Producer in Focus
Cosmic, Catalunya, Spain
Amor per la Terra ...
This story starts in the vineyards of La Vajol, in the Alt Empordà region of Catalunya, home to some of the most beautiful vineyards I've ever seen. Located at 600 meters above sea level, with the Mediterranean Sea only 20 km ahead, the gnarly looking vines stick out from the most colourful cover crop and the snow-capped Pyrenees mountains cast over the horizon, reminding you of the proximity to France. This beautiful spot is Cosmic's highest vineyard site - amongst the amphitheatre of plots at varying altitudes. Spread across Agullana, Capmany and La Vajol where winemaker Salvador Batlle Barrabeig cultivates local Empordà varieties, with a particular interest in Carignan (Cariñena Blanca, Gris and red) - as well as sites in Rodonyà and the Sierra de Montmell in Baix Penedès where he grows indigenous varieties from Penedès alongside Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc that have adapted well to the terroir.
When we meet Salvador at first light outside the front of his cellar in the small town of Agullana, he radiates warmth and friendliness (even at 7 am!) A humble man, whose approach to looking after the land, and tending to vines, is of someone who is acutely in tune with his environment. Concerned with authenticity and motivated to preserve and cultivate local varieties, Salvador's endeavours are underpinned by a deep spirituality and philosophy to make wines that make you feel good! He even pays close attention to the positioning of his tanks and amphoras in his cellar so that they are placed according to the best geopathic positioning. This is a man who does not do things by halves.View Wines
As we walk through each one of Salvador's vineyards, he explains how white Carignan became very unpopular in the '60s and '70s; after the civil war, people stopped making wine at home to fund the cooperative. Most vines were dug up and replanted with Bordeaux varieties. "We lost most of our identity in this region- it's the same in Penedès - Sumoll was replaced with Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs." The 36 year Franco rule meant that Spain lost a lot of time in terms of development, but today it would seem that things are changing with Salvador at the helm. "Carignan is capable of ageing - which shows that we don't need grapes from other countries; we can be authentic."
"I try to make wines that show the delicacy and depth of these indigenous varieties - [Carignan blanc, gris and rouge]. What makes this region so exciting is that you can find varying styles and soil types in a very small area. If you are a wine lover and want to travel - wines from this region provide a diverse range enabling you to travel through the wine.”
Salvador works with three main soil types - Granite soils in Agullana, Capmany and La Vajol and clay and limestone in Rodonyà and the Sierra de Montmell. He explains that the texture of the soil affects the texture of the wine. "The granite soils give an airy texture with more fresh, crisp character while the clay soils give a little more weight."
Salvador is keen to emphasise that freshness is still achieved when you have altitude and when clay is mixed with limestone, which is certainly a notable characteristic in Salvador's style of wine. "Limestone is amazing; it makes the white wines very pure, strong, deep and mineral. For white wines such as Xarel-lo's and Macabeos, it's just fantastic! It's as though you can eat the rock. This is my take on it anyway. When you live here, you know.”
After a morning exploring Salvador's vineyards, we are invited back to his home for lunch, where we meet his beloved rescue cat Nineta. The cellar is underneath Salvador's apartment, and the carefully positioned tanks are adorned with colourful Buddhist prayer flags. I notice a handwritten sign covering up the clock - something that most people would find difficult to live without. It reads:
"The world needs people who love all that they do. We are all one… we are the world… be love… be wine… be happy…"
While Salvador prepares a delicious homemade Fideuà (a Catalunya paella), we drink the 2020 Vitalitat (Vitality) - an energetic and moreish sparkling Muscat that is the ultimate apéritif wine and the perfect match with olives and hard cheese.
Influenced by Buddhism and Greek stoics, Salvador explains that the "why" in what he does is very important. "In all of what I do, I believe in the power of intention. I try to be connected with the moment."
"For the 2020 vintage, my intention was to make wine that I think that people will want to drink at a time like now. Wines that are pure, easy to digest, refreshing and on the delicate side. Wines that you can keep drinking without getting tired and sluggish - the energy of the wine is carrying you. This is the style that I like to achieve with my wines."
For example, both the Gratitud red and white wines are lighter in body but with a greater length this year - "these are very subtle changes, but my aim is to connect with the present."
"We are tasting the energy of an unforgettable year"
Each of Salvador's wines is named after a feeling or intention that he had when making the wine.
Salvador explains that his winemaking style is more intuitive than technical. Having different sites at different altitudes, allows him to spread out the harvest from August through to October. "I like working this way it allows me to devote my full attention and play a little - it's very complex and exciting. Like a musical conductor."
Salvador enjoys experimenting with acoustics during fermentation. "The volume isn't the important part; it's the frequencies that help to keep it moving - of course, it depends on the music - I like to experiment with Led Zeppelin and classical music. It works for humans. Most of our body is water which is the same as wine. Water changes depending on the frequency of the sounds. I observe the juice and enjoy the sounds - it feels good."
It is clear that Salvador is a man who puts the best of his energy and intention into handcrafting each one of his wines. If his hospitality is anything to go by, you can be sure that the care and devotion that goes his winemaking is unparalleled. Everything is considered.
I ask Salvador if there is anything else that he would like me to share with you and his wish is to share his gratitude towards his family and to you, the wine drinker.
"You are drinking this intention - you are making my ideas possible - to be able to pay a good price to a farmer to be able to cultivate and look after the land, and I hope that you are enjoying my wines."
Salvador's next project is to make a natural wine on a much bigger scale. "I want to make good quality wine that are accessible to all, like when you buy eggs and olive oil - but so that you know the provenance of the wine. This project is about changing the whole of wine consumption as we know it. To preserve the land and a new generation of farmers who can continue to work because they receive a good price for the grapes and can be proud of what they do. In turn, they are motivated because they're equal in the relationship. It's a win-win for both parties, and it makes a better world. Maybe it's romantic, but it's also necessary."
Salvador will start with the first wine this year, and we can’t wait to find out more!
With thanks to Salvador for the hospitality and for sharing your rich culture with us.