They say life is full of adventure, but we often hear stories from elders that make us think that we may not always be able to get the most out of life; however, if we're lucky, we can listen and learn from them. That's what compelled me to tell the unique story of a young winemaker whose story came to be because of three elderly women who lived and worked to save vineyards in the village of Porrera in Priorat.
Autumn in the Celler Vall Llach vineyards in Porrera, Priorat.
The story began in 2007 when Albert Costa was studying oenology at the Facultad de Tarragona (URV) and decided to talk to his father Enric Costa and his father's colleague Lluís Llach, founders of the Vall Llach winery. He proposed taking on his own project in the winery that would be geared toward testing new types of fermentation and reviving native varieties of grapes within the region.
The ancient vineyards of Celler Vall Llach in Porrera, Priorat
After a few years of enjoying making these wines and managing one of the few wineries with the ‘Vino de Finca’ certification in the region of Catalonia, Albert believed it was time that people knew about these successes and especially those who worked in the vineyards during his youth, without whom the Priorat vineyards would have been lost.
"I've always thought that all people are important, especially in towns like Porrera where most people have endured several economic crises but have put in so much effort to forge ahead."
Finally, he made the decision to dedicate the wines to these people, particularly the women who worked in the field when the price of grapes was minimal and the work was very hard.
Thus were born Matilde, Joaquina and Catalina, three wines dedicated to three women who are nearing or have even surpassed 100 years old. These women worked in the vineyard when nobody would have bet on its success. Now, thanks to their work, the vineyard is home to some of the best grapes in the world.
Albert told us:
“Catalina was born in 1914. In the evenings, I try to sit with her whenever I can and she tells me about the history of the town and countryside. You could write a book with all her knowledge...She always tells me that I can also live to be 102 if I work hard, but only if it's doing something that makes me very happy...We dedicated a Garnacha fermented and aged in amphorae to her.”
Catalina’ beside her namesake bottle of Garnacha
“Matilde is a woman that I love very much and who will make your day with a simple smile. She is such a charming woman who really deserves this and so much more. I dedicated a pink Garnacha wine to her that was also fermented in amphorae."
Matilde’ beside her pink Garnacha wine
“Joaquina was the last of the three to arrive and I dedicated a white wine to her that is made with a local variety from Priorato known as Escanyavella, Palot or Verdiell and a hint of Garnacha Blanca. Joaquina is very friendly and we wanted the wine to convey that."
Joaquina’ beside winemaker Albert Costa in the town of Porrera, Priorat
Stories like these bring personal history to the wine and even more so with this project because the women were the ones who decided on most of the label designs. Of course, each woman brought her own unique perspective and it wasn't easy to get them to agree on a single label design. Catalina and Joaquina chose flowers as the main features of their labels while Matilde wanted her face to be the main focus. It was not easy to convince Matilde of the floral design, so designer Aida Castellvell and Albert visited her in her home just before bottling. She greeted them in a very flowery nightgown and they took her photo as inspiration for the label design.
Albert Costa, winemaker and owner of Celler Vall Llach, pointing to ‘Mas de la Rosa’, the vineyard where the grapes for his distinguished Vino de Finca wines come from Celler Vall Llach's ‘Mas de la Rosa’ wine awarded the Vino de Finca certification
Albert concluded by saying:
"The most important and beautiful part of this project is its purpose. In addition to being a tribute to these women who worked in the vineyard, the winery has reached an agreement with the Municipality of Porrera so that the money generated from the sale of these three wines will go towards financing projects for the greater community...and that couldn't make me happier..."
Photographs: Courtesy of Celler Vall Llach and Evelyn Israel