Wine tourism is a highlight of any visit to DO Empordà, a historic winemaking region of Catalonia, Spain. A multisensory wine tasting experience at Mas Llunes, a wine-producing estate in Garriguella, Girona, helped us challenge our preconceptions about how sight, smell and sound influence our sense of taste. This article is part of our Costa Brava Girona road trip series.

 

Wine tasting is___. We will let you fill in the blanks.

Perhaps you might say snobbish? Subjective? Complicated?

Examining vines at Mas Llunes, a winery in DO Empordà, Girona Province, Catalonia

Whatever words you might use to describe your experience or understanding, there is one word that we would like to highlight. That word is ‘multisensory’. 

That word came to life for us during our visit to Mas Llunes.

Mas Llunes is a wine estate in Garriguella, a quiet farming community in the Girona province of Catalonia. It is part of DO Empordà, the official designation of this historic wine-producing region of northeastern Spain.

 

Wine tourism in DO Empordà

Covering over 200 miles on a five-day road trip was our chance to experience Costa Brava and the province of Girona in Catalonia.

Setting out from Begur, a tiny seaside village in Baix Empordà where we had spent the night at the blissful and tranquil Hostal Sa Rascassa, we headed inland and into the Catalan countryside to experience wine tourism in Empordà. 

Wine Tourism in Empordà | Panorama image of DO Empordà

A northerly course pointed us towards Empordà in the lowlands of the Pyrenees mountains. Compared to other wine regions in Spain like Rioja, the DO Empordà is smaller and not as well known. 

So, what makes wines from this region so special? Wine tourism experts and guide book writers, Amber and Eric Hoffman of Food & Drink Destinations believe it has something to do with the region’s history.

“Winemakers in the DO Empordà are embracing a long history of winemaking in the types of wines they produce and the techniques they are using,” says Amber. “A handful of winemakers in the DO Emporda are multi-generational winemakers.”

DO Empordà is the region of Spain where ‘those in the know’ come looking for wines to match their imagination. #winelovers Click To Tweet

French oak barrels storing wine in cellar at Mas Llunes winery, DO Empordà

Wine tourism in Empordà is also still developing. A handful of wineries like Mas Llunes are great for day trips as they are within a short drive of Girona and the beaches of the Costa Brava.

As we approached the town of Garriguella, the outline of the Serra de l’Albera, the mountain range which forms a natural border between Spain and France soon came into view.

 

Preserving Wine Making History in Empordà

A sightseeing tour of Garriguella didn’t promise much. However, a hearty lunch at the local Cooperativa Agrícola de Garriguella (a wine cooperative) replenished us and served as a prelude to the main attraction at Mas Llunes.

Mas Llunes Vinyes i Cellers (to use its full Catalan name) is a winery founded by the Roig family in 2000. Although the winery in its current incarnation is fairly young, the Riog family have a 700-year-old connection to wine growing and wine production in Garriguella. 

We were met by Gemma Roig Aubert, Mas Llunes commercial manager. Like many other next-generation owners/growers/workers we met during our travels in the region, Gemma is proud to be carrying on the family heritage.

Gemma Roig Aubert, Mas Llunes commercial manager talking Wine Tourism in Empordà

On a short walk through the vineyards, Gemma explained to us the Mas Llunes philosophy of only using grapes from their own vines to produce wine. Giving priority to the use of local grape varieties (such as Carignan and Grenache), from vines (some of which are more than 100 years old), she says, gives their wines a unique character.

Leveraging a family history of winemaking, Mas Llunes is also keen to promote wine tourism in Empordà. Offering wine tasting experiences with a unique twist was their opportunity to try something unique.

“We did not want to follow the traditional format of having an expert standing in front of a group of people telling them what they should taste, smell and think about our wine,” Gemma said.

“Introducing our wines to new audiences in an innovative way is why we came up with our multisensory wine tasting experience,” she explained.

 

Can Flavour be Influenced by a Multisensory Experience?

Professor Barry C. Smith, blogging for the Arts and Humanities Research Council UK, an independent research body, suggests that this is entirely possible. 

In his article, he explores the interaction between sight, smell, sound, touch and taste and hints at ongoing research into “how our preferences for foods and wines are shaped not just by our physiology but also by background factors such as lighting and music as well as expectations set by sight and sound.”

Sampling olive oils | Mas Llunes | Wine Tourism in Empordà

Engaging multiple senses ensures that wine tasting is not about right or wrong answers or everyone experiencing the same thing. 

In its most honest form, wine tasting is an individual journey of discovery which challenges our human ability to perceive different sensations and aromas including sweet, savoury, sour and fruity and floral. 

It is an invitation to experience something, indeed anything that becomes personal to you and ultimately influences your own appreciation of the wine.

In its most honest form, #winetasting is an individual journey of discovery that challenges our human ability to perceive different sensations and aromas - sweet, savoury, sour and fruity and floral. Click To Tweet

 

The Multisensory Wine Tasting Experience at Mas Llunes

Following a quick tour of the winery, Gemma invited us to explore the wine cellar. 

A round table in the middle of a large room filled with French oak wine barrels. Facing a blank wall of exposed cement was a row of chairs.

French oak barrels storing wine in cellar at Mas Llunes winery, DO Empordà

Once seated, our sense of anticipation grew as the overhead lights dimmed and we were plunged into near-complete darkness.

Then it began. No pyrotechnics, only subtle changes in lighting. No weird music. Only gentle sounds and the clever use of projected interactive visuals to weave a story from the past to the present day. For a moment, the room went dark again and when the soft lighting came back on, wine glasses had appeared before us like magic.

A Multisensory Wine Tasting Experience at Mas Llunes | Wine Tourism in Empordà

Stripping back the colours of the wines using lighting caused us to focus our senses on touch, smell and taste.

Time seemed immaterial as Gemma presented a range of wines for us to taste. Our favourites were their Maragda Blanc (from the Blancs i Rosats range) and Garnatxa Solera (a fortified wine from their Dolços range). Each one was delicious and memorable. 

A Multisensory Wine Tasting Experience at Mas Llunes | Wine Tourism in Empordà

Although our observations on the textures, wine notes, minerality and aromas differed, that was perfectly fine. We were after all on a personal journey of discovery.

To further quote Professor Smith, “Tasting is not a single experience; it has a dynamic time course, and by slowing it down, one can appreciate what is happening at each moment, from the sweetness of the attack as the wine enters the mouth, to the gentle notes of bitterness in the finish.”

Mas Llunes preserves a long tradition of winemaking and brings innovation to wine tourism in Empordà. Introducing new audiences to the region’s wines ensures that those traditions will remain alive for many years to come.

 

Travel information:

Sampling olive oils with Gemma Roig Aubert | Mas Llunes | Wine Tourism in Empordà

Getting there: By car. From Girona (34 miles), Figueres (11 miles), and Barcelona (100 miles).

For a winery tour and tastings, contact Mas Llunes (booking required).

Where to eat: Check out a range of products from local growers at Cooperativa Agrícola de Garriguella.

For local accommodation recommendations, visit Costa Brava Tourism.

We believe in drinking responsibly and in moderation. If you would like to know more about how to do this, visit Drinkaware.co.uk

 

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Co-Founders & Curators at HDYTI

Eulanda & Omo Osagiede are London-based freelance writers and award-winning social influencers who run the popular travel, food, and lifestyle blog HDYTI (Hey! Dip your toes in).