This past December Marco Abella had the privilege of their Clos Abella 2009 being recognized as the number one wine in the world by Wine in China Magazine. I realize the sound of this initially rings like an unheard of American rock band claiming their “big in Japan,” but wait a minute, don’t just easily dismiss this honor given annually by Wine in China Magazine.
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Carignan begins to bud at one of Marco Abella’s vineyards

The award recognizes one wine out of more than 1000 entries from across the globe as The Best Wine in the World. I realize China isn’t the first country most of us would have in mind as an authority on wine, but in my personal and arguably unqualified opinion I believe they maybe on to something here. Any country who can economically out smart the rest of the world to the point of now controlling most of the world’s debt should at least have their opinion seriously considered. After all, we are talking about the same country that many historians believe discovered the New World decades before Columbus as well as the first to discover electricity. More currently, and on the topic of wine, they just passed France as second globally in wine production. Their opinion should count for something, right?
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Olivia and David share their story with Michael

I sincerely believe China might just be the first country to discover, recognize and announce just how great the wine is from Marco Abella.  The cellar, however, didn’t just appear out of nowhere. It has a history which is no secret in Priorat. Like the ancient Chinese proverb says, ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.’ True. This story of Marco Abella did begin with a single step, but what was the first single step?

Maybe it was when the Marco family began growing grapes in the 15th century in Porrera. Maybe it was when Ramon Marco Abella moved to region following the phylloxera plague to revive the vines on the land his family had held onto even after it had moved to Barcelona. For me though, the first step was when Ramon’s grandson David Marco Moliner and Olivia Bayes Genis first met, but of course they  were completely unaware.
David was an engineer (electrical/telecommunications), while Olivia was a lawyer. The two would fall in love (meeting in Begur where both families summered), get married and live happily ever… Wait, not so fast! This is not how the story ends (with respect to The Sundays). Sure, on paper their lives were “perfect.” Despite his youth, David was management at his company, CEO in fact, running a company of 150 staff and Olivia was a promising young attorney at a good firm in Barcelona.
From the outside looking in, David and Olivia lived a life everyone wishes for. They were young, attractive and successful. They should have been happy, right? They had everything they thought they wanted, or at least what they had been taught to want by culture and people in their lives.
But something was off, something was missing. This had nothing to do with being together, or their relationship. They were still very much in love. Like those couples who can finish each other’s thoughts and when they dance you can’t tell whose leading and whose following; they were in tune. Much like yin and yang they complimented each other. They completed each other, but they were both restless as life didn’t allow them the creative freedom they desired, despite the great lifestyle as a result of their well-paying careers.
There is another ancient Chinese proverb that when paraphrased goes something like, ‘only one who has studied their mental constitution knows their nature; knowing their nature, they know Heaven.’ While I’m sure there are several interpretations of its meaning, I understand it to mean that if heaven is happiness, then one must search within themselves to find out what makes them happy to know heaven on earth.
Following in his grandfather’s foot steps, David decided he would rehabilitate the old family Grenache and Carignan vines in Porrera that had since been neglected, as there was an opportunity to sell those grapes to vineyards after the crush of favorable press from the “New Wave” of wineries which arrived in 1989.

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Younger vines at 600 metres above sea level overlook the village of Porrera below.

He and Olivia agreed that growing grapes, being outside surrounded by nature would be cathartic and a nice weekend escape from hustle and bustle of their complicated Barcelona life. The more time they spent working the plots the more they realized how much enjoyment and fulfillment came from working the land.
Then the shared epiphany clicked. What was missing had been there the whole time waiting for them to wake up to the possibilities. The independence and freedom they desired from those for whom they worked was there for them, if they desired to make a break. They broke out of the societal cage most of us put ourselves in when we care too much about what other people think, or due to our desire to fit in.
So as a result of this epiphany, David and Olivia decided not only would they grow grapes, but they would go “all in” and make wine. Why not? They were blessed with great plots, with advantageous orientations and elevations in one of the best wine producing regions of the world. But more importantly, it made them happy.
Forsaking 14 years of university studies between them, they returned to learning, learning about everything they would need to know to forge their new life in Priorat wine. They learned more than what it takes to make wine but what it takes to do so while respecting the very nature around them that they were now privileged to be connected with, as is the Priorat way. Eventually, they invested in the business by designing and building the winery, which sits incorporated into the land which surrounds it.
At risk of sounding like an old episode of Kung Fu, there is another ancient proverb. ‘Life is an echo; what you send out comes back.’
Today Marco Abella is completely organic and even follows biodynamic practices. Many will say, especially in the Priorat, nature does most of the work for you to succeed, all you have to do is not drop the ball when it’s your turn. However, at Marco Abella there is something more happening here. There is an energy present that comes when people open their hearts and minds to share with each other and nature around them. Call it what you will, the road less travelled, taking the blue pill, or maybe they just simply ran away together and never looked back.
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The barrel room of Marco Abella where part of the magic happens.

What I believe is the love and positive connection David and Olivia share with each other has transcended into ground, the vines, fruit and all the way to the wine in the bottle. By learning to live more with less, they found what makes them happy. They found their heaven on earth and in doing so have perhaps finally feel contentment not only with each other, but with life.

Yes, there is definitely something more going on in Marco Abella’s wine which can’t be measured, seen, or explained in a fortune cookie. Whatever vibes David and Olivia are sending, it’s echoed in their wine which is nothing short of divine. Don’t believe me? Fine, visit Marco Abella, meet them and try it for yourself. Or just ask the Chinese. How can more than 1.3 billion people be wrong?

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