Pilgrimage to the wine cathedrals

The monumental nature of the L’Espluga de Francolí Cooperative Winery so captivated the writer Àngel Guimerà, that he christened it ‘the cathedral of wine’. The Catalan Art Nouveau building was designed by the architect Lluís Domènech i Montaner, one of the leading exponents of the movement in Catalonia, where is it known as Modernisme.

The L’Espluga de Francolí winery is not the only art nouveau winery in the Barberà de la Conca region; there are six others also known as ‘wine cathedrals’ due to their similarity to religious buildings. Fancy going on the ‘wine cathedral’ tour?

A cooperative winery converted into a Wine Museum

The visit to the L’Espluga de Francolí winery also provides an introductory workshop to the region’s wine-producing tradition. Today, the cooperative winery building is also the site of the Wine Museum, where you’ll find detailed information on the history of the region, the development of vine growing and the production of wine over time. After visiting the museum, you’ll discover that tradition is one of the finest guarantees of the quality of Catalan wines.

L'Espluga de Francolí / Marc Castellet

L’Espluga de Francolí / Marc Castellet

Montblanc: the village where time stood still

From L’Espluges de Francolí, drive for about 10 km on the N-240 to a village that seems to be frozen in time: Montblanc. The city is steeped in a medieval ambience, in both its streets and squares and the imposing city walls that still partly surround it. They were built by Peter III ‘el Cerimoniós’ and today 1.5 km and some 30 towers are still standing.

Montblanc / Miguel Raurich

Montblanc / Miguel Raurich

And it is in this medieval village that the Montblanc Cooperative Winery displays its charms. In 1919, the architect Cèsar Martinell, a disciple of Antoni Gaudí, designed a building with three naves and an enormous water tank. Just seeing it from outside is enough to appreciate the splendour of Catalan industrial art nouveau, but now you’ve come this far, don’t you think it’s worth going inside? Go to the tourist office and book a guided tour of the village, which ends at the cooperative winery for a cava tasting. What better way to end your visit to Montblanc!

Church of Santa Maria / Miguel Raurich

Church of Santa Maria / Miguel Raurich

Hiking and wine tourism in Pira

Having reached the midpoint of the route, the next stop is Pira. This village is about 8 km from Montblanc, at the top of a massif 300 m above sea level, surrounded by the Torrentill stream and the natural gorge of the Anguera river. After this drive, you might like to put your boots on and explore the area a little, so we’d suggest taking the Quarries Route. This is an easy family excursion, clearly signposted, that goes through the old quarries and chalk ovens of Pira. During the wine harvest, the newly harvested grapes impregnate the whole area with a smooth, sweet aroma, making the walk all the more pleasant, wouldn’t you agree?

Once you’ve finished your walk, your inner compass will be pointing to your next destination, the village’s Cooperative Winery. The building is smaller than the others you’ve seen, but just as attractive. It has two façades, presided over by symmetrical and staggered vertical windows, showing the hallmark of the architect, Cèsar Martinell. All the wineries designed by the architect are an exercise in perfect balance between aesthetics and pragmatism. Martinell was always keenly aware that he was designing places of work and so they had to be spaces that facilitated the tasks of wine production for the DO Conca de Barberà.

Fancy going on a pilgrimage to the wine cathedrals?

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