Living Wine in Reus or #ReusViuelVi (Day 2)
Early in the morning on Saturday (June 8th) I was woken up by the loudest thunder and a tropical storm followed. That’s it, I thought, I was enjoying Reus too much and this weekend has gone to shit, exploding in Biblical wrath. Undoubtedly the locusts were soon to come. Fortunately, by the time I sleepily rolled out of the hotel the sun was shining again and the streets of the city were prettier than the day before (perhaps having hosed off any lingering remnants of the Disco Wine Rave). Hotel Gaudí may look like plucked right out of the 1970s, but it is super-conveniently located in the center.
The first stop of the morning was at the Gaudí Centre, on the beautiful plaça Mercadal where the modernist Casa Navàs is also located (by Domènech i Montaner, the same architect as Palau de la Música in Barcelona). From outside it looks like a shopping mall according to some but I thought it looks more like a chain perfume shop. The good thing about that is our expectations were low, so it turned out to be a really enjoyable museum about Antoni Gaudí’s life and work. By the way, I wasn’t aware that there’s an ongoing battle between Reus and neighboring Riudoms about where Gaudí was ACTUALLY from and both have a house claiming he was born in it. In any case, none of them have any buildings designed by him since no man is a prophet in his own land — even more so in Catalunya. Still, most everything in Reus is named after him!
I won’t tell you more about this museum since it’s very interactive and it has to be experienced in person. So for Gaudí lovers visiting Catalunya: don’t just stay in Barcelona, go to Reus too!
Next up on the program was one of the coolest (and windiest) tastings I’ve ever experienced: on top of the Reus church belltower! The tower is 60m tall and has 214 steps to the top, and it is said Gaudí was inspired by the spiral staircase and used the exact same design in La Sagrada Família. Vega Aixalà winery has high-altitude vineyards in Conca de Barberà, in fact the highest in the region at about 900m, so it was an appropriate setting to taste their wines in the company of their enolog Martí Magrinyà. Punctuated by the sudden outbursts of the bells tolling every 15 minutes, of course. By the way, the two main bells are original and are called Petra Claudia and Sant Bernat. The others, unfortunately, were used to make ammunition during the Spanish civil war given how close Reus was to the main battle lines.
The Vega Aixalà wines were definitely quite different from others in Conca de Barberà I’ve tasted in the past, and had interesting blends in which French varietals were dominant. My favorite was probably the Pinot Gris, as I found the reds to be a bit green for my taste, which could be due to it being a root day (I almost wish I’d never properly learned about the moon phase issue). In any case, I’ll definitely remember that tasting!
After all the drinking we headed to the Museum of Reus to see a special exhibit devoted to painter and native son of the city Marià Fortuny (1838-1874). Despite living only to 36 he was one of the most renowned painters of his time. I particularly liked his Orientalist paintings which, while stereotypical are very rich in details and fascinating.
Lunch was at Vermuts Rofes, a former Vermouth factory now turned into a very scenic restaurant. They have a beautiful terrace, but we ate in the gigantic former barrel room where the magic used to happen. They have left almost as it was during their Vermouth-producing glory days, and is now used for group meals. They still make Vermouth, though, but in a rented space at the De Muller winery where they continue to use their traditional recipe. I had to buy a bottle to take home, of course.
My lunch consisted of tapas staples as a starter and paella as a main, with two different red table wines — one by Xavier Clua in Terra Alta and the other from Cingles Blaus in DO Montsant (which has a cool label with a QR code).
As you can see, the whole place was decorated with lots of old bottles and cellar implements so we all went nuts taking photos. After lunch, as we were heading back to the fair, we came across a shop specializing in Catalan drinks called El Portal de Catalunya and I decided I had to get my hands on a traditional soda bottle for our Vermouth Bar at home. Reus is the Vermouth capital of Catalunya (and possibly the world!), so I had to get a couple more bottles in addition to the one I was already carrying from Rofes. Long live the Vermouth!
The wine fair (and the fun) went on until Sunday night, but unfortunately all good things must come to an end so I had to take the train back on Saturday afternoon due to other commitments. But I made sure to get a pour of the Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc blend from Bernaví winery in Terra Alta, which I then happily sipped on during the ride back to Barcelona. So long, Reus, looking forward to coming back soon!
Many thanks to the Reus Chamber of Commerce and all the organizers and partners for such a fantastic event, and in particular to Josep Baiges (who has an awesome radio voice, btw) and Ruth Troyano for being such great hosts.
(Last two photos taken at El Portal de Catalunya, courtesy of Ruth Troyano)