Viticulture

Viticulture

The harvest starts! Heat, drought, wild boars and all the variables you know make this year special. The harvest is a few days ahead and we have already started to collect the varieties of the plan and also the red hawthorn from Mas Marès.

August, the days are shorter and the heat seems to be giving us a break, at least at night. However, the high temperatures in July and the drought we are experiencing -it hasn’t rained hard for many months- have meant that exceptionally this year we had to advance the harvest by a good week.

We say exceptionally, but we know that this reality can be the general tone in the years to come. Climate change is unstoppable and we feel that we must adapt to it as best we can. Making progress in an integrated management of the territory, which takes into account the climatology, soil conservation and the fragile balance of the ecosystems, will favor that we can reap the benefits in the future as well. That is why, since we started the Mas Marès project, we decided that we would do everything possible to preserve the legacy that we as humans have received from nature. Land near the sea, with low bushes, corks and now also vineyards that favor the control and protection of unique species of Cap de Creus.

In these lands where Anna Espelt’s most personal project is built, a few years ago we planted Grey Grenache, with grafts from the old vines of Rabós. This week is the grape we start to harvest, this local variety of Grenache that is rosé. Planting local varieties has for some time been the most suitable decision for our land: they are more adapted to the territory and will therefore need less water and withstand the wind.

Emporda varieties, unique terroirs and a vintage that is just beginning. Happy harvest everyone!

Last Friday, Anna Espelt was on the special program of El Món a Rac1 from Llançà. With Anna Vallhonesta we talked about viticulture and traveling the world and returning to Born. Of what we have learned and of all the work we have left to do.

Anna Espelt el món a rac 1
Anna Espelt in El Món a Rac1

We are always glad to explain our work. Our land, the sea and the mountains, is what defines us and what marks the wines of the Empordà. Explaining ourselves and the territory means talking about our wines and understanding them a little more. We took a look at the why of the integral management between natural parks and vineyards and we talked about how we manage them to promote biodiversity in the lands we cultivate and about the sea, the tramuntana and the sun. Three key aspects that accompany us and that define our wines.

You can relive the interview and tell us about!

Slightly earlier than other years, the vines begin to change their colors. The color change of the grapes occurs when the last phase of fruit ripening begins. When the grapes start to appear ripe, it’s time to wait and see all the colors.

Grenache vine

Last year we told you about the small differences in the changing color time of the different terroirs we take care of. We are sure that this year the progression of this phenomena will be broadly similar, from the most flat terroirs to those of higher altitude.

However, the high temperatures of these days and the lack of rain, make us suspect that the whole maturation process is advancing slightly. We know that stopping climate change is not in our hands, we try to study what abrupt changes the climate emergency is causing. The conclusions we reach is that local varieties are more resilient to high temperatures, drought, wind. Therefore, they are also the ones who with less effort will be able to live happily in our terroirs. The changing colors arrive, little by little, but evenly. The viticultural work is done, for now. Now that the vines are in a new periode, all that remains is wait and see. In a few weeks we will be able to harvest these tasty fruits.

The end of the vineyard cycle is near. We already have well-populated berries and we are waiting for not last minute surprises. We have a look back on this intense year’s harvest.

We are facing this harvest with a desire to review the last few months. We worked hard and received the support of such spectacular visits as Jancis Robinson in September. There are eight generations of winemakers who endorse us, but there is always time for innovation. We now feel that we are facing a stage of maturity and consolidation. Our project based on respect for the land and the sustainable management of resources is more than twenty years old and that’s quite impressive even for us.

Our comprehensive management of the vineyards tries to take care of the biodiversity of the area. Encouraging the preservation and improvement of biodiversity is right now the cornerstone of our project. After the fire in Mas Marès, in February, we had a test (which we had never wanted) of the good work done in Cap de Creus. This Mediterranean mosaic project, an agricultural management system that combines different types of agricultural areas (pastures, vineyards and high protection areas) has been shown to be the best fire prevention.

Awards and pending work

After all, we try to make our wines as an expression of small pieces of Empordà landscape. This is the territory we consciously care for. We couldn’t do it any other way. The reward for this work over the years has been recognized recently by the awards received. In first place, Pla de Tudela – Anna Espelt (Best Picapoll Blanc segons La Guia de Vins de Catalunya 2022). Then it was the turn of Les Elies (Gold Medal Grenaches du Monde 2022). Finally, the silver medals of the WWA Decanter 2022 for Coma Bruna (100% Carignan) and Lledoner Roig (100% Grey Grenache).

Finally, the visit this spring of Dylan Grigg, an expert in viticulture, has helped us to make a panoramic reflection of everything we have advanced. We have done a lot of work on local varieties, on resilience, on bearded vines, on potted vines. It has also helped us to make a stop and see everything we have left to do. Little by little we are making our way!

Coma Bruna (91 points) and Lledoner Roig (92 points) received the Decanter Silver Medal, one of the most important recognitions in Europe. These are two Decanter Silver medals in addition to the Bronze Medals for Terres Negres (89 points) and Quinze Roures (88 points).

Espelt wines awarded the Decanter Silver Medal

We are very pleased with this new recognition we receive from one of the most prestigious competitions in Europe: Decanter World Wine Awards. On this occasion, the Decanter Silver Medal goes for two wines that are an homage to the most essential Empordà terroir, Coma Bruna, 100% Carignan, and Lledoner Roig, 100% Gray Grenache.

These are two wines that were the beginning of a long reflection for the recovery of local varieties, such as Carignan (red, white) and also Gray Greanche (also called lledoner roig). Both are also wines that come from our oldest vineyards, from Rabós, and that express in a particular way a terroir of shales, from vineyards in vas, very adapted to our microclimate.

In this edition of Decanter World Wine Awards we also received the Bronze Medal for Terres Negres and Quinze Roures. These two Espelt flagship wines represent our desire to make Empordà wines, ecological, that express the territory. Since the 2020 vintage, they have both been ecologically certified, a further step in our commitment with our landcape and its ecosystem. You can find them in our store!

We are very pleased to announce that we offer a winetour forward to hearing from you in the last days of spring in the vineyard. We open visits to the vineyards of Vilajuïga with tasting. It will be on June 4th and 18th.

Wientour in Vilajuïga

These days in June, with endless hours of sunshine, mean that we are slowly entering summer. The field feels it, too, and little by little, the vegetation is turning yellow, while the vines go from having nothing, to having primroses, flowers, and perhaps frost.

These are key moments for the vineyard, the evolution of the plant these days, the weather, will largely determine the production. That is why we open visits in an exceptional way. We will be very excited that you come to know this unique moment in our vineyards of Vilajuïga. It will be on Saturday, June 4th and 18th, in the morning, so that the sun does not burn us too much. You need to wear comfortable shoes in order to share with us all the secrets that hide the vineyards.

You will have the opportunity to know with the explanations of Anna Espelt, director of the winery, how we work in ecological vineyards. We consider that the integral management of the territory, respecting the biodiversity and regenerating the soils are essential, if we want to make wine for many years. The visit will be accompanied by a tasting of Espelt wines.

Practical information:

Integral land management requires a lot of observation, understanding the land in its circumstances. In recent years we have seen that the viticulture that the land deserves is sustainable, integrated and regenerative. A way of doing things that confirms that only if we work the land with love and respect can we continue to reap the benefits.

viticulture land deserves

The last fire in February, which burned several hectares of pastures and bushes in Cap de Creus, confirmed something that we had been intuiting for some time, but which we had not yet been able to verify. Comprehensive land management is the only way we have for human action to benefit biodiversity.

In Catalonia, the forest mass continues to grow, due to the abandonment of pastures and farmland. We have large forests and at the same time this is not always synonymous with great diversity and yes, with a higher risk of fires. It is one of the first things we learned when we started planting vines in Cap de Creus and we planned to distribute them with the technicians of the Cap de Creus Natural Park. Management was needed to promote the biodiversity of the area and protect especially the habitat of protected species areas.

MIDMACC: viticulture, erosion and climate change

For our part, biodiversity could play in our favor, we sensed, now we know. The coexistence of different species, some introduced by the human hand, such as cows or the little kestrel, others that have been there for a long time naturally, helps the virtuous circle to continue to function. Everything contributes to the richness of the soils and their preservation. Moreover, we continue working with scientific and research studies such as the MIDMACC study by the UAB CREAF research group, which has analyzed the different factors that affect the vulnerability of mid-mountain soils, with special attention to climate change and its effects. This week we participated in a conference organized by this research group to explain our experience after the fire of February and the provisional results confirms again our choices.

In short, the viticulture that the land deserves must be borne in mind that it is part of a much broader system that must be respected. Dry stone walls built over a century ago and rebuilt now are also part of the cycle. Also the vineyards, another part of all this space managed in an integrated, holistic way. No element is left over, they all play in favor of the territory.

Vivid is here with two activities: Nature in the Espelt vineyards and Wines and Landscapes in Cap de Creus. These are the activities we have prepared for the wine tourism festival in the Empordà during the month of April. Wine is made on land. Come and taste Espelt wines while discovering the nature around us.

Espelt Viticultors presents two activities at the Vívid, the wine tourism festival in the Empordà that takes place during the month of April.

The first activity is a walk through the vineyards of Mas Marés to learn about the management of the territory through agricultural systems of high natural value, a mosaic that protects and ensures the biodiversity of the area. We will get to know the area of Mas Marés and Pla de Gates, recently affected by a forest fire that was stopped thanks to the integrated management we do of these lands. We will also discover the fauna and flora that coexist harmoniously and that make us aware of the need to take care of the territory, the most precious legacy we have.

The second activity is with the collaboration of the IAEDEN (Alt-Empordà Institution for the Defense and Study of Nature). We invite you to make an itinerary on foot through the vineyards of Vilajuïga to discover all the natural treasures which are hidden in the framework of the Vivid Festival. With the ornithologist David Ibáñez, and in the midst of the bird migration season, we will have the opportunity to observe birds returning from the warm lands after winter. We will also identify aromatic plants that coexist among the strains, and if we are lucky otters!

During the two walks with Anna Espelt, director of Espelt Viticultors, we will taste wines that come from the vineyards that we will be visiting, and that Anna and her team work so hard to have all this natural richness. At the end of Natura’s itinerary in the vineyards, we can also pair them with a table of local cheeses from the Abricoc store.

Practical information activities:

Wines and landscapes of Cap de Creus

Nature in the Espelt vineyards

Des que el 2004 vam començar a plantar vinya a Mas Marès, al Cap de Creus, sabíem que volíem respectar al màxim l’ecosistema existent i fins i tot aportar-li més riquesa. Us expliquem què és el mosaic i com el treballem a Mas Marès fins crear el que s’anomena tècnicament un sistema agrari d’alt valor natural.

Ja fa quasi vint anys que vam comprar les vinyes de Mas Marès. De seguida ens vam posar en contacte amb el Parc Natural del Cap de Creus per treballar conjuntament en la gestió d’aquell tros de territori. Les vinyes estarien inserides en un espai natural que estimem, calia fer-ho bé. A més, conscients que la mà dels ésser humans hi ha estat present des de fa milers d’anys (dòlmens i menhirs ho certifiquen) calia una gestió integrada de totes les terres.

Mas Marès i tot el Cap de Creus és un paisatge que meravella a tothom que ens ve a conèixer. Darrere de la bellesa hi ha sí o sí una gestió, imprescindible. El 2004 amb l’ajuda de Xavi Vilavella, tècnic del Parc Natural en aquell moment, i de l’Anna Sanitjas, enginyera forestal que va fer el projecte tècnic de gestió i millora forestal, vam idear la distribució del mosaic a Mas Marès. El pla de gestió de les terres tenien i tenen en compte uns objectius compartits:

  • prevenció d’incendis forestals
  • augment progressiu de la biodiversitat
  • protecció de les espècies en perill d’extinció
  • eliminació de plantes invasores

Els elements del mosaic de Mas Marès

El mosaic o sistema agrari d’alt valor natural fa el territori més resilient al canvi climàtic, als incendis, i li aporta més capacitat per nínxols ecològics, per tant més biodiversitat. Les quatre unitats del mosaic de Mas Marès, al Cap de Creus, estan distribuïts estratègicament en quatre unitats que es retroalimenten creant un cercle virtuós, un ecosistema equilibrat:

  • pastures: s’han mantingut les velles, amb les vaques, i se n’han anat creant de noves, desbrossant. Són a la part Nord i per tant la zona més exposada a perills com el foc
  • vinyes i oliveres: amb coberta vegetal verda a la tardor, hivern i primavera. A l’estiu es treballen les zones que limitem amb el matollar, per a fer de tallafocs.
  • suredes: regenerar aquests espais és clau, són ecosistema madur, evolucionat en aquesta zona, perquè sempre n’hi ha hagut. Hem mantingut les que hi havia, hem netejat el sotabosc mantenint els plançons
  • zones sense intervenció: a l’extrem sud, és on hi ha els ecosistemes més establerts. Els deixem que evolucionin de forma natural cap a ecosistemes més madurs a nivell de diversitat. Interessa protegir-los al màxim.

Les zones es distribueixen en funció de la vulnerabilitat de l’ecosistema que volem protegir. En el cas del mosaic de Mas Marès, la zona Nord és clarament la zona més exposada a incendis i per tant a pèrdues. Per tenir un mosaic equilibrat és imprescindible la cura de totes les unitats que requereixen intervenció. Si ho voleu escoltar en paraules de l’Anna Espelt us recomanem aquest episodi de Bar de Vins.

Since we can remember, we have seen cows in Albera and Cap de Creus. Changes in the contemporary world have made transhumance more complicated. The beasts, however, still need to change their minds when winter comes.

For years, we have had an agreement for these cows from Ripollès to graze in our vineyards in Cap de Creus. They win with good pastures: Xavi, the shepherd, tells us that if it rains there will be good grass (hopefully it will be so and it will rain soon!).

The whole environment of Mas Marés also gains with an enriched ecosystem. Thanks to its presence, we help the mosaic, this Mediterranean landscape that is a reflection of the variety of ecosystems and biodiversity. With the cows, one more element is added so that the different ecosystems that coexist in this space create synergies between them. Cows are important because they make for more open space, which is great for other animals to come, such as the little kestrel, which we’ve already told you about. They also reduce flammable biomass and therefore reduce the risk of fire, bringing more organic matter to the soil, thus closing a virtuous circle. If you go up to the Pic de l’Àliga or Pla de Gates you can find the cows grazing quietly again and sunbathing and wind, and hopefully it will rain soon. Tell us if you were able to greet them, did you see them?

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