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Image from VINSEUM
The history of winemaking comes to life in the newly reopened VINSEUM
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Image from VINSEUM
Autumn in the Penedès is special. It is when the vineyards turn a hundred shades of red, orange and gold; the vendimia (grape harvest) is done and the air is thick with the scent of new wines; the stalls of the Saturday market in Vilafranca (the region’s capital) overflow with wild mushrooms, pomegranates and quince; and the newly renovated wine museum—VINSEUM—finally reopens its doors.
Wine museums have developed in leaps and bounds over the past few years, evolving from gloomy rooms showing photographs of vineyards and dusty terracotta amphora dug up from some nearby hill, to cultural centres that celebrate the art, history and drinking of wine. VINSEUM’s new home in the Palacio Real de Vilafranca is no exception.
Catalan architect Santiago Vives who headed the redesign has maintained the features of the 17th Century palace of the Aragonese Kings while giving the space a light, contemporary touch. The old Sant Pelegrí chapel has been transformed into an airy exhibition space that changes regularly; while museum curator Dani Freixes has breathed new life into ubiquitous wine museum features by introducing a more dynamic line-up of events and activities. Sure, you can still watch the videos and learn how wine is made, but you can also slip off on a journey deep into the heart of the Penedès— featuring endemic grapes, the production of cava and the triumphant arrival of these wines on dinner tables all over the world—and end up somewhere that recognises wine as an essential ingredient to a convivial lifestyle.
Indeed the museum’s strong point is something that is fun rather than po-faced. A tasting room and shop have been added, along with a VINSEUM menu for €35 which gives wine lovers access to the museum, una copa and a tasting menu at the nearby restaurant MerCat, a vast, barn of a place housed in the towns old meat market. There is even stuff for kids.
Don’t miss the second edition of the MOST film festival (www.mostfestival.cat), which will take place here from November 8th-11th. It’s a wine loving weekend for all.
VINSEUM, Plaça Jaume I, 5, Vilafranca. 0034 93 890 0582. http://www.vinseum.cat Open Tue-Sat 10am-2pm, 4pm-7pm; Sun & holidays 10am-2pm. Entrance €7 (under 12 free).