My journey into the world of wine has taken a slight turn from my leisurely life as wine blogger. Gone are the days of hitting the road and getting lost in the vineyards of Europe for various days. In fact, the days of sipping my way from winery to winery seem long ago and sepia-tinted. But far from nostalgic, my days are now filled with all sorts of new adventures because I am, once again, a wine student. Accompanied by 26 other wine nerds (officially and collectively known as #winesionaries) from all over the world, we are taking part in the first ever Erasmus Mundus Master Program on Wine Tourism Innovation (Wintour). We are the first generation of wine visionaries and have been given the seal of approval to travel and taste away two years of our lives in Spain, France and Portugal. An incredibly exciting and enriching opportunity, this multidisciplinary program takes us from Tarragona to Bordeaux and then to Porto, studying one semester in each city, and finishing off with an internship in our final semester. Learning from some of the industry’s best scholars and well-known specialists at Rovira i Virgili University, the University of Bordeaux and the University of Porto, our course weaves academic lectures and research with practicums and field trips throughout the three regions. Lucky us, we get to hit the books, pop some bottles, crush some grapes, travel to remote and luxurious wine destinations, work with some of the best known wine tourism brands, and taste our way through western Europe, and then some! Exciting times ahead, no doubt, this first month in Tarragona has not disappointed and we’ve had our share of adventures.
There’s a running joke in our group that we’ve actually enrolled in a European master in filling out paperwork and sitting in offices. Definitely a test in patience, our first weeks in Tarragona were something similar to being on the television show The Amazing Race: students, either in pairs or alone, would go from office to office trying to getting an official document or a governmental stamp or some sort of essential piece of information that was needed in order to get to the next stage of the game. Far from competitive or cut-throat, there is an incredible sense of solidarity and compassion in this group of worldly winos. Every one helps in any way they can. Those who speak Spanish act as official translators in the signing of rental agreements or at government offices. Others help in recommending a good internet provider or a dentist or doctor. In such a short time this first generation of winesionaries is as connected and caring as any family. Ranging from the ages of 21 to 35, from 20 different countries, and with academic and professional backgrounds in tourism, marketing, business administration, viticulture, oenology, management and many other fields, each person has something to add to this dynamic group. From the headaches and irritations of filling out the wrong form or going to the wrong office, laughter and good vibes have abounded.
To give us a sneak peek of the two years to come our first month was filled with incredible tours and visits coordinated by Wintour administration. Tarragona is a beautiful city with Roman ruins found at every corner. A guided tour organized by the Tarragona Tourism Board took us through the nooks and crannies of this historic city. We also visited the charming and neighbouring city of Reus, birthplace of Antoni Gaudí, where we took part in a walking tour of the old city, delved into the world of Gaudí at the Gaudí Centre and finished the day with an exclusive vermut tasting on the centre’s rooftop patio. We followed that with 10 days of Santa Tecla (the patron saint of Tarragona) festivities, where we realized that Catalans take fireworks and castells (human towers) very seriously. Those intense days were full of drumming, processions, puppet parades, street parties, fireworks, drinking, more fireworks, and human tower competitions of every kind. By the end of festivities, the group was weak and haggard from this exercise in Tarragona heritage but the ice had definitely been broken.
Finally, our classes have kept us busy in this first month. A week of practical work in the URV winery with Professor Fernando Zamora was an enriching experience. From harvesting native varietals of Parellada and Marselan grapes to performing some basic winemaking procedures, Fernando Zamora is an incredible teacher and gifted winemaker. We’ve had the opportunity to attend two exclusive wine tasting experiences. One was the Cellers Singulars de la DO de Tarragona tasting at the Roman ruins of the Pretorio Romani in Tarragona and the other was a visit to Terra Alta, a neighbouring county, to taste and experience the wines of Cellers Frisach (please see next post).
All in all, it’s been an incredible month and I feel blessed, inspired and excited about this program. The course work is intense, but without a doubt it will be a rewarding experience. I invite you to continue reading about my adventures in wine and learning about the new producers that I come across. I leave you now with some pictures.