This resort, 30 km south of Barcelona, defied the forecast and produced blazing sunshine for the event on September 19 and 20, part of the Festa de la Verema harvest festival. The wineries gathered on the palm-lined Passeig de la Ribera under the striking clifftop church included such luminaries as Bodegas Torres (sponsors of the event) and Jean Leon as well as members of the Massis del Garraf Viticultors.
Loxarel tell me that next year they will embark on a new venture with a San Franciscan winemaker: a cava subjected to only one fermentation instead of two.
Next up is Cora de Loxarel blanc, a muscat chardonnay blend. It is very crisp, a smidge floral, refreshing and delicious.
On to Jean Leon for its 2008 Magnolia blend of 40% chardonnay and 60% xarel.lo. It has fruit so full of zest it’s almost spritzed. Another appropriate wine for a hot day.
Under the banner of Massis del Garraf Viticultors, Valldolina offered Rosat 2008, a 100% merlot rosé which intrigued with its amazingly vibrant cherry red hue. The flavour intrigues further with cherry fruit, deeply savoury in the style of smoky cooked tomatoes. A truly complex and fascinating rosé.
Vega de Ribes, under the same banner, offered Malvasia Sasserra 2005, 100% malvasia de Sitges. It absolutely tasted of the place on the day: a full-bodied concoction of seasalt, pears, almonds, herbs and sherry. Again, with a complexity requiring lengthy knitted-eyebrow swishing.
Along at Torres, the 2007 Atrium chardonnay was full of peaches and vanilla. Coronas Crianza ’06 tempranillo/cabernet sauvignon was surprisingly light in the mouth with plum and spice on the nose and palate. Plenty of tannin was in balance with fruit and high acid, welcome for a noon-day red wine. In a nod to the setting, Torres also had its Natureo muscat sin alcohol, an abstemious offering with just 0.5% alcohol. Made traditionally in stainless steel tanks, the alcohol is extracted after fermentation. It has an intense grapey sweetness but a lightness of body to avoid being syrupy.
Then came the Malvasia de Sitges from the Hospital de Sant Joan Baptista. It’s light in the mouth but still chewy and not too cloyingly sweet. A walnut nuttiness goes on and on to a fabulously long finish. Cheers to Manuel Llopis I De Casades who bequeathed the Aiguadolc Vineyard to the St John Hospital in 1935 in a post-phylloxera bid to preserve the region’s Malvasia. It worked as Sitges malvasia has the Denominación d'Origen Penedès and also Slow Food presidia status.
Eating out in Sitges is a gastronomic joy with increasing emphasis on showcasing local produce. In a three-night stay we power-dined to fit in some of the region’s best. Xató salad is to Sitges what Nicoise is to Nice and made a perfect poolside lunch at the Cau del Vinyet restaurant. Still set in its original villa dating from 1924, the restaurant is now attached to the Hotel Subur Maritime, hence the pool. Xato salad comprises varying combinations of endive salad with salt cod, anchovy and tuna and a dressing of pounded almonds, hazelnuts, chillies, vinegar, olive oil and garlic. This one was creamy, crunchy, salty and spicy all at once.
For tapas, El Cable in Calle Barcelona dating back to 1940 resembles a set piece with its tobaccoed-yellow walls and wooden ceiling fans. For added atmosphere the place was invaded by the Glopada drinking club celebrating the Festa de Santa Tecla. The town squares were filled with musicians and children rehearsing native dances, stilt-walking and managing cabezudos, enormous-headed carnival figures, in advance of the celebrations. In El Cable, traditional musicians set up under the local flag and the place overflowed with singing, clapping, cheering drinkers. As quickly as they had arrived it was all over and we were left to our tapas. And what tapas they were: tripe in tomato sauce, meatballs, local ham, tender marinated pork brochette, delicious pintxos (topped bread) with croquettes and tortilla. House white here is €1.50 a glass and tasted like Torres Vina Sol.
La Santa Maria on the Paseo de la Ribera might seem to be more about the buzzy seafront setting but the food and service are excellent. We ate razor clams, spicy rabbit stew with snails, patatas bravas, salt cod in red peppers and simple grilled red mullet with boiled potatoes. Raimat’s Costers del Segre Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 needs food for its cassis fruit, chocolate and coffee and fortunately we had plateloads to balance it.
Restaurant La Salseta, 35 Sant Pau, lived up to the Slow Food symbol that drew us in. There was a salad of local cured duck with pears and walnuts, local sausage, the lightest of fried squid Sevillano and richly delicious salt cod in garlicky tomato sauce. It was all supported by a Jean Leon Cabernet Sauvignon ’02 which still looked very young but was drinking nicely with blackcurrant fruit and cinnamon spice, smooth and moreish. Sadly there was no chance to try the pig’s trotter cannelloni, the local pastry with pig’s blood sausage, the chicken and prunes . . . ah, next year.
©Lindy Hemsley 2009 Permission to publish granted to Snooth.com