Songs with wolves: Vinyes dels Aspres

Wolves (llops) are almost extinct in Catalonia, but have their fair share in the popular mind, and even in the name of Catalan villages. Indeed, there is perhaps a link between wolves and winemaking; in at least two of the villages with wolfish names there are outstanding wineries: Gratallops (Priorat) and Cantallops (Empordà).

From Catalan, Cantallops translates literally as Singwolves; others opt for Rock of the Wolves, from Latin. Visiting the village, in the Alberes hills where the Pyrenees get ready for the Mediterranean, the Latin alternative looks more reasonable, whatever the appeal of the notion of a full moon chorus with the canines.
Both wineries from Cantallops (Masia Serra and Vinyes dels Aspres) reward inspection; today we will speak of the latter.

The property comes from at least the 17th century and has since been producing wine, olive oil and cork, with ups and downs. In the 90’s the family, led by David Molas, decided to invest in the latest technology and dive into the 21st century producing wines with marked personality, not forgetting ancestral techniques in spite of the steel vats, French oak barrels and state-of-the-art presses.

Vineyards spread over some thirty hectares, distributed into fourteen plots. Soils come mainly from granite disintegration with an addition of black slate. Main varieties grown are: Garnatxa (locally called Lledoner) in its usual white and black varieties, and the rarer red (gris in France) as well; Carinyena; Cabernet Sauvignon; Merlot; and Syrah. Yearly production hovers around 40’000 bottles.

Blanc dels Aspres is a white made out of Garnatxa blanca from 30-year-old vines It is barrel fermented and has remained on its lees for 7 months, with bâtonnage every two weeks.
There are three reds: 
  • the young Oriol Negre, with Garnatxa negra, Ull de Llebre (aka Tempranillo), Carinyena, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot
  • Negre dels Aspres, from Carinyena, Garnatxa negra and Cabernet Sauvignon, and 17 months in Allier oak
  • S’Alou, the top wine with an output of 2400 bottles: Garnatxa negra, Carinyena, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, with 18 months in oak. Dark, concentrated, with structure to age properly.

All these wines are good examples of the quality Empordà production, and deserve attention. Their rosé, Oriol Rosat, is outstanding because of being aged in oak for some months, something very few rosats can offer. However, the more original proposals of this winery are the natural sweets, Vi de Panses and Bac de les Ginesteres.

Both start in the same way: Garnatxa roja grapes hadpicked and left to dry. Thanks to the Tramuntana wind, in around 60 days the grapes lose half their weight. They are then pressed and the concentrated must is left to ferment slowly. After several months the Vi de Panses is ready for the bottle. It honors its name: raisin wine, with aromas of dried fruit and nevertheless a very winey character in the mouth, with balancing acidity and a long finish.

When you approach the Vinyes dels Aspres winery, the first thing that catches your eye is a row of round glass demijohns filled with a dark liquid resting on a balustrade that runs the width of the façade of the old building. The dark liquid is the Bac de les Ginesteres wine: when the Vi de Panses is bottled, the Bac de les Ginesteres is filled into these 20 liter demijohns and left for four years and a half a sol i serena, meaning sitting there through wind, sun, storm and occasional snow. The wine is oxidized slowly to a deep amber, and the flavor of the Vi de Panses receives additional nutty, sherry-like shades.

Pity that less that one thousand bottles reach the market!


  1. What a pleasure to find you online Juan. I teach Catalan Cooking in London and found your blog looking for information on Vinyes del Aspres which will feature in my class this coming Tuesday.
    I do hope you blog more and more in English as I'm sure a lot of people who don't read either Catalan or Spanish would like to know more about Catalan wine.

  2. Hi Rachel,

    haapy that you like my blog. Sorry that I was slow to answer, but do ask me if you need info on any topic. I am a total amateur, but Catalan Cooking is one of my passions.