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Day trip from Barcelona

AN OUTING IN THE WINE COUNTRY

You don’t have to be a wine aficionado to enjoy a visit to Vilafranca del Penedes.You could go to immerse yourself in the traditional village atmosphere, the sense of life going on in the narrow arcaded streets much as it has since the 11th century. If you’re a photographer, you’d plan to be there on a Saturday morning for the massive open market, over 400 stalls displaying everything from petticoats to peacocks. But if you are a wine enthusiast, you’ll take the short journey by train from Barcelona to Vilafranca because from there it’s just a ten-minute taxi ride to the Torres wineries. And that’s what I did.

A gentle uphill drive led through tidy vineyards, to the handsome modern building which is the Torres visitors’centre. The cool stone reception area reminded me a little of a cathedral and quite a lot of an upmarket advertising agency. The tour begins with a film, screened in an elegant small theatre, in which the attractive Torres family members are introduced.

The family has been making wine here since the 17th century and Torres is the most important winery in Spain.You learn that the company now produces more than two million cases of wine from the 2,300 acres of grapes it grows in vineyards around Barcelona. You follow the Torres expansion into California and Chile. By the time you leave the theatre to board the little green train which will carry you through the facility -from the rows of gnarled vines, to the huge vats, to thekilometres of cellars, to the bottling plant- you are ready to share the family’s quiet pride in their multi-award winning products.

On the way you learn a lot about barrels, where the oak comes from, how long the wine remains in them, and you will need this information later when the tasting part of the tour begins. Because those who go to the head of the class will be those who can spot the difference between white wine which has aged in wood (as I remember, but don’t quote me, was Milmanda, the Chardonnay chosen by the King of Spain for his daughter’s wedding) and white wine
which has gone directly to the bottle.

If you are a proper wine enthusiast, the swirling, eyeing, sniffing and sipping will come naturally. If you are a faux enthusiast you may have to fake it. But who is to know if you are truly tasting vegetal hints (celery soup, green asparagus and mint). Or if you are lying through your teeth.

The tours are deservedly popular. Book yours as much in advance as possible
Website is at www.torres.es

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