In December of 2014, after four months of meeting winemakers and visiting wineries, I felt Catalan wineries deserved to have a more in-depth treatment and exposure worldwide. I made the decision to film a documentary, called the Grapes of Catalunya, which followed four vineyards and showed what it took to make and market their wines. I started this project in January, and I finish the filming portion in November.
The vineyards involved, Torre del Veguer, Sao del Coster, Terra Remota, and Cooperativa Garriguella have given me unfettered access to their operations and insights to the successes and challenges they’ve experienced this year. This project is a compliment to the catalunyawine.com work which continues to explore new vineyards and showcase the best this region has to offer.
Along the way, however, I’ve discovered that this region of Spain is not merely a province, but its own nation outright. Research for the Grapes of Catalunya led me to many historical texts including two influential pieces. One book is well known, Homage to Catalonia, by George Orwell. The other, by Professor Alan Ryder called The Wreck of Catalonia, is not as well known, but very important as it documents a Catalan civil war in the 15th century which had major repercussions leading up to 1714.
Barcelona has been a centre of influence in the Iberian peninsula since its rise during the empire of Charlemagne, where Frankish vassals to the king occupied the city and the region of Catalunya. Those vassals became known as the Counts of Barcelona, and in 987, those counts refused to acknowledge the new Frankish king Hugh Capet and went their own way. In 1137 one of those counts, Ramon Berenguer IV married Petronilla of Aragon, establishing the kingdom of Aragon to include both territories.
At this point the region had more influence than the “Castiles” out of Madrid, as the Castiles was still fighting the Moorish empire that had controlled most of Spain for over 500 years. If it hadn’t been for the assistance of Aragon and Catalunya, the Moors may not have been vanquished to Granada, and finally expelled from Granada in the late 1400s.
Through marriage the Castiles became the monarchs of Catalunya and Aragon. Based on the wealth and arrangements until the 1700s, Barcelona held influence over the crown because of the Counts of Barcelona, or the Corts Catalan as they became known, financed military campaigns with Barcelona’s enormous wealth. Barcelona continues its longstanding legacy of culture, wealth, innovation with today’s generation of Catalans and immigrants, just as it has since Charlemagne’s time.
With over one thousand years of history, distinct culture, and a distinct language descended directly from Charlemagne, saying Catalunya is as Spanish as those in Madrid is like saying Canadians, Pakastanis, Americans or those from India are as British as those from London. In fact, you could say Portugal is as Spanish as Catalunya is.
My travels around Catalunya have revealed amazing history, amazing culture, and a people distinct and different from those who are now part of Spain. Many of the vineyards I’ve been to can trace their heritage and their ancestors as early as the 1400s, while a great majority have “young” origins dating to the 1700s. While language is one uniting factor for the Catalan region, the evolution of customs and traditions different and distinct from Madrid, is more than evident all over Catalunya. Cultural attitudes and even business philosophy are shared between vineyards to the south near Tortosa and north to the Pyrenees.
After visiting Madrid, Rioja and also a trip to Galicia for the filming of Grapes of Catalunya, the distinctiveness between these regions is stark. Attitudes, conversation, philosophy are all very different, and it’s like visiting a different country joined only by one thing, a common language, a language adopted or forced, depending on the region. Madrid and Barcelona are very different cities, and are as different to each other as each is to say Paris or Berlin. In fact, I’d maintain Catalan business philosophy resembles German more than Spanish in all aspects.
Our world is supposedly in a post-colonialism era if the United Nations is to be believed. However, if you were to impartially follow the behaviour from Madrid in reference to Catalunya, you would see that the government’s philosophy still continues General Franco’s fascist version of colonialism. Catalunya is a region which must be controlled by Madrid for the benefit of Madrid, not because it is what the people of this region desire.
If Madrid made a move to a federal state, where all the provinces have an equal say and equal representation, rather than a constitutional monarchy which inflicts a centrist policy benefiting those directly related to the capital city and those in outlying regions who have pledged allegiance to the political philosophy emanating from Madrid, it would be a different story.
This is not the case.
Instead politicians part of Party Popular want to “shut up” the independence seekers, as one candidate for the party in Badalona declared last week. Other politicians in Madrid have threatened to stop regional elections if “laws” are “broken” by Artur Mas and the regional government. Could you imagine what would happen in the United States if Washington D.C. told a state they couldn’t put a particular idea presented with enough support on the ballot? There would be instant revolution. Here, there were 2.2 million people who supported a push for independence, more than enough support in a democratic nation like the United States to entertain a democratic vote on the subject.
Do I support independence? I support the right of those who wish to exercise a democratic choice. If this choice is independence or if the choice is to stay within Spain, it is for the people of this region to decide. Based on my travels for the documentary, and for catalunyawine.com, I can see exactly why this region could be its own nation, and probably deserves to be its own nation.
I would be proud to be a resident of the nation of Catalunya. After all, my daughter was born here. I want to share with her the history of her people who came before her, and part of her family which resided in Llança for centuries prior to their departure to find their fortune in Cuba.
We’ll find out the fate once and for all on September 27th, and I hope Madrid stands aside to let the people make their own decision. I hope Madrid stops the pattern of intimidation and control which has marked the relationship between Barcelona and Madrid since the 1700s.
Ultimately, I look forward to documenting a most interesting year for four vineyards in a documentary which will be released next year. After all, no matter what happens on September 27th, the harvest will continue this year, and every year after. Life goes on for the Grapes of Catalunya.
One year ago catalunyawine.com launched after 40 days of preparation, and four initial visits to Celler Can Sais, Clos d’Agon, Alta Alella, and Bouquet d’Alella. Starting out a new venture is always exciting and stressful, especially when you wear all the hats from web designer, writer, video producer, and public relations. Now, there several people assisting the venture, and a slew of people who help provide promotions and on-camera talent for the website. To all of you, I owe many thanks.