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Audio visit

Welcome to the Gandesa Cooperative. This institution is currently made up of 150 members, owners of 1.000 hectares of land that produce 1.5 million kilos of grapes (50% white and 50% red), in young and old grapevines. In addition to the vineyards, the olives and the almonds also play an important role in our Cooperative.

You are now in a modernist wine cathedral, a building by the architect Cèsar Martinell where wine was produced between 1919 and 2002.

If you stand over the starting point of the audio guide, you will see the three naves that make up the building.

You are currently in the wine tank room. To your left, you will find the grape reception room. And in front of it, at the end of the corridor, is the pressing room where the wooden grape presses are located.

Here at point 1, you are standing at the centre of the building, the tank room, also called the transformation hall.

If you look from side to side, you will see 30 concrete tanks of 20 to 30.000 litres of capacity which in the past contained wine. Another 23 wine tanks of 40.000 litres of capacity can be found underground.

In front of you, you can find a round glass on the ground. Take a peek and you will see the bottom of the tank.

Besides the concrete wine tanks in this building, there also used to be an underground pipe that carried and supplied wine to the building on the other side of the street, where another 2 million litres could be stored in underground tanks.

You can head now to point 2

Description of the room and the original production process

You are now in the upper nave or reception room. 

This nave connects with the grape reception façade; behind this wall there is the square of the grape unloaders, where the collected grapes were unloaded in a tiled pit. The wooden door next to number 2 connects to that pit. 

The grapes were brought into the building via a vertical conveyor belt and some buckets that were located in the two highest windows of the warehouse.

In the coloured plan by Cèsar Martinell on your right, by the door, you will see a drawing of the conveyor belt, and below it, a recent picture of how the grapes were poured.

Once the grapes were inside the building, they were destemmed: a process where the grape stem and grain was removed, keeping just the grape itself and then it was crushed.

Once the grape was crushed it would be sent through pipes to the tanks, where fermentation would take place. During the fermentation of the grape, the yeast transform sugars present in the juice into alcohol. This natural process produces heat and gases and at  39 degrees, the yeasts die and fermentation stops.

Following the first fermentation, the “bleeding” took place, which was a first pressing of the juice and the result was poured down into the underground tanks where a second fermentation was carried out. The residual paste that remained in the tanks, the grape skin, was passed through the mobile presses, which were manually transported along the rails to the entry of each concrete tank. The grape juice with paste was then pressed again, a "second pressing", and it was again poured down to the lower tanks. Following that process, the paste still passed through esparto presses for a “third pressing”. The more the juice was pressed, the lower the quality.

Those skins were also used for the maceration of red wines, mixed with the juices would darken the wine. 

Other elements of the room: from the vineyard to the bottle and glass.

On the left of the door you can find a large banner on a wall where you can picture the process of the grape from December until you drink it in a glass.

You can also find a white stand with bottles, where you will find a list of people that made and keep making this whole process possible in our Cooperative; peasants, partners, directors… 

Above the panel you can see the bottled products, which were first produced in the 1970s. For each of those bottles, there are many hours of land farming, selection and process of the product, and behind them the history of entire families that have spent more than 100 years making wine.

If you take a look up, towards the back of the warehouse, you will see the silhouette of the interior windows, painted in white, which have inspired the label of our best range of wines: the Puresa, wines of one variety of grapes from very old and selected vineyards, aged in wooden barrels.

We’ll head now to the pressing room, where you will find points 3, 4 and 5.

Before you enter the room, under the arch, you’ll notice two photos to your right. They show how the former grape presses could pass, through the rails, from one side of the street to the other. 

These wooden boxes, called palots, have transported the Cooperative's product for many years. They now collect graphic elements from a lifetime of wine making. 

On one side, you'll see two Spanish Civil war propaganda posters from both sides.

In front of you, in the first set of photos, you can see the construction of the winery; men and women worked together carrying bricks, cement and stones.

In the second set of photos you can see the first years of the Cooperative operations and photos from 1939, when the national army entered Gandesa.

The third set of photos show the vineyards during the 1960s.

On the other side, you’ll find an original blackboard and a bench from the Cooperativa early years and an advert in a 1920 newspaper.

Phylloxera

Grape Phylloxera it’s an insect pest of commercial grapevines worldwide that accidentally arrived in Europe in 1860 from an American shipment of vines. It spread rapidly due to the impotence of the winegrowers to stop it due to lack of means. 

The phylloxera plague reached the north of Catalonia in the final third of the 19th century.

In our region, Terra Alta, the vineyard became the main farming activity, and made it possible to cover the wine deficit in the areas infected by the pest. The scarcity of vineyards in other areas turned out to be a booming time for Terra Alta. 

Phylloxera finally arrived in Terra Alta in 1899 and in 1902 it had already affected the entire region. During the first decade of the 20th century, the stems of the infected vines were burned and the vineyards were replanted with stems of the American strain, already resistant to the plague.

We are a Cooperative

At the beginning of the 20th century, the impoverishment in the region caused by phylloxera led to the appearance of different actors who wanted to profit from the situation, such as commission agents. 

Joining forces and setting up cooperatives of owners was seen as the best way to achieve financial and commercial independence, to not depend on banks or commission agents.

In the midst of Noucentisme, a Catalan cultural movement of the early 20s, the creation of the Commonwealth of Catalonia lead to a resurgence in the country: the schooling system was modernised, a library network was created, the Catalan language was normalised and the creation of agricultural cooperatives was encouraged to strengthen local peasant communities. As the cultural awareness of the population increased, the harder it became to deceive its people.

In this context, on February 19th of 1919, forty-eight families from Gandesa decided to create the Gandesa Cooperative Union. There were some conditions to become a member: being from the town of Gandesa, contributing 20 pesetas, land (or their work) and weighing more than 50 kilos, in order to avoid child labour.

Ancient tradition

Our territory has almost a thousand-year-old wine tradition. Some regional manuscripts from 1296, "Costums d'Orta", or from 1319 the "Costums de Miravet", already show evidence of the cultivation of the vineyard and the production of wine in Gandesa.

Terra Alta has its own vinicultural life and identity. The famous writer Joan Perucho, and even Pablo Picasso, knew that our wines were distinguished between virgin or brisado, both white. Throughout history, wines known as "Gandesa" had become popular, especially white wine, but also red.

The altitude, the soil, the climate, the harvesting and production methods make our wines and oils unique. 

The altitude of the crops ranges between 350 and 550 metres. We have 17 soil profiles. We enjoy a Mediterranean climate with continental influence, with oscillations between -6ºC and 38ºC. And we have the north wind, the garbinada, wind from south-west, and little rainfall.

Seventh wonder

The Cooperative building is one of the Wine Cathedrals of Catalonia, catalogued as a Cultural Asset of National Interest and chosen as one of the seven wonders of Catalonia in a popular vote in 2007, along with the Sagrada Família, the Seu Vella de Lleida, the Roman Tarraco, the historic centre of Vic, the Cathedral of Girona and the Abbey of Sant Miquel de Cuixà.

The building was commissioned to the architect Cèsar Martinell, a disciple of Antoni Gaudí and Josep Puig i Cadafalch. The winery was completed in January 1920, and as soon as it was finished, an extension was carried out on a plot of land on the other side of the road, where underground wine tanks and the oil mill were built. The works were completed in November 1920.

In 1986, the architect Manuel Ribas Piera, following Martinell's original project, built a tavern in the back (it is the current visitors' hall and office area). Between 2011 and 2014 the modernist complex was refurbished.

Innovative building

Martinell made a large number of buildings destined to make wine and oil. Despite the lack of financial resources, Martinell’s expertise made this building possible, including many architectural innovations that sought to save the budget and make it unique.

For instance, Martinell suppressed the basilica floor plan and that’s why we have a building with an irregular floor plan and no main façade.

He also avoided using wood, an expensive material since the 1st World War, and the roof gabled structure. He used instead the Catalan four-point vault, which rests on the parabolic arches of the interior. There are no tiles on the roof, but a simple coating of mortar and lime. The Catalan vault made it possible to leave small triangular openings in the upper part, which create windows and air currents that are ideal for the wine and the exit of the winemaking gases.

The oenologist Isidre Campllonch and the olive oil technician Emili Rovirosa advised and worked together with Martinell in the project.

With our hands

The Cooperative was founded on February 19th of 1919 and the works were finished in January 1920, less than a year! In November 1920, the works on the oil mill that was built next to the winery were also finished. The total cost was 200,000 pesetas, five times less than other cooperatives of the same architect himself. How was it built so quickly and cheaply?

As there were not many cooperative members with capital, many contributed with their manual labour to build the building. The Cooperative founding families raised the building with their own hands.

Many women actively contributed to the construction work with only the heaviest loads reserved for men. Think of those women when you take a close look at those empty columns that rise three floors high and admire the delicacy of the work, almost spiderweb. They were not designed that way for aesthetics but to save bricks and load. 

War at 100 metres

Between the second decade of the 20th century and the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, in 1936, the rhythm production and volume of kilos of grapes grew and improved harvest after harvest and the vinification processes of the wine were consolidated.

Thus, the Gandesa Cooperative began to market the first litres of brisado wine following the methods exported from Bordeaux and under a quality control that was unusual during the times of the Second Republic.

During the war, the Cooperative continued to function normally until the mid 1937, when most of the male members had to join the war Front.

In their absence, while some metres away  the longest and most transcendental battle of the Civil war was being fought,  the women of the Cooperative took the helm of the winery and ensured its activity for more than a year and a half, until the end of the conflict.

Vermouth saved us

1939, end of the Civil War. The vineyards are littered with shells, scrap and corpses. Faced with desolation, the partners make a decision that will change the course of their history: patent Terralta vermouth (produced since 1932) and sell it in single-dose bottles, whose price gives them a better margin.

They bought a bottling machine for 3,000 pesetas, a fortune at the time. The village carpenter was commissioned to produce wooden boxes to pack and sell the vermouth bottles, in different sizes, 24, 36 or 100 bottles. 

In 1941 a notorious marketing campaign was launched: they rented a large wall in front of the Plaza Monumental de Barcelona and painted the image of vermouth at a cost of 7,500 pesetas! With this and other actions the cooperative built a name, visibility and prestige.

As a result of the second world war, in 1946 the partners stopped being able to import Italian spices to make vermouth and began to use native spices. In 1954 a change in the regulatory law made the Cooperative sell the patent and the vermouth formula to Cinzano, the Italian company,  for 7,000 pesetas.

We open to the country

In 1947 the debt for the construction of the winery was paid off. The new railway that connects Terra Alta with Tortosa (and later with Barcelona and Valencia) opens up a range of unknown commercial possibilities.

Gandesa's famous Terralta vermouth was exported throughout the country and became the driving force behind the Cooperative Union in the 40s.

In the mid-50s, coinciding with the opening stage of Franco’s regime, the trade of oil and almonds became one of the sources of investment that sustained the Union.

This is how during the fifties, sixties and seventies the number of members of the Cooperative increased in a meagre (miger) but constant way.

3,2,1… to bottle!

Until the 70s, all the Cooperative's wine was sold in bulk from the store's taps. Only the vermouth had been bottled.

At the end of the 70s, the Cooperative made the decision to renovate and expand the winery, initiating works that would last three years and that would turn it into a more modern, diaphanous and agile space.

At that time, its own commercial wine brand, Gandesa de Vins, was created, and the first bottled wines of the Cooperative were brought to the market. At the same time, in 1982, the Generalitat de Catalunya created the Terra Alta Denomination of Origin, which emphasises the values ​​of the terroir.

Garidells (the first barrel-fermented white wine), Cèsar Martinell, Varvall (the first Crianza in the region, at the end of the 80s), Antic Castell, Meserols... these are all very successful wine brands of the cooperative. Between 30,000 and 40,000 bottles of Varvall were sold annually.

A winery for the XXI century

With the arrival of the new millennium, the cooperative decided to make a drastic technological change to adapt to the new times, following the latest innovation and quality standards. 

The new winery, refurbished in 2002, has stainless steel tanks for each type of production, refrigeration system, barrel room, bottling area and finished product storage room.

At a cost of 5 million euros, the debt of the new winery was paid off in 2021, almost twenty years after the start of the works. In this revolutionary change, we counted on the help of many wineries around the world and universities such as Rovira and Virgili.

The original winery, designed by Cèsar Martinell, is a space where wine is no longer made except for tank number 14, which is the one for our vinegar, and it currently only welcomes visitors. 

The old winery had almost 3 million litres stored in the underground concrete tanks. In the new winery, 2,767,000 litres are stored in steel tanks.

Award winning wines

Big part of the success of our wines is that we elaborate them from the vineyard: we choose each grape carefully and strictly monitor it throughout the year. When the grapes reach the Cooperative, they undergo a selection process, get scored and paid according to their quality. Thus, combined with the creation of the new winery, a leap in quality was noted. 

The current collection of wines has received dozens of awards and high scores in the Grenaches du Monde awards, in the Vinari, in the Peñín Guide or in the Guide of Wines of Catalonia. 

Despite being a Cooperative with many partners, we have a product of excellence, and the word "cooperative" can never again be associated with low-quality wine. 

Puresa, Somdinou and Gandesola: three strong brands with many awards. Gandesola is the brand of young vineyard wine. Somdinou, from medium-aged vineyards with barrel fermentation and ageing. The Puresa are monovarietal wines made from grapes from vineyards over 50 years old, fermented and macerated in stainless steel and aged in French oak barrels for 12 months.

More than 100 years of oil production

When the works on the winery were finished, in January 1920, the partners asked the architect to design an oil mill on the other side of the road, which was inaugurated in November 1920. 

Exactly 100 years later, we’ve launched a new range of oils: the Gandesoli Gold Collection, specially selected in early harvest.

The new collection Gandesoli, which includes coupage and monovarietal oils (arbequina and empeltre), include different ranges of sizes; from table size, restaurant or industrial kitchen, and 2 or 5 litre bottles. The oil from the Gandesa Cooperative is Extra Virgin Olive Oil with cold extraction.

From the 20’s to the 90's we produced all the oil in our own oil mill, until the machinery became obsolete. Our partners currently harvest about 220,000 kilos of olives, which represent about 40,000 kilos of oil, and we outsource the production and packaging of the oil  to third-party facilities, always under strict quality control.

Our own tradition

The oldest olive tree in Catalonia can be found very close to the Cooperative, testimony of hundreds of years of oil production in the region.

The personality of Terra Alta oil is determined by its main variety, empeltre, a native variety traditionally grown in the area, distinguished by its high fat content and the excellent quality of its oils. It is perfectly adapted to poor soils and resistant to drought and cold.

The elaboration process has technically developed with time, but in the Cooperative we continue to maintain the traditional first steps: reception, quality control and selection of olives.

Although they are no longer in use, we still preserve the silo or oil containers, the grinding granite stones, the esparto filters, the hydraulic presses, the olive washer and other tools involved in the process of oil production.

You can head now to point 6. Halfway up the stairs, take a look at the picture next to the large window. As you can see, this window was not a window, but a door that was planned to lead to a large terrace that was ultimately never built.

You have reached the Forest of columns. This iconic space of the Cooperative gives a glimpse of the slenderness of the building structure through the arches that support this great wine cathedral.

This floor used to be the access to the wine big tanks, through their upper lids, in order to carry out periodic cleaning and other needed maintenance.

We invite you to wander around this forest of columns, take some photos, and if you feel like it, leave your opinion in our guest book that you’ll find just under the staircase on the way out. 

Thank you very much for your time and your visit.

We hope to see you again very soon!

 


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