A newspaper needed just a picture to go with the article it had written about our new wine. Of course we could take a photo. We didn’t have that particular wine at home with us in Sweden. The travel restrictions made it impossible for us to get to Spain. It’s not easy for Swedes to travel at the moment, as most countries still have a ban in place on travellers from Sweden and a few other countries.
So it had to be solved remotely with the help of our Spanish friends. It began with an email from us asking for help to take a photo. Next we had a video meeting, more people got involved, new Zoom meetings, and so on. How did we manage without Zoom before? 😊 By this stage, there were so many people involved that the one photo was starting to get expensive. So we figured we might as well take photos of all the products. Great idea, things were starting to get serious now, which I like. We brought in a professional stylist to arrange the photos. More Zoom meetings followed. A moodboard was created for inspiration and to guide us through the photoshoot.
We decided that different backgrounds were needed to bring variation to the photos. So we contacted Brichs Restaurant in Falset, which has a setting that matches Bell Cros’ image very well. It also serves excellent food and is definitely worth visiting. The photos that were to be more funky and/or in a traditional setting were taken at Mas Ardèvol in Falset-Porrera, a rustic and colourful country house offering accommodation, perfect for wine tourism.
Finally, we also needed help with the lighting. You can see some of the results and background materials here. All the photos are in the gallery on our website. By the end, between 5 and 10 people had been involved in the project. We hope you like the photos. We were really just to take a picture. 😊
This blog was supposed to be about nothing, if writing about nothing is possible. These are strange times that we’re experiencing and it feels like nothing is happening.
Until just a couple of months ago, we were working at full pace and forging ahead with launch meetings, new distributors, lots of new wines on the go and so on and so forth. And now? Well, business ended abruptly for the new distributors who never really had an opportunity to get sales of our wines off the ground. Behind the scenes, however, we’ve been hard at work to produce all our new wines. And it has been tough and taken a long time. Although we’ve been able to work inside our winery, it has not been easy to get labels, corks, bottles, wine boxes and other supplies because Spain has shut down more or less all businesses and industries. Being a new winery, we don’t have any stocks to fall back on. All we have are new products and must produce more new wines.
Thanks to the great efforts of everyone, our standard range now actually has five different wines ready to be released. Three are younger with a fruitier character, one red, one rosé and one white. And two wines with more structure, one red and one white, are best enjoyed with a meal.
We have also produced a wine called ONE OFF #1, Bell Cros’ first organic and vegan wine, made exclusively from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. This range of wines has been given its own, slightly more playful identity. And playful is exactly what it is. Our process of developing as a wine producer involves trying with different wines and wine styles. The wines that we like and believe in will be released in limited quantities. They may be produced from grape varieties that we don’t normally use, alternative vinification techniques, grapes from new growing areas, and so on. We have decided to call this special portfolio of wines “ONE OFF”, as that’s what they are.
Despite the current situation, there are no restrictions out in the vineyards, where everything continues as usual. They are hives of activity. We’ve been lucky with the weather so far, plenty of rain and warm sunshine, which is very good for the grapes. If this continues, we might be reaping a bumper harvest this year. We currently have the capacity to produce just over 50,000 bottles of wine with the grapes that we grow. Because we are a new producer, we have only made wine from half the grapes in previous years. The rest of the grapes have been sold to other wineries. The present situation makes it difficult for most vineyards to sell their wines and they have a lot in stock. What’s more, if yields are particularly high this year, we will have problems selling our excess grapes. That’s why we’ll be making wine from all our grapes this year and will produce about 50,000 bottles of wine. In order to manage this expansion, we have ordered new steel vats from Italy and oak barrels from France. It will mean putting the bottles in storage, however, since we are a new producer with limited distribution options at present. Luckily, our wines improve with age.
This blog has turned out longer than I had intended, but then again, there has been quite a lot going on. 😊
After thirteen or so months of work, we’ve now submitted a 500-page planning application to Marçá City Hall for permission to build a Bell Cros winery. Team Bell Cros and the team from Batlleiroig, the architectural practice in Barcelona, have spent thirteen intensive yet very enjoyable months on the task.
After taking the environment, surroundings, restrictions, finance and many other considerations into account, we now have the final design for our winery, which will be built completely below ground and also offer a fantastic view across our vineyards and the nearby village of Marçà. An underground location means the winery will have minimal impact on the surroundings and the environment and we can take advantage of the cool temperature naturally provided by the ground, which is needed for the vinification. Solar panels will produce some of the heating. Solid waste will be composted and waste water will be treated and recycled using a constructed wetland.
The dynamics in a project like this are fascinating. The architects want to achieve something architecturally striking, the person handling the finances tries to keep the costs down, the winemaker is looking for the optimal facilities to make the perfect wine, the logistics must be simple and efficient, the visitors must be given a memorable experience, the authorities have views and opinions, and so on and so forth. There have been numerous drawings and layout designs. The planning application is a compromise of all the various aspects. Let’s hope everyone will be pleased.
The application also includes renovation of an old storage building adjacent to the winery. We intend to turn it into a home for ourselves since it’s important to live close to the wine production facilities. We have already decided not to build the winery if we are not given permission to build this home for ourselves. If the application is turned down, we’ll consider placing the winery inside a centrally located industrial building with good logistics and practical premises.
This project will take another two or three years to complete. While waiting for the winery to materialise, we’ve temporarily renovated our “ruin” where we gather our visitors and drink wine together. You are all welcome to visit us and take a closer look at our wine project. Simply get in touch.
We’ve been asked so many times where Bell Cros wines can be bought and we’ve always replied “they can’t, you’ll have to wait….” but now they can!!!
Bell Cros is a Swedish/Catalan project which means we have two domestic markets. We’re now starting distribution of our wines in both countries at the same time. We are delighted to announce partnerships with two highly competent distributors; Rewine AB in Sweden, www.rewine.se , and Muxinach, www.muxinach.com, in the province of Barcelona.
Muxinach has been one of the largest distributors of exclusive wines and spirits in Barcelona for 30 years. Muxinach is currently updating its selection, so what better than to partner up with a brand new vineyard, Bell Cros. In the third week of February, Bell Cros was visited by Muxinach’s sales team of ten who were given an in-depth background on the wines and a tour of the vineyard.
Rewine has been in the market for well over a decade. The company recently rebooted its operations and is now run by three dedicated co-owners with many years of experience from the industry. This fantastic and hungry team will bring Bell Cros to restaurants and Systembolaget, the Swedish wine distribution monopoly. Our new red wine “El Camí” will be the first wine to go on sale to the public at Systembolaget. It will be available from 16 March 2020 and its order number is 7096201.
Our vineyard is beginning to show signs of spring and preparations for our 2020 vintage are well under way. We’re busy pruning back the vines, composting as a part of our organic production, putting up new stakes for the Garnacha Blanca vines that we planted last year, planting 1.4 hectares of new Garnacha Blanca and Garnacha Negra vines and lots of other jobs.
The day finally arrived. Wine critics and sommeliers in Catalonia were invited to the launch of Bell Cros in the third week of January. Everyone listened to the story of our adventure and sampled our wines during the two-hour tasting. AmoVino winebar in Barcelona was the go-to choice of location for the launch as it specialises in Catalan wines. All six members of Team Bell Cros were at the event and introduced themselves to the guests.
Our winemaker Joan Asens talked about Bell Cros as a vineyard and its qualities for producing unique wines that are characterised by the special environs in Montsant where Bell Cros is situated. He also explained that the vineyard is in the process of transition to organic farming. It is run as an organic vineyard today and will be officially certified organic by the Catalan Council of Organic Agricultural Production (CCPAE) at the end of 2021 and will then be allowed to use the EU green leaf ecolabel.
In addition to our only wine so far “El Tracte 2017” which is made entirely from the Carignan grape, the event marked the launch of two new wines that have just been bottled. El Camí, a crisp and full-bodied red wine with soft and inviting tannins made from 79% Carignan, 11% Garnacha Negra and 10% Tempranillo. L’Addició, a full-bodied white wine with a complex aromatic profile, made from 88% Garnacha Blanca and 12% Macabeo. We will be introducing two new crisp and easy-sipping wines, one white and one rosé, in the spring.
Miguel Figini, who is responsible for sales in Spain and for looking after all our guests, presented the new visitors’ programme. We want our visitors to enjoy a different and rewarding experience when they come to Bell Cros. Our visitor activities are based on three pillars: learning, joining in and having fun. We’ll be telling you more about this and our new wines on our new updated website.
So now we have officially introduced Bell Cros in Catalonia and we are hoping shortly to be able to announce who will be the distributor for our wines in both Catalonia and Sweden.
We’ve been working quietly for several months, but it’s time soon to start making some noise. When we were doing our research into what running a vineyard involved, everyone told us “we know how to grow grapes and make great wine, but we’re not very good at selling it”. With our background, we knew this was exactly what we could bring to the business. After just over two years, it’s now time to start selling the wine that we have produced with the help of so many fantastic people in Montsant. It’s time to show the world what we’ve got. Nervous? No, not at all…
We already have some 50,000 bottles in stock and this will increase with the new 2019 vintage, which will also tie up more capital. We know it costs money to produce a new wine and introduce it to the market. So we’re fully expecting to have to bankroll the venture for the first 5 to 7 years. The sooner we start selling, the shorter that period. We’re going to start looking for distributors in our home markets, Sweden and Catalonia. We’ll be organising some launch events in Catalonia for potential distributors and the wine press and media at the end of January 2020.
At present, we don’t have any distributor in Sweden, but there have been so many requests to know where to buy our wine that we felt we had to do something before we get organised. On the 4th of December, we held an early launch event in Sweden, at the Spanish wine bar Juan Font in Gothenburg. What a special evening it turned out to be. It was well attended by old and new friends who were keen to become acquainted with our wine. Words cannot describe how it felt to be launching our product after working so long and hard on this project. We were rewarded by the many happy faces and encouraging comments. It was an evening we’ll remember for ever. Our thanks go to everyone.
I’d also like to mention that after studying at Vinkällan wine school in Gothenburg for over a year, I can now proudly call myself a sommelier. Although it’s great to have all the studying behind me, I’m really going to miss going to school and meeting all my wine nerd friends. I never imagined I’d become a wine nerd, but I have. As well as gaining a wealth of knowledge about wine, I’ve discovered what a wonderful world of wine we live in. A world full of excellent wines with different flavour profiles. I have learned to appreciate Sherry, Spätburgunder from Germany, Txakoli from the Basque region in northern Spain and a host of other wines. Thank you to all my inspiring teachers and wine nerd friends for a fantastic time.
At the start of the growing season, the last week of June, large areas of Europe were in the grip of a heatwave with temperatures hitting 45°C. The heat destroyed many of our grapes. Then, for the third consecutive year, the season continued with a drought. Although the drought reduced yields by about half compared with a normal year, it also meant that diseases caused by damp conditions were kept in check. As a result, the quality of the grapes is excellent, with plenty of aroma, colour and a high acid content.
Harvesting, the busiest time of the year, began on 5 September. One month later on 10 October, everything had been gathered in. A meditative silence and tranquillity have once again fallen over the vineyards. We love it.
This is our second year of harvesting and we’re starting to feel rather like “veterans”. We’re now taking the final step to completing our future product mix with both white and rosé wines. For us, harvest started with the white Garnacha grapes, which ripen first. We’ll be producing two styles from the white Garnacha grapes. One will be an easy-to-drink, fruity white wine and the other will have a little more structure and be ideal to serve with a meal.
Shortly thereafter it was time to harvest the blue Garnacha grapes for the rosé wine. We picked the blue Garnacha grapes before they were completely ripe because we want a high acid content that makes a wine crisp and refreshing. I know that a rosé wine stirs up feelings but I could never have guessed that we would have such passionate and lively discussions about what shade of pink our rosé wine should be. A stream of photos and colour samples were sent back and forth. We’ll see the results and who got their way once the wine has cleared. I have a suspicion that those discussions will be reignited. The next two weeks proceeded as usual without any heated debates. Once we’d finished picking the blue Garnacha grapes, we harvested the Carinyena (blue) grapes, which are the last to ripen.
Team Bell Cros was joined by a cheerful and sweet-singing group of people from Gothenburg for the last week of the harvest. Miguel Figini, who is responsible for looking after visitors to our vineyard, was their host for two days. After donning workwear, their first day began out in the fields with some practical work picking grapes and some theory on what grape cultivation involves. Fortified by a substantial lunch, they carried on the work of sorting and crushing the grapes so that alcoholic fermentation could begin. Miguel naturally continued sharing more facts and information about vinification with the hard-working visitors. On their second day, our Swedish guests learned more about organic and biodynamic viticulture and the day concluded with a visit to Celler Nin Ortiz, Porrera DOQ Priorat.
A huge thank you to Team Bell Cros and everyone who helped with the harvest. Particular thanks go to Baltasar who headed and coordinated the work.
We’re now set up to welcome wine enthusiasts to our vineyard and share with them the story of our wine adventure. Members of the “Munskänkarna” wine tasting organisation from Trosa, south of Stockholm, were the first to visit us. The group of 14 arrived in high spirits at our vineyard in the last week of August.
They spent one week in the region visiting a number of excellent vineyards in DO Montsant and DOQ Priorat, with opportunities to take in the beautiful countryside. By the time they arrived at Bell Cros at the end of their week, our visitors had been spoiled by fine wines and gourmet cuisine. It was time to bring them back down to earth! So, in true Swedish style a la IKEA, we had them cooking their own food from scratch and mixing their own wines.
Miguel Figini, who joined our team of staff in September as sales developer for Catalonia/Spain, is also in charge of ensuring that our visitors enjoy a memorable experience. Miguel began by demonstrating how to make Catalan Butifarra sausages. Everyone then mixed, seasoned and stuffed their own sausages.
The wines that our visitors mixed themselves were served to accompany the meal. It gave everyone the chance to be a winemaker for a day. There were four different Carignan and Grenache wines, straight out of the oak barrels and steel vats, for them to choose from.
Although it was the first time we held such an event, everything went well. Now and then it was slightly chaotic because we had lots of activities on the go. As the organisers, we greatly enjoyed the day and would love to see more groups visiting our vineyard. So please get in touch!
Europe experienced historically warm temperatures during the last week of June. On some days temperatures reached up to 45°C. The warm part of DO Montsant where our vineyard is located was hit hard. The extreme heat came early in the season before the vines had time to acclimatise. The result of this caused the grapes to burn and die. The extent of the damage will not be known until the harvest is finished. The Garnacha grapes have survived relatively well, but we have lost about 50 % of the Carinyena grapes. For us, this represents a major loss, as 80 % of all our grapes are Carinyena.
Of course a halved crop yield means a large loss of income, but it also changes conditions for the planned product mix. There is now a shortfall of Carinyena grapes for our planned product mix, which disrupts matters as we only wish to produce wines using our own grown grapes. In addition, the fall in production in the area will probably make it difficult and expensive to buy grapes this year. We have now reassessed the situation and are working based on the new conditions that apply.
Recent seasons have been abnormally dry with very little rain, which is also the case this year. Some of our oldest vines, which produce the best wine, are beginning to wither away due to the drought. Our newly planted vines have also suffered. Bell Cros vineyard has no irrigation. As a temporary measure we have installed a mobile irrigation system to save the vines from dying. We are currently installing permanent irrigation systems in the most vulnerable areas, but these will only be used as for support irrigation during droughts.
We have now learnt that running a vineyard is not just romantic, but also a question of being a farmer for real.
I just need to get this off my
chest and vent my frustration. In January, I wrote about the red tape that the
Spanish authorities put in our way. I regret to say that less than six months
on I’m writing about a similar experience.
Sometimes you feel so small. I
usually do when I’m dealing with power-wielding authorities. But it’s different
with Spanish authorities. I feel completely powerless.
You have to apply for permission
to plant new vine stocks and you are notified in the spring each year of how
much you are allowed to plant. The annual quota for planting stock is shared
between all those who apply and you are normally only granted a fraction of
what you applied for.
This year was the second time
that we have applied and the second time that our application was turned down.
The reason stated for rejecting our first application was that we had no sales.
Well, what newly established company is able to do that when the wine has to
mature for a few years before it can be sold? This year we made sure that we
had sold some of our grapes so that we could report some sales and therefore
qualify to plant new stock. Once again, our application was rejected. This
time, the reason given was that, as the owner, I didn’t have any experience of
wine production. But I’m not the one who plans and manages the practical side
of the vineyard. That’s taken care of by a handful of experienced winegrowers
who have been doing it all their lives. You could draw a comparison with a new
managing director of a car company who is not allowed to expand the factory
because he doesn’t have any experience of assembling cars!!
The rules of the game are
constantly changing…I wonder what next year will bring? Of course, the
authorities could make things easy for themselves by using the same
lack-of-experience reason for many years to come. At least I’m doing something
good when I apply for planting permission. Unlike in Sweden, it’s not free. You
have to pay for the application. So I’ve sponsored the authorities with a bit
I’m not quite sure why we’re
refused permission, but there’s no lack of experience in our team. Issues like
these have a lot of political overtones and the local farmer is often
We now have 24 hectares, with
vines growing on 14 of them and 10 hectares waiting to be planted. At the
moment, I don’t know how I’m going to resolve this, but I’m a businessman and
have built up many companies and I’m going to see this one through too. There
are always solutions. You simply have to be patient and persistent in order to
I’m going to conclude this blog
with the same words that I wrote last time about Spanish bureaucracy. We love Spain
and its people, but we don’t love everything….