Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Castlexperience Montserrat Tapas and Wine Tour Review

On our recent trip to Barcelona, we took a half day tour to Montserrat to visit the national park, monastery, and Oller Del Mas winery. The tour was with the company Castlexperience who run daily wine tours from the Barcelona area. They pride themselves on passionate staff who are really enthusiastic about the Spanish and Catalan culture and who know their food and of course their wine.



The day started at Plaza Cataluña, the main square in the centre of Barcelona. Here you are greeted by staff with a pink umbrella, easy to spot for sure! From here they whisk you off on coaches to Montserrat. Our tour guide was Simon and he was a very likeable and personable character. As we drove out of Barcelona in our comfortable air-conditioned coach (so important in the Spanish heat) Simon told us some history of the city.

As we weaved our way into the hills the scenery was impressive, Montserrat literally means saw, which describes the jagged edges of the rock formations in the mountain, and you are surrounded by amazing mountains and awe-inspiring views.



In little over an hour, we arrived at Montserrat and the Benedictine monastery which it is famous for and home of the Black Virgin, one of Spain's more revered icons.  The scenery as we stopped was breathtaking.

When we stopped as well as the beautiful scenery I was amazed how, rather than being a simple affair, the monastery was much grander than I thought. 


The community is made up of 80 or so monks that all follow the 'Rule of Saint Benedict', devoting their lives to prayer, welcoming pilgrims and working.


I am not a religious person but the monastery was interesting to see. While we were there we also saw a procession to celebrate a birthday of one of the saints. 


As I said many people go to visit the black Madonna, which is of religious significance and you can find more about this here. People queue to see the statue and the tradition is for you to kiss or touch the Virgin's hand whilst opening your other hand out to Jesus.

After a short visit to Montserrat, it was time to get on our coach again and head to the Oller Del Mas winery. 



The Oller Del Mas winery is based in a medieval castle that dates back to the 10th century and was completely restored from 1981 to 2008. The winery uses organic methods to produce their wine with much of it picked by hand. This way the fruit is cared for and not squashed or damaged by the harvesting process. By picking the fruit this way, they can carefully select the best grapes for the wine.  With the Montserrat mountains sheltering the vines from the extremes of cold and heat, the area has a microclimate perfect for growing the best grapes.



We were shown the grapes on the vines which were small and sweet. The sweeter the grapes the more alcoholic the wine apparently. All the wine that is made here is made from grapes grown by organic methods and none of the grapes were bought in. We were then shown the machinery where they sort the grapes (although some are sorted by hand), and then to the cellar where the wine is stored in vats. 


It was interesting to hear about why the wine is aged in vats. As well as the benefits of flavour from the vat, Simon said that one year in a vat is equivalent to 18 years in a bottle, so it helps with the ageing process.


Then it was the fun part, tasting the wine. For the wine tasting, we were given a selection of three different wines and a tasty plate of tapas too. They did ask prior if anyone had any dietary needs and vegetarians were easily catered for. 


The three wines chosen were all red, were all sold at the vineyard and were of different price points. All very tasty wine, that is for sure. At this point, I admit I forgot to make a note of the wines as I was enjoying the company and food too much! We learnt about wine as well. Did you know that you can make white wine out of red grapes but you can't make red wine out of white grapes? This is because the colour of the wine is due to the skin being left in contact with the grape juice. I must admit I knew this due to my Marks and Spencer's wine book I had on my shelf at home!


Before long it was back to the coach and the short trip back to Barcelona. 

Mr W and I both really enjoyed the Castlexperience tapas and wine tour. It was informative, it was fun, we got to see the beautiful Montserrat mountains, the monastery and a lovely vineyard. The best part for me was tasting the wine and enjoying the tapas. Often the success of a tour relies on the tour guide and Simon was very good, and always happy to answer any questions during the tour. He really knew his wine and obviously enjoyed talking about the vineyard to us. There was also no hard sell to buy the wine at the end of the tour. If you do however want to explore Montserrat on your own there are other options too. 

Here is a video we made of the tour for our travel blog Fly Drive Explore.



So if you want something different to do, outside of the hustle and bustle of Barcelona, try the Castlexperience wine tours. They do a small range of tours and pride themselves on knowledgeable interesting guides. Tours range from 50 Euros to just under 100 Euros for an all day tour inclusive of food and wine tasting. The half day Montserrat tapas and wine tour was 64.99 Euros which we both thought was decent value for what you get. Recommended.
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45 comments

  1. I absolutely love this part of the world and I really wish the last time I went to Barcelona that I explored further from the city - this spot looks fantastic, going on my to do list

    Laura x

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    1. It's certainly worth it to take a day out from the hustle and bustle of Barcelona.

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  2. Wow, this looks a like a fab trip! I love your travel posts x

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  3. What an absolutely amazing experience. I love visiting Europe, and the main reason for that is the architecture.

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  4. That is so awesome! That's the perfect blend of the beauty of the countryside and architecture and the culture of the region.

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  5. It looks so beautiful there! I would love to visit Europe and experience other cultures.

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  6. Oh man, this was on my list, but we have not made it to Barcelona yet! I believe this is an easy day trip from that city, that is what we used to do all over Europe, day trip! I love these food recommendations!
    Mitch

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  7. I had no idea you could make white wine from red grapes but couldn't make red wine with white grapes. You learn something new every day.

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  8. The scenery alone has me needing to go. But the foodie in me would love to experience the food tour also. Sounds like a great price for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

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  9. Barcelona is definitely on my list and this blog post makes me want to get there sooner rather than later. Off to look at a calendar and go ahead and book that trip. Must visit Barcelona.

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  10. This looks like a wonderful place to visit. I would love to go and check out the Oller Del Mas winery.

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  11. What an exciting experience to visit the monastery, national park and Oller Del Mar winery. Love the photos makes me feel like I was there.

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  12. We are planning a trip to Barcelona next summer and your post has me so excited! Experiencing authentic tapas in Spain is high on my bucket list.

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    1. We have a post on www.flydriveexplore.com about a tapas tour we did in Barcelona too, you should check it out. It's the travel blog I write with my husband.

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  13. Wow! That monastery is so huge and absolutely beautiful! This sounds like a trip that I would love to go on with my husband. The Oller Del Mar winery has my name written all over it.

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    1. It was much larger than I expected and I agree it's so beautiful.

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  14. I had no idea the saw like edges were the cause of the name. Such neat insights!

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  15. What a wonderful trip you must have had, it looks beautiful! I loved reading about the winery, I would love to visit myself one day and experience this!

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  16. Wow I just wrote a little of Montserrat on my blog today. The island Montserrat in the Caribbean not this one. My mom is from the island but the island was colonized by Europe and I am sure it gets its name from here. Thanks for sharing this.

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    1. I am not sure where this area gets its name from but that sounds very likely!

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  17. How can you say no to Tapas and wine, looked delicious. All around this trip seems amazing and one I'd very much like to do x

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  18. Oh wow! Barcelona is one of my dream destinations! Love this post! And the wine tour sounds fantastic!

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  19. This is awesome. I have always wanted to visit places like this but sadly have yet to get the chance to. This is really gorgeous! - jeanine

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  20. I would love to go to Barcelona someday. This looks like it was a fun tour.

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  21. I really want to go to Barcelona next year! Your tour of Montserrat looks amazing too!

    Gemma x | www.flutterandsparkle.com

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  22. Wow! The architecture is absolutely breathtaking! This would be on my travel bucket list for sure.

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  23. This looks an incredible place, I have never been to Barcelona or this area but would really love to. Kaz x

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  24. I've wanted to go to Barcelona for ages and this sounds like such a great day x

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  25. Those views from the mountains are absolutely stunning! The only mountina I can see is one made out of laundry... ;) x

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  26. This looks like an amazing place! And what a fun and different thing to do on holiday!

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    1. Yes it was great fun and the monastery trip was different too.

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  27. Your photos are just beautiful, it looks wonderful!
    L x
    thequietresolution.co.uk

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  28. Oh, such a wonderful place this is. How I wish I can get there, it would be a lovely experience!

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  29. It looks just incredible, we have been to Barcelona, but never really traveled out.

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  30. This sounds like an amazing experience. Would love to see this x

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  31. Now, this is my kind of day! I would love to experience this tour.

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