Terra Remota: Where grand designs creates special wines

What is the difference between good intentions and good design? Besides the road to hell having been paved by one, the major difference is planning and execution. Both can possess conviction and want, but only good design tackles how to achieve the want. What happens if a good design should be a grand design? The end result might just be heavenly. This is what you get when you come to Terra Remota in the Emporda region of Catalunya.

The process, or what I should reference as the path, of Terra Remota is so precise and well planned the physical manifestation of the vineyards is almost a part of nature itself. This  started as a “want” soon becoming an idea quickly becoming a vision. From there it became a design, followed by execution, to where it is today; Terra Remota is a passion, and in my whole hearted opinion, a success.

Started in 2000, Terra Remota was the shared idea of couple Marc and Emma Bournazeau, along with Emma’s father Claude. Claude’s father had moved his family to France from Catalunya during the Spanish Civil War to Perpignan, which was where Emma and Marc met.

Marc owned a vineyard in France and it was Claude’s wish for his family to someday return to Catalunya. What better excuse to return than a vineyard, right? So it began. When Marc and Emma visited the Emporda plot that is now Terra Remota they fell in love with it.

With the land in hand, the vision came to being shepherded by philosophy to minimise intrusion into nature as much as possible. With architects Pepe Cortes and Nacho Ferrer, Marc and Emma designed a building not only would pay homage to ancient wine ideals, but also blend in wonderfully with its Catalan countryside.

The result is a three-tiered state-of-the-art facility of minimalist concrete construction.  The building blends in seamlessly with the landscape. The design follows the downward lines of a natural hillside for the grapes’ process to follow gravity, giving Terra Remota the opportunity to minimally intervene in the winemaking process.

The building also has a living roof, which catches rain fall, and then runs down to a  reservoir located beside the building. This runoff is used for irrigation of the vineyard throughout the year. Indigenous vegetation is planted on the living roof, which comes alive between spring and fall; standing on its highest level I forgot I was standing on a manmade constructed building. The building was finished in 2006 and unsurprisingly it has been decorated with awards for both design and its incorporation into nature.

First planted in 2003, the vineyards are no exclusion to the Bournazeau’s  minimalist environmental footprint ideal. With 40 hectares in tow, they have planted only 23 so as to not stress the land. Given the philosophy in play, it comes as no surprise the farming practices at Terra Remota are completely organic. Each of its 12 parcels are also laid out north south to maximise the benefits of Emporda’s tramuntana winds while minimising the pressure on the plants coming with this wind.

The varieties grown at Terra Remota include Grenache Blanc, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Grenache, Tenpranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah. These grapes were chosen to best compliment the granite soil of the land, which lends minerality and freshness to the wines.

Upon harvest the grapes are brought to the top level of the cellar, where gravity starts the descent of the grape. Here the fruit is separated, sorted, and pressed. The juice then runs off down to fermentation, all of course by design. Makes sense though, right? I mean, why not work with gravity and save the effort and most likely time and expense that comes with working against it?

Once fermentation is complete, the “babies sleep” in oak 6-8 months for the white and rosé and 12, 24 and 36 months respectively for the reds.  From the tasting room you can actually view the nursery. Is this an accident? Given that this barrel room lies chronologically between said tasting room and the fermentation room and viewable from both is no accident. It’s part of the grand design.

Production at Terra Remota is modest, roughly 80,000-100,000 bottles annually of five different labels. Could they produce more? Well, sure, if they wanted to; Terra Remota does have 17 hectares to play with it, but it’s not part of the plan for now. What is part of the plan is great quality and balance in both taste and with nature. This, like the rest of the plan has been achieved grandly. Their first vintage was 2006, the same year its award winning facility was finished. Part of the plan? They actually say no, but when plans go well they often go really well. Having personally tasted their Camino, Clos Adrien, and Usted, I can honestly say Marc and Emma’s plan has gone, well, grand.

Sitting by the fireplace at Terra Remota (yes, they have one) and savouring a glass of Usted (production 2,000 bottles only) it was easy for me, if not natural, to have what I call a Hannibal moment. “I love it when a plan comes together”. Grand design has turned Terra Remota’s results into grand wine.

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