|Three very young oils|
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Monday, May 15, 2017
Top Olive Oils at Bradley’s
Bradley’s of North Main Street, Cork, are well known for their selection of fine wines. And, where there’s wine, there’s olive oil. Indeed, quite a few of the oils available here are made by top wine-makers including a few from Tuscany and Spain’s Torres.
Speaking of Tuscany, a wine and olive oil producer there once told me that the best way to make olive oil is to immediately cold press the just picked grapes. In his place, it was done in the cool of the night as the Olive Press was too hot during the day, which it was. I tried it and you could hardly stand there for a minute.
He was scathing about the big companies who dragged in olives from all over the Med and were still able to claim that the oil was on a par with his. The longer the olives are hanging around (or in transport) the more the acid is a factor. Some big producers filter out the acid but also much of the goodness.
Tuscany is more or less on the northern edge of the kind of climate in which the olive tree grows and so is very susceptible to changes in the weather, especially the frost which has been known to more or less wipe out the olive rows.
The one in 1985 was a disaster. The trees had be severely pruned to ground level and it took all of ten years to get a good crop again. So the arrival of the new season’s oils in Tuscany is a big event. It is like a fete and the restaurants mark it by putting on special menus. It is very important for Tuscan cuisine and they always cook with good oil.
Fontodi Extra Virgin Olive Oil: a richly coloured oil from Tuscany, very delicately balanced. Fine aromas of artichoke leaf and an elegant peppery flavour come together in a fragrant lingering finish. The organically raised olives are picked by hand and carefully pressed the same day in order
to keep the fragrance. Read more here.
The River Cafe I Canonici 2016 EVOO: also from Tuscany, this is an almost luminous green in its youth (as many of them are!); this bright oil is fragrant and very spicy with lovely fresh grass and green olive characters. Clean and bright it has tremendous depth of flavour right through to the long peppery finish.
Capazzana 2016: Organic and another Tuscan. Quite a bright green in colour, soft and fruity with a light spice and great delicacy, perfect for drizzling over freshly baked bread and using in dressing for salads.
Alpha Zeta 2015 EVOO: Golden-green in colour with a light delicate perfume of fresh grass and ripe olives. Light and delicate on the palate with a fresh grassy taste, medium body and a smooth ripe finish. Excellent for drizzling over more delicate dishes. This comes from the hills outside Verona where cool breezes come down from the Dolomites.
Torres Silencio: Sourced from the estate of Los Desterrados in Lleida, Catalonia, from centuries-old Arbequina olive trees. The olives are harvested and cold-pressed on the same day, and only the oil from the first pressing is used. The resulting extra virgin olive oil is rounded and well balanced with aromas of artichoke, unripened almonds and fresh-cut grass. And Miguel A. Torres Senior requests it at every meal when travelling (where available).
West Cork Olives: Bradley’s also carry oils marketed by West Cork Olives and imported from Spain and Greece. I haven’t had a chance to sample these yet.
Suggestions On Olive Oil In Cooking
1 - How about delicious Pumpkin and Farro Soup with a topping of Parmesan and a good oil?
2 - A lovely plateful of local scallops with lemon, chilli, coriander and oil. Needless to say, plenty of bread (with oil on it) with these two dishes.
3 - Slow Cooked (15 hours) shin of beef with red wine (Italian or Spanish!), thyme, garlic and black pepper, served with braised winter greens and an olive oil potato mash.
If you prefer fish why not try this Fenn’s Quay dish that I came across a few years back: Grilled plaice, with braised leeks, olive oil crushed potatoes and onion puree. The first three dishes were served at an olive oil tasting in Ballymaloe.
Thursday, February 11, 2016
Wines Of Chile With Francisca Jara
But Not As We Know Them
|Some of the wines.|
Pic by Francisca.
Chilean wine-writer Francisca Jara started her Wednesday Chilean tasting in L’Atitude by saying that a new style was to be shown tonight. “Chile has more than cheap wines, more than the major varieties. Irish supermarkets don't have what we drink in Chile.”
“Wine writers, including Jancis Robinson, are talking about a Chilean revolution. In the last ten years, a new generation of winemakers has emerged with a new mindset...with a challenge to the big wineries. The wine revolution is no exaggeration.”
This is the second revolution in the South American country. Chile has a tradition of winemaking going back for centuries but, “in the last 36 years, everything changed”. That big change, to a more professional approach, in both the vineyard and winery, was sparked by the arrival of Spanish family Torres.
The newest revolution is also noted in the World Atlas of Wine: "No other country has been sprouting new wine regions as rapidly as Chile...viticultural limits are being tested in all directions. Her wines are becoming more refined, and more regionally distinct."
The new generation that Francisca was talking about are inclined to the organic, inclined to make the best of the lesser varieties and that we would see as the evening unfolded. There are two organisations spearheading this new approach: MOVI and VIGNO. And they in turn are spurring the established wine companies to better things.
Jancis Robinson: “The MOVI and VIGNO crew are a cheeky lot and have clearly enjoyed cocking a snook at the old guard of Chilean wine, which makes it all the more remarkable that there has been such a rush to copy them from precisely the big companies that they set out to shake. Casa Lapostolle, Miguel Torres, Santa Emiliana, Undurraga, Valdivieso, De Martino, the American Jackson Family Estates and now the biggest of them all, Concha y Toro, have all asked to join the VIGNO club and use its eye-catching logo on at least one of their labels.” Read the full article here.
It was appropriate that we had Torres among the six bottles tasted. They had two as did Vinos Frios. Perhaps the most remarkable was the Carrigan from the “Wild Vineyards”. Francisa also cooked the matching bites, all excellent, though my favourite was the Beans and Reins Stew!
1 Miguel Torres Dias de Verano Reserva Muscat 2014
“This is the Chilean summer, a simple wine to drink.” Peach and floral aromas, nice acidity, good balance and a lovely match for seafood as we confirmed when we were served with the Ceviche, a traditional Chilean coastal food.
Chile has over 8,000 acres of this prolific Muscat, much of it used in the production of Pisco, the national spirit. Did you know that Chile is ranked 10th in the world in terms of wine acreage but only 35th in the consumption league? That leaves a lot for export and Ireland takes up a good deal of the slack! “Wish we Chileans drank and enjoyed like you Irish,” joked Francisca.
|Juan Alejandro Jofré of Vinos Frios del Ano|
2 Vinos Frios Del Ano Rosado 2014 (Grenache)
Rosé is a relatively recent development in Chile, according to Francisca. “Before it was very sweet, now they are making good rosé.” Purpose made, not as an careless afterthought. “I’m happy,” she said. “I wanted to try this one myself.”
It is the first Chilean rosé to be made from Grenache, no oak but with three months on lees to improve the body. It was juicy and vibrant from an innovative winemaker, Juan Alejandro Jofré, and went very well indeed with the smoked mackerel.
3 Luis Antoine Luyt 2013 tinto (Cinsault)
Now we were on to a natural wine (available from Le Caveau) with its striking label, based on old Chilean bus signage. “Five years ago, natural wine was almost an underground movement in Chile. This is 100% Cinsault, from really old vines (80 years plus), no added sulphites, no oak.”
The consensus was juicy and fruity, strawberry aromas, with tannins “a bit rustic”. “This is the wine that a farmer might pour a glass from a barrel in the yard for his visitor and serve with an empanada.” Rustic or not, it features in John Wilson’s Wilson on Wines 2016. Oh, by the way, it went really well with that terrific empanada.
To know more on this wine, check here.
4 Villalobos ”The Wild Vineyards” Carignan 2010
The vineyards for this wine were planted in the 1950s (maybe 1940s, no one knows for certain!). The Villalobos family came there in the ‘70s and the ten acres of vineyard were “full of weeds and briars.. cows were eating the grapes there.”
A long time later, “they eventually decided to make wine, they made it in a rustic way.” It was successful and a few years ago they went commercial. The Carignan grape is getting very popular in Chile and there is an association, the VIGNO mentioned above, of Carrignan producers.
This has a lovely colour and the aromas are rather unique: red fruit, herbs, meaty. It is fresh, fruity, with good acidity and “easy-drinking” and is available from Le Caveau. “It is good to pair it with meat, stews, cheese.” Francisca paired it with the traditional Bean and Reins, a kind of cassoulet, “a comfort food for the winter. Every Chilean family, rich and poor, eats it.” I could see why!
To know more of this wine, check here.
5 Vinos Frios Del Ano Tinto 2014 (blend)
Many of you will have heard how a French ampelographer Jean Michel Boursiquot re-discovered Carmenere in Chile and how it went on to become almost the national grape there. As Francisca put it: “It became another good-a story for Chile”. It just underlined the theme, diversity, of the evening and, unusually, was served chilled. Carmenere is just part of the blend here with Carignan (40%) and Tempranillo (40%) the major components.
The nose featured berries, spice, and floral elements. There was a lovely fruit and freshness, good acidity, good body, quite a personality. But don't forget to serve it chilled! Francisca said it goes well with fatty and oily food and the Ummera smoked duck was just perfect. By the way, the Chilean wine-writers are “loving this one”.
6 Miguel Torres Reserva de Pueblo 2014 (País)
This ancient grape has been historically used by farmers for home-made wines but País became less and less significant as the bigger wineries, concentrating on the major grapes, became more important.
The new generation though has sparked a comeback and “now we can feel proud again of our previously neglected varieties. This has more fruit, no oak used.” It was paired with Hegarty's Cheddar and that was a treat. By the way, Torres make a sparkling wine, Estelado, from this grape.
That was the last of the wines of this very interesting tasting, a very enjoyable and informative one. “I hope I have shown you that there is more to Chilean wine than the supermarket. Hope you enjoyed!” We certainly did, Francisca!
- Francisca is a wine journalist from the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. She worked in TV and magazines until 2012 when she moved to the Food and Wine Magazine LA CAV, where she wrote until she moved to Ireland in 2015. In 2013 she obtained the Chilean Wine Diploma in Wine Production and Tasting, in the same university where she studied Journalism.
Tuesday, December 15, 2015
Rioja wines are voluptuous; they are round and full and rich. They are not Audrey Hepburn; they are more Marilyn Monroe.*
|Samaniego, between Haro and Logroño (2012)|
Rioja in the north of Spain is one of the great red wine areas of the world. Like some of the other big red wine areas, there is a river running through it. The Ebro, the longest river in Spain with more than 200 tributaries, has given its name to the peninsula. But where has the name Rioja come from … Hard to say! Ana Fabiano in her 2012 book, The Wine Region of Rioja, says there are twenty two theories! But she narrows it down to two serious ones.
One of the pair does include the River Oja, Rio Oja, a tributary that joins the Ebro near Haro, in the mix. It is convenient for the modern reader to jump to that conclusion. But, as Ana points out, it is too simple. The origin is clouded in history and by versions in so many languages, including local, invader and Euskara (Basque). Much easier though to work your way through the wineries, even if many of them have Basque names!
Must admit I didn't know until recently that Rioja (the wine region) and La Rioja (the administrative region) are not exactly the same. Vines don't recognise where the border ends and so a Rioja vineyard can extend into Navarra or Álava. Rioja is divided into three sub regions: Alta, Alavesa and Baja.
Tempranillo is the main grape in Rioja. She (yes, it is a she) is so called because she ripens early and the Spanish word Temprano means early.
*The Wine Region of Rioja by Ana Fabiano.
Rioja red wine stickers:
The green label (cosecha) indicates less than one year in oak, less than one in bottle.
The red label (crianza) indicates 1 year in oak, 1 in bottle.
The burgundy (reserva) indicates 1 year in oak, 2 in bottle.
The royal blue (gran reserva) indicates 2 years in oak, three years in bottle.
Finca Cien Vacas Tempranillo 2012 (Rioja), 13%, €11.95 Karwig Wines
Decent fruit and a matching acidity combine to make this a quality, easy drinking wine. Colour is ruby and you have a bowl of ripe red fruit in the aromas. It is one hundred per cent Tempranillo and has been produced by a family undertaking to be “pleasant, healthy and for daily consumption,.... reflect in a straightforward manner the qualities of the environment and the benefits of the vintage”. All sounds honest to me and the wine is Recommended.
This bottle has a green label indicating less than one year in oak, less than one in bottle. This level of wine is often spoken of as being joven (young) but you may never see that word on the label. More than likely, you’ll see cosecha (harvest).
Ardo by M. de Riscal Rioja 2013, 13.5%, €10.99 *
You’ll love the colour of this one, ruby with a shine. There are intense aromas of ripe red fruits. Fruit and spice combine in impressive attack, fine tannins too, superb body and balance and finish. This, made from younger grapes, has had a few months in oak. It is very good indeed for your basic cosecha (green sticker) and Highly Recommended.
Torres Altos Ibéricos Crianza 2012, 13.5%, €16.99 *
While Torres is synonymous with wine in Spain, it was only in 2005 that they first purchased land in Rioja. This wine is 100% Tempranillo and has spent 12 months in French and American oak. It bears the red crianza sticker. It was first produced in 2007. Torres don't rush and they now have just two wines from here, the second a Graciano. Watch this space methinks!
This deep cherry wine has aromas of ripe fruits, wood and spices. Quite a serious wine this monovarietal, bold and confident with fruit galore, elements of the oak too, a tannic grip, and a balancing acidity. Not of the easy drinking variety but well worth making the effort to get acquainted with this smooth customer. Very Highly Recommended.
M. de Riscal Arienzo Crianza 2010 (Rioja), 14% *
In 2008 Tempranillo, Spain’s flagship variety, accounted for 80% of the red wine harvest in Rioja. You’ll also see it called Tinta del Pais, Tinta Roriz (Portugal), Tinta de Toro, and more. The blend here is Tempranillo (90%) and five per cent each of Graciano and Mazuelo (Carignan).
Colour is ruby (with a super sheen) and it has ripe fruit aromas. Vibrant wash of fresh fruits leads the soft attack, some sweet spice there too and other hints of its 18 months in oak. The finalé doesn't lack for length. May not make the top wines of Riscal - after all it is a newcomer (2007) to the stable - but it will sit nicely on my short list. Very Highly Recommended.
Zuazo Gaston Rioja Crianza 2012, 13.5%, €17.99
Stockists: Ardkeen Quality Food Store, Co. Waterford. Carpenters Off Licence Castleknock, Co. Dublin. Chill in Off Licence, Co. Dublin. JJ Gibneys, Co. Dublin. Matsons Wine Store Grange & Bandon, Co. Cork. The Wine Well, Co. Meath
This comes with dark fruits aromas, hints too of its 12 months in oak. Fruit and spice on the palate, fine tannins too and sufficient acidity, complex and elegant, all before a long pleasant finish (with a hint of fruit sweetness). Highly Recommended.
This is listed as one of the best crianzas in Ana Fabiano’s Rioja. Can't argue with that. Indeed, it is that listing that alerted me to Zuazo Gaston. The bottle is of an unusual colour, frosted dark green which, when full, looks totally black. Looks well on the outside, and what is inside tastes well when you get it out!
CUNE Rioja 2011 Crianza (Spain), 13.5%, €10.00 Tesco
This bottle, from one of the longest established wineries in Rioja, has the bright red sticker that indicates its a Crianza with a minimum of 12 months in oak. It is drinking very well now. Uncomplicated, easy to drink and Highly Recommended. Penin, the leading Spanish wine guide, gave it 90 points.
Colour is a Cherry Red and there are very pleasant fruit aromas. Fruit flavours, fine tannins, plus the influence of its time in the oak and a matching acidity make this a very agreeable wine indeed and it has a decent finish too.
CUNE was founded in Haro 1879 as Compania Vinicola del Norte de Espana (CVNE). The transformed acronym, pronounced coo-nay, grew somewhere along the way! The sixth generation of the Madrazo family are now in charge.
Coto de Imaz Rioja Reserva 2010, 13.5%, €18.50 Karwig Wines
The bottle has the burgundy sticker indicating Reserva status. It is dark cherry in the glass with aromas of fruit (ripe, red) and spice. No shortage of power here, fruit, spice and wood wonderfully combining in a smooth show of Tempranillo at its best, power yes but in a velvet glove. It has spent 17 months in oak, well over the minimum twelve.
Founded in 1970, Bodegas El Coto is one of the “younger” Rioja producers and its wines are regarded as “wonderful Classic Riojas”. And indeed reverence is due here, excellent structure, well rounded and balanced and Very Highly Recommended.
Marques de Riscal Rioja Reserva 2011, 14%, €19.99 (down from 23.49) *
This superb reserva is made mainly from Tempranillo vines planted in the 70s. The Graciano and Mazuelo varieties, whose presence in the blend does not exceed 10%, provide crispness and a lively colour. The fruit has been hand-picked and the wine has spent 26 months in American oak.
That colour is a dark cherry and the aromas are of concentrated ripe fruits, hints too of the oak and also balsamic notes. The palate is superbly rounded, smooth and elegant, tannins are very soft and there is a long finish, A top drop for sure and Very Highly Recommended.
They recommend pairing it with ham, mild cheeses, casseroles which are not highly spiced, bean and pulse dishes, poultry, red meat, grills and roasts.
* At leading independents, including Bradley's and O'Driscoll's of Cork and also available on-trade at leading restaurants and bars.
Check out our mini-feature on leading Spanish winemaker Alvaro Palacios and how he is changing the balance in your Riojan red!
More here on Rioja whites
Check out our mini-feature on leading Spanish winemaker Alvaro Palacios and how he is changing the balance in your Riojan red!
Monday, May 18, 2015
Miguel Torres: Message in a Bottle
“We are very much into organic viticulture, being so aware of global warming. Today's decisions will have to be dealt with down the line.”
Then we went down to Chile for the next red, the Cordillera Carignan 2009 from the Maule Valley. By the way, Miguel advised going to the south of Chile if you do get a chance to visit. The original Carignan vineyards had been abandoned but Torres pruned them and started producing again. This is a very good example, fresh fruit and acidity, tannins, a little spice with a good finish. “Not heavy, but fresh!”
The more we care about the earth, the better our wine.
Climate change pops up in conversation and some people switch off - nothing to do with me. That’s not the way the Torres wine family see it. With the opening sentence above as motto, they are doing something about it with a programme called Torres and Earth.
Miguel Torres, one of the family’s fifth generation, was in Dublin's Westbury Hotel last week for a tasting but first he spoke of the family and the threats from climate change that it is seeing “more and more”. “Vineyards are very much at risk. Hailstorms are an example.”
Torres are well known for their concern for “the earth and its resources, not only for this generation, but also for future generations”. Climate change has heightened their concern and led to a continuing drive for improved sustainability. For instance they have devised a method of turning vine cuttings into a source of energy, are using solar panels for much the same purpose and have a 2020 target of reducing CO2 emission per bottle by 30% by comparison with 2008.
|The Torres family|
Fair Trade has long been a Torres concern, beginning soon after their 1979 start in Chile. Miguel explained that Fair Trade was good for their growers there and also for the company itself. If they hadn’t paid a fair price for the grapes, the children of their growers would have left for the cities as has happened elsewhere. Now, seeing their parents fairly paid for their work, enough children stay behind to ensure the future. Torres was the first private company in Chile to be designated Fair Trade.
Back to their base in Catalonia and here they have “recuperated ancient Catalan varieties, 38 in all. Not all are good but six are top quality, very well adapted to a hot and dry climate”. Torres are also experimenting with growing vines at higher levels.
And then there is the never ending problem of disease. Indeed some diseases, particularly fungal, may be due to modern machinery which are rough on the vines. I think we in Ireland have seen that in the way modern machines “batter” the roadside hedges in the process of trimming them. Miguel detailed some trunk diseases, possibly facilitated by the rough "handling" by machines, and said they were working towards a cure. Obviously others are too and he said “one treatment to cure all would be in great demand!”.
Miguel said that while Torres “have lots of vineyards, it is the people that are important. We have 1300 people, a team". The family are of course part of that team. He also said that people buying wine should rely more than the winemaker rather than the appellation. “An appellation can produce some great wines but also some terrible ones’.
|Torres in Chile|
Torres are not interested in expanding beyond what the family can handle. “We want to continue as a family, pass it on to the next generation”. One of the benefits of this, at least in the Torres case, is that no less than 95% of profit is re-invested, much of it in research.
They are of course a Spanish family. “Penedes is our hometown and by the way, watch out for a new wine from here next year. It will be called Purgatory, not because we are sinners!”
|Torres in California|
He called his aunt Marimar an inspiration. She helped boost sales in the US from 1975 and now runs the 57 hectare Marimar Estate in California's Russian River valley, producing mainly Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines, all organic with a focus now on biodynamic.
“Chile is an ideal country for wine,” said Miguel. “All our vineyards, total 400 hectares, are organic.” They began here in 1979. His father and grandfather brought in the first stainless steel tanks, along with the first new oak casks in over forty years, to revolutionise the industry there. In recognition of that and their long-term commitment, the Chilean government presented Miguel A Torres with the Order of Bernardo O’Higgins in 1996.
There have also been major honours for the family in Catalonia. It seems they contribute wherever they are. The earth could do with more companies like this.
Frustration ran high in the Torres stronghold of Penedes in the late 70s. They were producing what they thought were great wines but where was the recognition?
Then came the breakthrough, in Paris of all places. Torres entered their Gran Coronas Mas la Plana into the 1979 Gault-Millau blind tasting Wine Olympiad and it won, leaving wines like Chateau Latour and Chateau Haut-Brion behind. The win gave Torres the recognition it craved and the confidence to take on the world.
And from that same 29 hectares vineyard, we had the Mas la Plana 2010, a 100 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon, full of freshness, fruit and spice. Miguel said this was a great wine to celebrate its 40th anniversary - the wine that won in Paris was from 1970.
You could taste why Miguel would be proud of this one but perhaps he was just that little bit prouder of the next, the final red of the tasting. This was the Grans Muralles 2004 and the extra pride was because this was composed of Spanish varieties, including two of those “recuperated”. The two are Garró and Samsó and the other varieties are Monastrell, Garnacha Tinta and Carińena, all of them planted within the walls of this single vineyard, dating from the Middle Ages. The wine is full of character and complex. “Still young with a long life ahead”.
Before these two, I had more or less settled on the Salmos 2012, from their Priorat vineyards, as my favorite. Priorat is one of the smallest appellations and the wine is named after the psalms the original monks sang (they weren’t allowed to talk).
It is a blend from two vineyards, one at 200 metres, the other at 500 (for the Carińena). The other varieties are Garnacha Tinta and Syrah.
Carińena is becoming increasingly important and, for its contribution to colour and acidity, is being used in this particular wine in “increasing proportion and could be a key variety in the future of Priorat.” Just loved its fruit, spice and acidity, suited me very well indeed.
We had started the reds with quite a lovely Tempranillo, the Celeste 2012 from Ribera del Duero. It is made in a Rioja style but is less acidic. It is a light red yet quite complex and “delivers the fruit very well, tannins yes, but quite elegant”.
|Miquel in the cellar|
While we sampled the final white, the Jean Leon Vinya Gigi Chardonnay 2013 (Penedes), Miguel revealed that the first Chardonnay vines were “smuggled” into Penedes and, after a struggle, were eventually recognized for appellation purposes. Aromas of tropical fruit with an unctuous creamy palate and a long finish makes this a little bit special.
Another Chardonnay, from the Limari Valley in Chile, had preceded this one. It has been aged for 7 months in French oak (30% new, 70% second year). They are decreasing the oak though. “In Chile, the nicest thing you have is the fruit - no need for make-up!”, said Miguel. “We are trying to keep the acidity and freshness”. And it is fresh with good acidity, great flavor and a little spice. I think I may have a slight preference for this over the Jean Leon.
We had started with two grapes that I enjoy: Verdejo and Albarino. First up was the Verdeo 2014 from Rueda. No wood used here at all. The vintage had been “cool”. This was very aromatic and beautifully fresh.
The 2013 Albarino came from Pazo das Bruxas (bruxas means witches!) in Rias Baixas where the grape “is a key variety”. Some grapes for this come from close to the coast (for better acidity), some from a little bit inland (for the body). “You can get red apple here; it has good density and finish”. He told us that Albarino can age well, 7 or 8 years, and can get more complex. This is excellent as it is, with great freshness and flavour.
I know I've picked Salmos as a favourite but to be honest I wouldn't like to leave any of these behind me. It was a great set from Torres. So muchas gracias to Miguel for the talk and the wines and to Findlaters for bringing it all together.
Verdeo 2014 (Rueda)
Pazo das Bruxas 2013 (Rias Baixas)
Cordillera Chardonnay 2012 (Limari Valley)
Jean Leon Vinya Gigi Chardonnay 2013 (Penedes)
Celeste 2012 (Ribera del Duero)
Cordillera Carignan 2009 (Maule Valley)
Salmos 2012 (Priorat)
Mas la Plana 2010 (Penedes)Grans Muralles 2004 (Conca de Barbera)