, Tempranillo and Sumoll, aged for 4 months in oak. Abadal Picapoll follows closely behind, a white wine which truly expresses this magnificent variety, fruity and floral on the nose, potent on the mouth, well bodied and fresh; Abadal Crianza, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, aged for 10 months in barrels of six different oaks, a fusion of power and elegance; Abadal Merlot, a blend of five types of Merlot grapes taken from different plots, aged for 12 months in French, Central European and American oak barrels. Their high end range includes the white wine Abadal Nuat, a single variety Picapoll, aged for 10 months on its lees, followed by a fine development in the bottle. It boasts a great structure, and is fruity and elegant. Among their red wine, Abadal 3.9 stands out, a wine made with grapes taken from a single estate with limestone soils on red clay, where Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah grow on terraces, and the wine is aged for 12 months in new oak barrels. Finally there is Abadal Selecció, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Mandó and Sumoll, taken from a selection of plots with the greatest expression of the territory, and aged for 14 months in European fine grain oak barrels.
Another leading winery in the region is theOller del Mas, whose red wine Arnau Oller was classified in 2015 as “Vi de Finca”, a classification which only 5 other wines have been awarded in Catalonia. With this recognition, the D.O. Pla de Bages was home to the first winery to be awarded the highest category that a wine can reach under the rules of the Generalitat. This wine is made exclusively with Merlot, although with a small touch of Picapoll Tinto taken from the Boïga plot. Boïga is actually a pre-roman word that derives from “boud” which means “to win, to conquer”, since this is a 2 hectare plot won from the forest. In order to be classified as a “Vi de Finca”, a wine must come from a Denominación de Origen, come from vineyards with a yield lower than 15%, score a minimum of 72 in the official tasting of the regulatory council, and have consolidated prestige and quality over a period of at least 10 years on the market. Another exclusive wine produced by the winery is Oller del Mas Picapoll Tinto, a single variety wine with only 380 bottles produced, aged for 9 months in 300 litre French oak barrels, and later rested in the cellars of the castle. It is a fresh wine, with clean aromas of black fruit; it is elegantly spicy with a balanced and long finish that manages to reflect the terroir of a specifically selected vineyard, which has been organically cultivated. The harvest is carried out at night, with maximum attention being paid to the winemaking and ageing processes. The winery also produces Bernat Oller, a blend of the best Merlot and Picapoll Negro grapes from different plots in the estate. The same grapes are used to produce their other wine Bernat Oller Rosado, which offers fruity aromas of cherry, currant, cassis and spices, giving the wine a personality like no other. They also produce the Bernat Oller Blanc de Picapolls, produced with the best Picapoll Blanco and Picapoll Tinto grapes. To complete the list, we have two organic wines: Petit Bernat tinto, a blend of Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Merlot, aged for 3 months in second and third year French oak barrels; and Petit Bernat Blanc de Picapolis, a blend of Picapoll Blanc and Macabeu, offering a pleasant, fresh and fruity character.
Bodegas Piuggros.Although this winery was officially founded back in 2008, the family’s links to viticulture date all the way back to 1843. The winery is located in Cal Pau Palomas, in Òdena, Anoia. The winery cultivates a range of grape varieties, such as Sumoll, Garnacha Tinta, Garnacha Blanca and Cariñena. The range of wines produced by the winery include the white wine Sentis, a single variety Garnacha Blanca, made with grapes taken from vines over 80 years old, fermented in barrels and aged for 4 months on its lees in new 500 litre lightly toasted French oak barrels from Allier. This wine boasts good structure, smoothness, complexity and depth. They also produce the red wine Signes, a blend of Sumoll and Garnacha, taken from old vines between 40-60 years old and aged for 12 months in French oak barrels. This wine offers a lot of character; it is fresh and powerful, while offering a good reflection of the terroir. Another wine by the winery is the Mestre Vilavell, made with Sumoll grapes taken from vines over 80 years old and aged for 12 months in French oak barrels from Allier. This wine serves as a perfect example of what the Sumoll variety can do, it is elegant, silky and fresh. Finally, there is Exedra, a single variety Garnacha wine that ferments in clay amphorae and undergoes malolactic conversion, then ageing for 10 months in 380-720 litre clay amphorae with its lees. It is a wine that expresses some minerality and freshness, with all its fruit and good acidity, it is fresh and elegant with notes of aromatic herbs and spices.
What was initially theBodega Jaumandreu, with an estate of 500 hectares, of which 55 are vineyards, was recovered a few years ago and converted into the new brand:Més Que Paraules. The estate and the winery are located in the municipality of Fonollosa, about 18km from Manresa, the capital of Bages, around 70km from Barcelona. The winery produces only three wines under the Més Que Paraules label; a white wine, a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and native variety Picapoll and worked for 3-4 months on its lees; a rosé, a blend of Merlot and Sumoll, which is fresh and fruity; and finally a red wine, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Sumoll, aged for 10-12 months in 225 litre French oak barrels.
Celler Solergibert is located in Artés and is a strictly family winery. They started out in the world of wine and winemaking in 1730, but did not begin building the small, rudimentary wine-cellar in the middle of the village until 1868. In 1910, the cellar was enlarged and since then, Enric and his father Josep have made several modifications. In 1973, the winery was renovated extensively again, planting many noble grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, as well as the native Picapoll variety. Over the years it has undergone various alterations to achieve the current exemplary facilities that enable them to develop and treat the wines with the greatest respect. The winery began bottling their wines in 1988, producing one of the first reserva wines in the DO Pla de Bages. The winery is now in the hands of the ninth generation of the Solergibert family, who produce a single variety Picapoll white wine, from vineyards that are over 90 years old (Malla Vendrell) and another planted in 1997 with the four best clones of Picapoll in Artés (Tapiada). It is a white wine aged for 3 months in new American oak barrels, giving the wine an aromatic complexity and very interesting flavours. The winery also produces a collection of single varietal and blended red wines, and a very special Sumoll varietal red.