As Paul and I drove into the estate of Masia Roqueta in Santa Maria d’Horta d’Avinyó, just outside of Manresa in DO Pla de Bages, we both looked at each in disbelief at the sheer beauty of unexpected forests mingling with vineyards leading up to the masia itself, a masia whose winemaking roots start in 1199.
While many wineries in Catalunya can claim winemaking history, or have a winery or vineyard with a long winemaking history, there’s not many who can show their direct family tree line of winemaking that spans back over 800 years. However, Abadal, owned by the Roqueta family in DO Pla de Bages, certainly can.
In fact, the ancestors of current owner Valentin Roqueta survived the Bubonic Plague and the wars against King John II of Aragon pretty much devastated the rural population of the area. The name Roqueta, and the family possession of the estate has survived due to Catalan laws of succession where the estate was passed down to the eldest son of the family, and the Roqueta family stayed true to the area, and has done this until the present day.
Sure the history might be impressive, but what followed during our visit was even more impressive.
Masia Roqueta itself has been expanded around the original masia built in the 1200s. In the basement of the current structure still stands the original doorway to the original home. The Roqueta family has preserved wine-related artefacts including 500 litre barrels (many still full of rancio wine and other fortified wines), original wood pipes, bladders used to sell wine door to door from 200 years ago, and more.
Not only is there the artefacts, but you can walk through the evolution of the family wine business from the 1400-1500s in the very bottom basement, and walk through the next level where barrels and a stone oven lead to where the concrete vats of the 1800s where used to make higher volume wine production. It’s an impressive preservation of historical winemaking techniques.
If this wasn’t enough of a historical experience, Abadal also has set up a separate museum beside the masia, featuring marketing campaigns of the early 20th century under the Roqueta brand, winemaking equipment, bottles, crates, and family photos. Behind the museum also sits three delivery vehicles including a preserved Chevrolet Loadmaster, Ebro Diesel, and a Savra-Austin, all of which were used up until possible the 90s, if the inspection stickers on the windshields were accurate. All three were loaded up with the materials used to deliver wine, including the wine barrels on the bed of the Chevrolet which wheeled up to houses, where the driver would fill up the customer’s jugs with wine.
Today on the grounds of Masia Roqueta stands a modern warehouse and office buildings where the company headquarters and wine ageing facility is housed. Abadal has another building for the fermentation of their wines in modern steel vats, a complete juxtaposition to the historical winemaking standing in the original masia a mere 800 yards away. Abadal also has an amazing reception building, complete with a store, and a massive tasting room which has hosted Tickets chef Ferran Adria, and the current president of Catalunya, Artur Mas. If this wasn’t enough, there’s another warehouse with barrels for fermentation which is used to host large-scale corporate or private events, which was being set up for a holiday party the day Paul and I were there for our visit.
Needless to say, Abadal is one of the best visits I’ve been on from an enotourism perspective. Anna, their enotourism manager, was an amazing host sharing with us the family history, the vineyards, and of course their current selection of wines made from a mix of indigenous grapes and several imported varieties. They have the ability to do tours in multiple languages, and the fact the winery is just under an hour from Barcelona makes it a very attractive opportunity for those who want to see a different terroir and ecosystem from Penedes, Emporda, or Priorat.
What about the wines?
Abadal produces three whites, five reds, and a rosé. We had the opportunity to taste one of whites, their Picapoll, which is a grape variety indigenous to the area of Pla de Bages exclusively. As denoted by its name, Picapoll is a single varietal, featuring pineapple and grapefruit tones, punctuated by a nose jasmine and apricot. Paul was impressed with the fact the pineapple and grapefruit flavours didn’t lead to a tart experience in the mouth, as some other varietals with similar structure have, but rather a velvety smoothness across the entire mouth.
We also tasted their “5”, made from 100% merlot from five different plots on at the winery. What’s interesting about “5” is the barrel ageing process of 12 months combines wine aged in three different types of oak: French, Central European, and French. Now, normally, I’m not a merlot fan at all, but I was pleasantly surprised by this one – so much so, I took one home.
There’s not many wineries I’ve visited which hold the enotourism trifecta – top wines combined with a historical story and architectural interest – but Abadal is certainly one of those which does. If you live in Catalunya, or you’re coming to visit Catalunya, I highly recommend you put Abadal at the top of your list for an authentic, all-encompassing, and intimate enotourism experience.