VISION: “Lleva mucho tiempo llegar a ser joven” (It takes a lot of time to become young) Pablo Picasso.
With this phrase, the world famous painter from Malaga, who on several occasions throughout his life sought tranquility and inspiration in the Terra Alta region, summed up a lifetime of work and creativity, fighting against inertia and boredom by reinventing his art with daily challenges.
Celler Batea perfectly identifies itself by making wines with a Catalan sense of place enlighten with that spirit of nonconformity that must be present in the different stages of any vital project. The people working in this coop like what they do. Wine and land are the core of their culture and identity and they face the challenge of each harvest with the deep understanding that agriculture and winemaking are a never ending learning experience.
The blue Mediterranean sky has witnessed the importance of wine culture in the lives of the people of the town of Batea throughout the centuries. Batea is not just a cellar: it represents the spirit of local town and a lot of small growers joining forces together.
History never lies and the Phoenicians where the first to establish trade routes with different geographical points on the Iberian peninsula.
Batea is located less than 50 km from the Ebro river’s estuary and the first evidences of the wine trade date back to the 7th century B.C. The wine that the Phoenicians brought as an article of commercial exchange, and that the local population reserved exclusively for ceremonial rites, began to be produced in the area and over time became one of the protagonists of the today known as the Mediterranean diet.
At the end of 1950 a group of local wine growers began to be more aware of the social and economic importance that the vines’ cultivation represented. They soon decided to take a step forward uniting wills and resources in the creation of Celler Batea.
The beginning was au usually pretty much complicated. In a general context of economical instability and following the principle of doing more with less, the 101 founding growers of Celler Batea built the original facilities at the same time that they cultivated the vineyards, culminating in 1961 with the elaboration of the first vintage, constituting the first chapter of a long history. On top of this, Batea produces olive oil as well.
Every vintage is different and every given year the growers must be more and more careful to control every single vineyards row as Batea farms completely organic.
The organic certified viticulture is probably one of the most demanding activity and best expresses the delicate relationship between the farmer and the environment. Through the eyes of the grower the year passes through a succession of terraces and plains, where vivid colors alternate from the greenish white of the olive tree in bloom, passing through the pale pink of the almond trees to the yellowish green or the dark red of the white and red Garnacha grapes.
No chemical are sprayed by the 208 local growers joining forces at Celler Batea and the Terra Alta landscape will keep its magic for the next generations. The first three generations have done an awesome job for sure.
Celler Batea with its 250 vineyard hectares is mainly devoted to grow healthy Garnacha Blanca and Garnacha Tinta grapes (locally called Garnatxa). The other varietals planted are Macabeu, Chardonnay, Carignan (locally called Samsò), Tempranillo, Syrah, Merlot. With an average yield of 6.000 kilos per hectare, gobelet trained vines coexist with high density trellis plantations. Batea’s production contributes to roughly the 25% of the total production of the Terra Alta DO.
The climate here is both continental and Mediterranean and the two local winds, the Cierzo and the Garbì, play a key role: the former blows from the north and prevents vine diseases and helps to extend ripening times. The Garbì comes up from the southeast and helps to keep the grapes dry and healthy as they mature. Paradoxically, vineyards on the lower parts can be fresher than those on the plateau as they benefit from the Garbì wind which brings sea breezes and humidity. The plateau is more influenced by the much drier Cierzo.
Poor nutrient shallow soils, medium in texture and rich in chalk, have created natural terraces located at different altitudes (ranging from 400 to 600 meters) and with different sun exposure. Overall the soils present a good drainage.
This region is the southern most of Catalunya, located south of the Ebros’ bank and centered around the city of Tarragona. Many international wine experts call Terra Alta “a place to watch.” Winemakers in this remote secluded region have set their sights high. They hope to make Terra Alta a star player on the international winemaking stage, following in the footsteps of their neighbors from Priorat.
Terra Alta is worth a visit for its distinctive landscape where terraces of different size and width have been shaped throughout the years in order to maximize rainfall. This scenery is said to have inspired Picasso’s first Cubist paintings during his short but intense stays in Horta de San Joan. With wine lovers around the world focusing on value as well as quality, Terra Alta’s winemakers have an opportunity to put themselves under the spotlight. Vines are the main crop and source of wealth for this sparsely populated region with just 12,000 inhabitants in 12 villages.
Terra Alta’s list of permitted grape varieties was changed in 1995 to allow winemakers to use a wider variety of grapes in their blended wines. Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, in particular, are showing promise. But once again, that was in the ‘90s and the local Catalan growers soon realized that the indigenous varieties were a precious heritage to keep working on.
While many people are more familiar with the Garnacha Negra, the white sibling is still a little mystery to understand. Garnacha Blanca experienced a gradual disappearance in other wine regions of the Ebro valley, especially in Aragón where White Garnacha plantings have dropped from 4,200 hectares in 1990 to a mere 300.
Nowadays Terra Alta has become the grape’s greatest stronghold in Spain. The region boasts 1,400 hectares under vine, which account for 33% of the world’s White Garnacha plantings (75% of Spain and 90% of Catalonia). The Regulatory Board uses the Terra Alta Garnatxa Blanca indication to distinguish the best 100% single-varietal wines in the appellation.
Chalk is a key component of the area’s soils and contributes to the wines’ appealing mineral and occasionally salty nuances. Many local winemakers have told us that for instance that White Garnacha reflects the soils where it grows and adapts pretty well to the drought conditions in the area.
Many producers in the area are currently trying to add some length and depth to White Garnacha’s distinctive broadness. Macerated wines are called “brisat” and are becoming more popular day in day out. Celler Batea is trying to tame in the high alcohol combining relatively early and late harvests. It’s not uncommon to blend an almost green harvest with a second one picked in the middle of the vintage and a third one marked by small volumes of overripe grapes.
Judith Folch has been Celler Batea’s warehouse, laboratory and quality control manager since 2009 and now is the official winemaker. She has been working in a close relation with Luis Marin Torres from whom she has learned a lot. He has started his professional adventure in Batea in 1985 becoming over time the General manager and just recently has left the position.
At the end of the secondary school Judith had to take the first very important decision in her life: Archeology or Viticulture? Guess what … she opted for winemaking and started working in Priorat and Montsant with small wineries where she learned to produce minimal intervention wines.
Celler Batea philosophy is and will continue to be as Judith says: “to produce wines as naturally as possible with their own personality retaining the typicity of Garnachas, the soil and the climate where they thrive and to increase the quality control on the organic production in our vineyards”. Well said! Judith also defends the role of women in the wine’s world. She thinks that it is difficult for a woman to have an important position with great responsibilities. Our world is mostly dominated by men, but little by little female professionals are finding their place”.
Steep Hill is importing four wines from Celler Batea: two wines each from the Naturalis Mer and the Sense ranges. This operation was made possible thanks to Ezequiel Sanchez-Mateos fundamental contribution with his Galgo Wines Selection partnership with Steep Hill.
Naturalis Mer Garnatxa Blanca 2019: The Garnatxa Blanca is the most important autochthonous variety planted in the Terra Alta wine appellation located in southern Catalunya. Celler Batea skips any use of pesticides and herbicides in the vineyard. We have accepted the challenge of making this wine in the least intrusive way possible and within the stringent regulations governing the production of organic wines. After a short maceration with the skins, the must ferments in stainless steel vats with native yeast only at controlled temperature. The wine rests 4 months in tanks with just some moderate lees stirring. Unoaked and unfined (therefore suitable for vegans). Enjoy this fresh wine marked by yellow apples and a hint of fennel and anise elements which are the main Garnatxa Blanca ‘s characteristics. Organic and Vegan certified on the back label.
Naturalis Mer Garnatxa Negra 2019: The Garnatxa Negra is the most important red variety planted in the Terra Alta. The grapes are destemmed, pressed, and fermented in stainless steel vats with native yeast only at controlled temperature. The wine is clarified by gravity in concrete vats where the malolactic fermentations occurs naturally. Then the wine is racked and moved into French oak barriques spending 3 months before being bottled totally unfined (therefore suitable for vegans). Enjoy this intriguing wine marked by persistent dark fruit and tones of subtle earthiness supported by a refreshing acidity. Organic and Vegan certified on the back label.
Sense Garnatxa Blanca 2019: We were really intrigued by this wine produced with no added sulfites. Think of ripe apples and bitter almonds. The grapes are destemmed, pressed, and fermented in stainless steel vats with native yeast only at controlled temperature. The wine rests 4 months in tanks with just some moderate lees stirring. Unoaked, unfined (therefore suitable for vegans) and containing only natural sulfites (no added ones). No cellar manipulation. This is the most experimental wine ever made by Batea with a limited production of only 5.000 bottles per year. Organic and Vegan certified on the back label.
Sense Garnatxa Negra 2019: Just like the white sibling, this red doesn’t carry any added sulfites and displays elegance, finesse and a very pleasant mouthfeel. The grapes are destemmed, pressed, and fermented in stainless steel vats with native yeast only at controlled temperature. The wine is clarified by gravity in concrete vats where the malolactic fermentations occurs naturally. After 5 months, the wine is racked and bottled. Unfined, unfiltered and containing only natural sulfites (no added ones). No cellar manipulation. Enjoy this intriguing low intervention wine marked by persistent dark fruit and tones of subtle licorice and balsamic earthiness supported by a refreshing acidity. 5.000 bottles produced. Organic and Vegan certified on the back label.
In a nutshell