96-98/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Penedes – Masia Cla Panxa – Esteve i Gibert Viticultors – Origen 2012, Les Vistes 2012 & L’Antana 2009
…., with me and my new friends! No, not the wine bottles. Yes, that’s what this is all about but chill for a while, because what is a bottle or two of wine without the company of friends? Don’t think you can tell heaven from hell, but be happy if you can tell a good wine from a less good one. Really wish you were here, who ever you are, cause you all deserve to experience this little piece of heaven. Or, if it’s heaven to me, does that imply that it must be heaven to you too? I’d like to think so!
It all makes sense to me! Doing the best thing you know and making a living from it, isn’t that what we all want? I now know Josep and Montserrat, or at least they were Josep and Montserrat when we first met! Several hours later and for ever more, they are Pep and Nanny! They both do what they love, I for one wish that they can go on with that lifestyle forever and ever! Every time I make new friends and not just acquaintances, a certain joy and happiness fills my heart and soul. Such a privilege to be invited and accepted into the Catalan home of these wonderful people. It’s like we have know each other for years!
Slightly coldish day, as the previous day had cold northern winds sweeping down over the flat lands of Penedes. The sun was however trying its best to provide the much needed rays, so that indeed we felt like spring had finally arrived. Mostly, the visits are done by myself, alone or with my wife. As we this week have visitors from Sweden, they were also invited to enjoy the hospitality of Celler Esteve i Gibert and the cooking skills of Nanny! Welcome to the smallest winery in the Penedes!
What was discovered, is something strange to the extent of an anomaly. This region is known for three things, Xarelo.lo, Macabeu and Parellada! These are the grapes used to produce the bubbly of Spain and most of it is made right here in the D.O. Penedes. Not far from the Cava capital, Sant Sadurni d’Anoia, is where you’ll find the cellar of Esteve i Gibert. Do they also make Cava? Well, yes and no! It is almost to good to be true, bare with me and I’ll try and explain.
They have about 24 hectares of vineyards, all broken up into very small plots. The three grape varieties for Cava making are present, but they sell these grapes to Cava producers. The sale of grapes gives them opportunity to make their own wine, but they only make still wine, except for the few bottels of Cava made 20 years ago and only for their own consumption.
The vines that yield about 6 – 8 kg of grape per vine, is what they sell, the low yielding vines with high concentration is what they use for their own wines. The Xarel.lo, Malvasia de Sitges and Merlot is what they are using currently to produce two whites and one red. In the future, and not too distant, they intent to experiment with some new wines (mono-varietal) made from old Parellada, Red Garnacha and Sumoll Blanc.
Penedes produces some very well made wines, declaring to the world of wine that Penedes has some great winemakers. The wine from Esteve i Gilbert is designed to please with light tannins and a wonderful refreshing appeal. It is a consumer savvy wine but with some great complexity. I would serve this wine to experts, knowing full well they would ask for refills. When was the last time you had a elegant, yet robust Merlot from Penedes? I have roamed around the area for years now and have yet to encounter something like it!
Pep is a cultivator, a man with his hands in the soil on a daily basis, he’s like a drug addict, if he is not allowed to be outdoors and work in the vineyards, he would probably be grumpy and a very difficult person to live with. His partner in crime, is not his wife Nanny, but the soon to be, son in law. Albert (son in law, wine maker and sommelier) and Pep were expecting us outside the winery and immediately we were made to feel at home, Pep giving us one of his “from ear to ear smiles” and taking us for a walk into the vineyards.
The plots are really small and very singular. The old Parellada growing just outside the tasting room, with an amazing view of the Montserrat mountain, was the first that we got to see. As we continued the walk, it was Merlot and then some olive trees, Xarel.lo vines next and then we made note of the peach trees in blossom. Downhill, passing some houses of neighbours, some Macabeu and 300 years old olive trees, from which they also press a very limited production of Arbequina olive oil. We then got to see the surprise of the day, the vines of the white Sumoll! A couple of years ago I didn’t even know Sumoll (the red variety) and now I am told there is a white one!
Having been almost extinct as a varietal, it was explained that Albert and Pep wanted to experiment with a variety that is not adversed to to the soil in the region, but it simply had to give way for the bulk production of the three Cava varietals, since that was what the families here had to do to make money. Thank Bacchus for pioneering and brave people like Josep (Pep)! The peaches, which are also growing on small plots scattered all over this hilly part of the Subirats and overlooking Sant Sadunri d’Anoia, are sold at farmers markets in a village not far away. This is done during the summer months, starting in June and, as the fruits mature over a three month period, it ends in August.
The family heritage has been perpetuated from father to son since seven generation back and all generations have been involved in viticulture. Only the last two generations, combining the knowledge of the land and vines with modern wine making and some entrepreneurial endeavour, have taken the step to put their family name on wine bottles and what a premier it has been. It is clear now, that this is the right way forward! As we returned from the vineyard walk, we were seated in the tasting room overlooking the vineyards. Pep left us with three bottles of wine, 4 glasses and a bottle opener as he left us with a great smile, having to take care of other visitors.
After having enjoyed two whites and a red, deciphering them extensively, we were invited into their family home for a “light” lunch. A meal that tantalized the taste buds, and a hospitality which left for nothing to be desired. Small tasty canapés with sobrassada, tuna pate, anchovies and a number of cheeses , one of which, the Tete de Moine paired perfectly with the Merlot! The white Les Vistes (The views) and the red L’Antana proved to be excellent with the food overall. As several hours had passed, we were expecting only coffee to round of this fiesta, when Nanny (Peps wife Montserrat) brought out the squid and jumbo shrimps cooked in white wine and shellfish stock.
Pep went down to the private wine cellar and pulled out 2 bottles of the Cava, that he in the days of his youth had de-gorged 20 years ago! I wasn’t expecting much from these bottles, as Cava is a product to be imbibed within a year of de-gorging. This Cava was made just for the family to enjoy and for special occasions, yesterday there were only 25 bottles left. It had rested sur lees for 30 months and then de-gorged, only to be opened by me 20 years later. The cork was squealing and as I was turning the bottle, there was hardly any pressure to help get the cork out. The part of the cork that now saw light was as hard as stone and did not expand at all. But…….., as the Cava was poured, it became clear by the visual inspection that great things were to be expected.
The no name Cava was delightful! The color was intense, dark straw with gold reflection, the years had done it some good! The bubbles, although not lively, but at least plentiful and steady. As it landed in the flutes, a nice foamy cap evolved and the aromas that followed were those of a well made bubbly wine from the Penedes.
Nice brioche and pastries, fruity and some candy. Fresh cut apples and pear. Yeast was present and it had a medium body with a good finish. Good acidity makes this a Cava to remember. And yes, we did open the second bottle as well and it was just as good as the first. Paired very well with the seafood platter!
Time to go home? No, not yet! Pastries, Catalan Coca and a selection of fine chocolates from Simon Coll chocolate makers in Sadurni, together with excellent coffee made this perfect home cooked meal one for the books. But the one thin I am going to remember more than anything else is the warmth and hospitality shown by my new made friends, Pep and Nanny! Thank you for opening you hearts and home to me and my friends! This might be the smallest winery in Penedes but it certainly has the largest heart and soul!
Origen 2012, 80% Xarel.lo and 20% Malvasia de Sitges
Clear medium full, straw yellow color with greenish reflections. Fresh peach aromas abound on the nose together with pear and mandarin peel. They are accented by notes rose, white fruit, pineapple and citrus. Calcareous and mineral feel in the mouth in the mouth. Well-balanced with medium acidity and minerals. A young wine that would be happy with some variety of cuisine, including vegetables, light pasta dishes and seafood.
Les Vistes 2012, 100% Xarel.lo, barrel fermented with its lees. Barrel aged.
Bright golden, clear and brilliant with slow and fat tears. The nose is floral and buttery, the oak notes are round and the vanilla is light. Notes of fudge, warm eucalyptus and some peach. There is a strong presence of mineral elements, enhanced by the permanence of wine on the lees during aging. The palate is full and complex, but maintains its freshness and balance due to its good acidity. The evolution of this wine in the glass is remarkable, slowly evolving and showing different levels of aromatic complexity.
L’Antana 2009, 100% Merlot
This wine displays the benefits of slow, even ripening during a mild growing season. Though there is fullness and a lush character to this Merlot, there is also restraint and elegance. Promising aromas of cherry, red plum, raspberry, and dried herbs lead to a clean fresh entry with impeccably balanced acidity suporting intense red fruit flavors of cranberry, plum and raspberry. Round, supple tannins provide an enticing framework for the flavors and contribute to a lingering finish. Age a few more years and you won’t be disappointed!
283 to go!
Catalan Wine 365 and the SweetEasy Lifestyle