83/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Penedes – La Gornal – Oriol Rossell – Virolet 2013
…., and coming together at the Masia (Chateau in this case) of Oriol Rossell, is nothing less than feeling the beat of history. Truly charming place to visit! It is a fully working winery but also a home. The set up was initiated by a very good friend and sommelier, Agustin Palome Garcia, who has been trying to get us to visit this producer for quite some time and finally there was no going back. I was fortunate to meet Agustin during one of his wine/food pairing events at Loidi restaurant in Barcelona and since then we have been in touch frequently.
Sun was shining, as it usually is in Penedes and already some vintners are complaining that it’s to dry. But what can you do, farmers/growers always complain, they are like fishermen, the fish is never the right size and that’s if they catch any! Standard here is, that it’s okay to be a bit late, and so was my friend, but that’s not a worry since it’s always expected.
Days are laid back, visits are not following the clock and the visitors are greeted and looked after as where they old friends, asking questions, getting answers and stories are told. Time is forgotten, no stress, just the way it should be. You can’t stress wine or Cava, it should have the time it needs to develop, whether it’s sur lees or in the barrel, that same feeling is transmitted and felt at Oriol Rossell, when you visit!
The wine maker, Salvi, together with Yolanda Oriol Rossell, the wife of the current owner Toni, were the ones to receive us and take care of us during the coming three and a half hours. Taking us for a walk in the vineyards, which are all surrounding the winery (Chateau), making it feel very French. There are very few wineries here that can offer the same type of visit and I for one believe that this dimension adds to the whole experience.
Cal Cassanyes is the name of the Estate where the vineyards of Oriol Rossell are located and the wines and Cavas are all made from the grapes surrounding the Estate. The total is 85 hectares of vine, covering parts of both Alt Penedès and Baix Penedès. The fact that the Estate is surrounded by the Prelitoral mountains to the North and coastal mountains to the South, as well as being a few kilometres from the sea, results in a very special microclimate which gives character to the wines.
Xarel·lo is the most planted white grape variety as there is no better place for the cultivation of this variety in the area. Other whites grown are the traditional ones, such as Macabeu and Parellada. The red varieties are Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. Oriol Rossell had two passions in his life, viticulture and castellers, he formed the first castellers team in Vilafranca del Penedes and the strength and unity needed to build “human towers” is evident in the wine, structured and potent!
The Castellers de Vilafranca is a cultural and sporting association whose main objective is to build castells (human towers). It has the status of a public-interest association. The group was founded in 1948 in response to the increased interest in human tower building in Vilafranca del Penedès, a Catalan tradition that has evolved since the 18th century Ball de Valencians, a dance from Valencia. The best way to experience the human towers is to visit Catalonia during the time of the fiesta major, celebrated in different towns over a number of days.
Nowadays, the Castellers de Vilafranca have about 400 active human tower building members of all ages, with no discrimination on the grounds of race, religion, sex or social status. They share the common goal of building human towers, democratic values, cooperation and team work, a constant desire to surpass themselves, and a will to maintain a lead over a select and competitive group of rival human tower associations. The passion and soul of Oriol Rossell live on, both in his wines and also in the human towers.
The soil on the Estate is mainly a sandy-clay soil, ideal for the production of fine delicate wines. Even though the Estate is unified, there are a wide variety of soils: to the North lie the poorer and finer soils while the most fertile are in the centre. The most gravelly soil is found in the South, ideal for white wines while giving structure and colour to the red wines. The content of organic matter and nitrogen in the soil is very low but the level of magnesium is high which ensures good acidity and sugar levels at harvest time.
Cal Cassanyes is an old, ancestral manor house, dating back to at least the 17th century (the date “1637” is found engraved on a stone as you enter the main mansion). The wine cellar, in Art Nouveau style, was built in 1908. Wine growers and producers for centuries, they have been producing cava for the last thirty years, always endeavouring to obtain the maximum quality cava following time-honoured traditions.
Many cellars, producing Cava, in both Sant Sadurni d’Anoina and other parts of Penedes, are claiming to use pupitres for the remuage. Most of them are having old pupitres and are happy to show them, however, the whole process is done with the help of the gyropallette. Nothing wrong with that, it was just so surprising that there still are wine makers out there that go for strict tradition. Labor intensive but probably, as the wine maker Salvi explained, the difference is not noticeable in the Cava but it is certainly known in the heart.
Once the secondary fermentation is complete, the bottles undergo remuage or riddling, a process of collecting the sediment created during the fermentation at the tip of the bottle. This is either done en pupitre or on a gyropallette. A pupitre is a pair of heavy, hinged rectangular blocks, each containing 60 holes cut at an angle. This allows the bottle to be held by the neck in any position between horizontal and vertical with the neck pointing downward. The bottles start in a horizontal position and the pupitre is gradually moved by hand over roughly three weeks until the bottles are fully upside down. A gyropallette is a computerized pallet that holds over 500 bottles and completes the process in about eight days.
After the tour, we sat down to try a few, since it is a working day we didn’t try the whole range, of their products. In total they make five Cavas and 6 still wines of different levels, aging and styles. Sparkling, white, rose and reds are all represented with their own unique personality. If you feel like visiting a manor, with a French chateau feel to it, this is the place. Not only for the historic feel but also for some very well made wines!
Virolet 2013, 100% Xarel.lo
Fermented and aged with its lees for 5 months. It’s a young wine but with great aging potential, the acidity structure gives it quite a few shelve years.
Lemon yellow to greenish with light reflections. Fruity primaries, some white fruit, peach and white pear. Followed up by floral, elderberry and hints of pineapple and fennel. Well integrated mouth, wide and slightly jumpy, cool feel. Good acidity and structure. Long finish
298 to go!