Long live the wine that gives life to Vilafranca!


Vilafranca del PenedèsWine is the essence of Vilafranca. Even the main festival, the other big attraction of the municipality, takes place in a few key days for winemaking: in late August, when the harvest begins, I say “begins”, but I should have said “Started”: with global warming lately it starts earlier). They say that every year for the main festival Sant Fèlix, patron saint of Vilafranca, intercedes to augur a good harvest.

If you go to Vilafranca you can’t miss the Vinseum, Museum of the Wine Cultures of Catalonia, which is in the heart of the town, in the old house-palace of the kings of the Crown of Aragon. One of the missions of any museum is to preserve and explain objects that have fallen into disuse. In this one there are a few that are especially curious.

Xavier Fornos, director of the museum, my host, shows me a shotgun. “It had the function of preventing hail from damaging the vineyard. He was carrying loads of gunpowder that were fired at the foot of the vine into the sky. The lighted load came close to the threatening cloud and instantly raised its temperature and the hail turned into water, ”explains Xavier. “It is a widget invented in France at the end of the 19th century. It was introduced in the Penedès from 1900 onwards ”, he adds. Next to this unique cannon is a machine that pulls the stems: a four-legged metal structure with a steering wheel that pulls a chain that, tied to the stems, tears them easily. The rootstock was widely used in the early twentieth century to uproot the vines that had died from phylloxera and to be able to plant the new European vine grafted with American foot.

A few rooms beyond is a large wooden boot. It is ovoid and belly-shaped, a form that became popular when the trade claimed easy-to-handle containers, despite their weight: rolling boots was a good solution for moving them. Yes, the shape is the same as most of the current ones, but the dimensions are not: this one is a giant size. “How many liters can it hold?” I ask Xavier. “About 18 hectoliters.”

“These boots, called by congreny, were used both for fermentation and for storing wine, from the Middle Ages to the middle of the twentieth century. Because they were so large, the hoops could not be made of iron because they would have broken, as the wood has movement and can be widened to break the hoop. That is why the hoops that press the staves – the transverse woods that form the boots – are also made of wood. Congrenyar means Press. Hence the name congreny boot. Due to their large size, the congress boots had to be built inside the cellar. The one we have here, made of chestnut, to put it in this room, we had to disassemble and assemble a winemaker from Vilafranca: it didn’t go through the door! ”, Comments Xavier, who, like many people from Vilafranca, lives immersed in the world of wine from an early age: his father worked at the Família Torres winery.

“This is where a valet came in to clean the inside of the boot, I imagine!” I say, pointing to the front opening of this conference boot. “Children … And people of all ages!”, Xavier corrects me. “It was sealed with a lime paste so that, when it was full of wine, it would not drain,” he adds.

At the end of the museum I entertain myself for a while observing a mural by Xavier Nogués of a few drunks in the vineyard. It is a satirical illustration that decorated one of the walls of the cellar of the old Laietanes galleries in Barcelona at the beginning of the 20th century. I read: “Three aygues are lost: those that one puts in the wine and that one that serves to baptize old Jew, and that one of the bath that serves old woman ”. Luckily this phrase is no longer used either.


Source: Ara.cat – Portada by www.ara.cat.

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