Cathedrals of Wine in Catalonia – Introducing Castell d’Or

Castell d’Or isn’t just a cooperative of growers in the Catalonia region of north-east Spain, it’s the coming together of sixteen distinct wine cooperatives with histories extending back to the end of the 19th century.

The first cooperative winery in Catalonia was the Cooperativa Agrícola de Barberà de la Conca, formed in 1894 as civil tensions simmered in Spain and Catalan republicans campaigned for the region’s independence. The cooperative movement brought villages together and ensured the financial survival of thousands of growers and their families through the sharing of knowledge, resources, technical innovation and transport, as well as pooled investment in new wineries. A new generation of architects, disciples of modernism, created “cathedrals of wine”, intended to increase productivity and quality, and drive economies of scale.

Before merging with the aforementioned Barberà de la Conca in 1934, the Sindicat Agrícola de Barberà commissioned the magnificent Barberà de la Conca modernist winery, designed by architect Cèsar Martinell, a disciple of Gaudí, and completed in 1921. The building featured four major technical innovations, including the construction of concrete tanks on parabolic brick arches and the design and location of windows for optimal ventilation. The plan of the building resembles a basilica, with a long underground passageway that crosses the main nave and protects hundreds of bottles of Cava from the winery. The water tower, added in 1929, mimics the Baroque bell tower of the town.

Martinell designed another ‘wine cathedral’ for the Cooperativa Agrícola de Vila-Rodona, less than two miles from Santes Creus monastery, one of the main stops on the Ruta del Císter, the pilgrimage route that also takes in the Cistercian monastery and UNESCO World Heritage Site of Poblet. The modernist façade of Vila-Rodona, with the exposed brick and ceramic that became a signature of Martinell, is a striking bonus for passing pilgrims.

Many of Martinell’s buildings and the original cooperativas of Catalonia remain today, some doubling as tourist attractions as well as still producing wine. Technology, in wine as in other areas of life, moves on however.

In 2006, sixteen of these historic cooperatives came together to form Castell d’Or, a new collective of more than 2,200 families working more than 6,200 hectares of vineyards in Catalonia. New facilities using the latest technology in winemaking, maturation, storage, and energy and water conservation produce in excess of 8 million bottles a year.

The proximity to the coast and the high altitude of some of the vineyards — situated up to 750m above sea level — provide a diversity of microclimates best suited for the individual requirements of Cava’s three native grape varieties, Xarel-lo, Macabeo and Parelleda. This optimisation of growing and diversity of grapes and terroir allows for the creation of multiple Cavas with unique characteristics, qualities recognised with the awarding of multiple gold medals at the some of the world’s most prestigious wine shows, including Mundus Vini and Concours Mondial de Bruxelles.

Castell d’Or:

Castell d’Or
Conca de Barberà Turisme

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