Viticultors Esteve i Gibert, Pop Music in D.O. Penedes

195/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Penedes – Masia Cal Planxa – Viticultors Esteve i Gibert – L’Antana 2009

Pop Music……,

Lantana

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!

Come away with me….

…., 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!

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

My friend, Tina Anundi, drew this after the visit at Esteve i Gibert!

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.

The range of wine, two whites and one red and the olive oil of course!

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!

Albert Lopez (wine maker) & Josep "Pep" Esteve Gibert (vintner). The two man team and 6th and 7th generation to take care of these beautiful lands! This is Esteve i Gibert Viticultors!

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 happiest vintner is the one that sees a ladybug on his vine, a guarantee from nature that you have untreated vineyards. Esteve i Giberts vineyards are  ecological.

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!

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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.

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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.

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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 and a friend! Just about to open a bottle of Cava that has been closed for 20 years!

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.

Catalan Cava & Catalan Coca!

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.

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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!

Josep (Pep), a friend and Montse (Nanny)!

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!

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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.

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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.

185 to go!

Catalan Wine 365 and the SweetEasy Lifestyle

 

Castell d’Encus, In The Stone in D.O. Costers del Segre

194/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Costers del Segre – Talarn – Castell d’Encus – Acusp 2010

In The Stone……,

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….., in the stone you’ll find the meaning. Never, never my darling, you’ll be alone, true love is written in the stone. Making wine in large stone vats out in the nature, what does that bring to the wine? If one doesn’t know about it, it might taste just like any other good red wine. However, once you have been told this is the case, off course your mind tells you there’s more to it, than simply being a wine. Let me introduce Encus, where love is written in the stone!

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Acusp 2010, 100% Pinot Noir

This wine has neither been filtered nor stabilized and I would recommend decanting for at least half an hour. Dark garnet with a medium width rim. The nose uncovers herbaceous aromas, spicy red fruits, strawberries and raspberries, with aeration some more mature and complex nuances appear. Some floral notes of jasmine. The palate is thin, sweet, somewhat sparing in fruitiness. The after taste is medium long and leaves a pleasant taste in the mouth, making me want more.

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Wine making here is all about high altitude and fermentation in stone. The origin of Castell d’Encus stems from the impact the location had on Raul Bobet in 2001 while he was looking for land that could reduce the effects of climate change on vineyards around the Catalan Pyrenees. If you think you’ve heard the name Bobet before, you’re right. Rauls Priorat project is the one of Ferrer Bobet, which is covered here.

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Back to Encus. 23 of the 95ha in the property have been planted with high density varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Petit Verdot, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Semillon and Albariño. The rest of the land remains as a forest. The intention is to produce a limited number of bottles (6000 cases or less) exclusively from the fruit of their own vineyards.

Castell d'Encus Vineyards

The elevation of the property (850-1000 meters), the excellent sun exposure and large wooded area around it, along with its long history make the place look privileged and magical. The farm has an old chapel and fermenting grapes vats carved into the rocks by the monks of the Hospitaller Order (twelfth century). The lands are generally calcareous with low organic matter content, which together with the continental climate and high thermal contrast between day and night, allows to obtain wines of high quality.

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Harvesting is done manually and in small boxes of 10kg. The wine is fermented in different materials: wooden vats and vats of stainless steel and natural stone. With these three materials wines get very different tones and shades and great aromatic complexity. Because of its medieval aspect, the farm has a large number of fermentation vats carved in stone that work by gravity. After passing a few initial tests they are being reused for fermentation and play an important part  for both the red and white wines. In the case of the Quest wine the whole fermentation process takes place in these stone vats. Believing in preserving the environment they do not use any herbicides, insecticides or fungicides, except those permitted in organic agriculture.

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The winery was the first to use cold/heat transfer processes of geothermal energy in all its processes in an effort to reduce energy consumption and environmental impact. The winery is also designed to function by gravity in all its processes and has the most advanced winemaking technology.

186 to go!

Catalan Wine 365 and the SweetEasy Lifestyle

DeVinssi, Can’t Buy a Thrill in DOQ Priorat

193/365 – Catalonia – DOQ Priorat – Gratallops – Celler DeVinssi – Rocapoll 2008

Can’t Buy a Thrill…….,

 

Rocapoll 2008, 100% Samso (Carignena)

A wine in which the Samso (Carignena) variety is expressed at its highest level with surprising complexity both aromatic and taste wise, and where the minerals, subtle spiciness and toasty notes are complemented by feelings of sugared almonds and herbs. The tannins are intense, polished, and form a triangle with balanced acidity and alcohol, making this a well structured wine. It is consistent throughout and this is a wine that is easy to drink and enjoy. The after taste is long and aromatic. A true Super Catalan! The production of this first vintage was 300 bottles.

Josep! This is a true Super Catalan!

Josep! This is a true Super Catalan!

The sign is small, the winery is small...., but the wines are huge!

Small, small, small……, when I first visited DeVinssi, about 4 years ago, I almost didn’t find the cellar. If you blink, briefly, while walking past the house where it is located, you might miss it! In the days, production was only 8.000 bottles, they have now reached 12.000 per year. Then it was the smallest commercial winery in Priorat. Now, there is one that is smaller!

This is it! Celler DeVinissi! Artisanal and personal!

Artisanal principles apply, both in the vineyards and in the cellar. Bottling, putting a cork in it and labeling is all done by hand. Just as well, as the space wouldn’t accommodate any fancy machinery.

The barrel room!

In the year 2000, Josep Roca Benito founded DeVinssi, because he really likes wine! Not only does he hold the Masters Diploma in Enology and Viticulture, but he also holds the keys to one of Barcelonas best wine shops! Now, that’s love for wine.

Josep Roca opened a bottle of Rocapoll 2008 and we shared our thoughts about the wine!

Out of the wines they make, todays choice was Rocapoll. It transmits the Priorat terroir very well and at the same time, for the quality, it is a true Super Catala! I have in my small wine collection, their Vi Ranci Dolc 1963. Sorry but I am saving that for a very special occasion, at which time I will share it with you!

From the vineyards of DeVinissi the views of Gratallops are to be enjoyed!

Gratallops, the village, in which you will find the Celler DeVinssi is overhanging the Siurana river, Gratallops is in the heart of a licorella (slate) basin, irrigated on the other side by the Montsant river. Gratallops is about 320 m. above sea level and about 25 km. from the Costa Daurada, as the crow flies.

Street view of Gratallops, just outside the winery!

Tradition says that the village was named Villanova del Pi, a long time ago. The land was property of the township of Siurana for centuries but all this ended in 1153, when the Moorish Empire declined and the Christians started to occupy the land. The Moorish Princess blindfolded her horse and jumped of a cliff, realizing she couldn’t escape!

The village of Siurana

In 1258, we find the first evidence of Gratallops being mentioned in the “Carta de Poblacion”. The Convent of Scaladei decided for the township of Gratallops to be repopulated. Some say, there was a castle built there in the 14th century but no remains are to be found today.

Escaladei Monastery Ruins

Vine growing became the main acitvity in the 18th century and since the end of the 1980ies, Gratallops became synonymous with Priorat, as the gang of five, established their cellars there. Today we can count up to 18 cellars in Gratallops, so what do you think people here drink for lunch?

The tram of Gratallops

Walking around the village is quite easy and there is plenty to see and do, even for those (why???) that doesn’t like wine!?! If you get tired of walking you can always take the tramway of Gratallops for a ride, as it is only 10 meters in length, the ride wont take that long!

Jordi is always ready to pour a glass or two!

Once you find Celler DeVinssi, a warm greeting will be bestowed upon you by Jordi Ustrell, the front of the winery. Tour guide, marketeer, grape picker, you name it, he does it! Jordi will look after you in the best possible way, always! And if you ever feel like adopting a grapevine, DeVinssi offers this option as a curiosity.

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188 to go!

Catalan Wine 365 and the SweetEasy Lifestyle

Mas Comtal, L’italiano in D.O. Penedes

192/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Penedes – Avinyonet del Penedès – Mas Comtal – Antistiana Incrocio Manzoni 2012

L’italiano………,

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….., let me sing, with the guitar in hand, let me sing, I’m an Italian, a true Italian….., no, not me but the grape variety we are about to cover. Incrocio Manzoni, not Catalan but happy in Catalonia, so this time we’ll be exploring this little hybrid, which I now have had the fortune to try twice, from two different wineries in the Penedes region. To put an additional twist to the story, the tasting was conducted in Stockholm only yesterday. As usual, the wine comes first, the circumstances to follow.

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Antistiana 2012, 100% Incrocio Manzoni

Bright straw yellow colour. The nose transmits fresh aromas of citrus, herbs like rosemary and a likeable saltiness. This is a very Mediterranean style wine but with something that doesn’t really “fit the bill” to be fully considered a typical middle sea wine. It carries saltiness that reminds me of one wine and then some minerals and floral notes which awakens other memories, of other wines. It is strange in a way, very magical, how it changes throughout the tasting. Some expressive mature white fruit, pear and peach. It is full-bodied, flavoursome and very well balanced, elegant on the palate. Splendid and unique, nothing like it really. Well made and high accolades for price/quality.

Yesterdays tasting room at Grappe in Stockholm!

Yesterdays tasting room at Grappe in Stockholm!

Checking e-mail, realizing that there is a invitation to partake in a tasting of Catalan wines in Stockholm, who am I to say no? Three lovely ladies following their passion for wine, deciding to share “their” Catalonia with Swedish wine lovers, bringing new experiences and their own discoveries, how can that go wrong? From the outset, they are right on the money. Go to Catalonia, visit wine cellars, taste, taste and then taste some more wines. Bring the ones most likeable to Sweden and then conduct several more tastings with sommeliers and wine lovers. Hopefully they will listen to my humble opinion and share this amazing Incrocio Manzoni with the  rest of Sweden. I wish them all the best  and thank them for a lovely evening! What is Incrocio Manzoni? A grape I say, but there is a little bit more to the story!

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Incrocio Manzoni or Manzoni grapes is a family of grape varieties named after Professor Luigi Manzoni (1888-1968) of Italy’s oldest school of oenology located in Conegliano, in the Veneto region. Manzoni created the new grape varieties by selecting, crossing and grafting vines from various vineyards during the 1920s and 1930s. The family includes both white and red grape varieties. Although most Manzonis are grown in northeastern Italy, they are mainly grown in the Piave area of Provincia di Treviso and are only now starting to be sold commercially in Europe and the United States.

Luigi Manzoni

Luigi Manzoni

The name Incrocio is Italian for crossing with the second part of the name usually being the last name of the grape breeder. This means that not every Incrocio grape variety are Manzoni grapes with varieties such as Incrocio bianco Fedit 51 (a Garganega and Malvasia bianca Lunga crossing), Incrocio Bruni 54 (a Sauvignon blanc and Verdicchio crossing) and Incrocio Terzi 1 (a Barbera and Cabernet Franc crossing) being mostly unrelated to Professor Manzoni or his crossings. The numbers after grape type refer to location of the vineyards for the original grafts; for example, 6.0.13 refers to the row, vine and vineyard.

Mas Comtal vineyards during winter!

Mas Comtal vineyards during winter!

Manzoni bianco or Incrocio Manzoni 6.0.13, is a white variety which is a crossing between Riesling and Pinot blanc that was created through a series of trials between 1930 and 1935. In 2005, it was speculated that Chardonnay, instead of Pinot blanc, was the second parent of Manzoni bianco but DNA analysis has shown that Professor Manzoni’s original crossing is, indeed, Manzoni bianco’s parentage.The grape is also known under the further synonyms I.M. 6.0.13, Incrocio Manzoni 6.0.13, Manzoni 6.0.13 and Manzoni Bijeli in Croatia.

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The wine above is the fourth vintage of Incrocio Manzoni, a little known variety in Spain, which Joan Mila “discovered” and fell in love with on one of his trips to Italy. It has been implemented t the local vineyards and is now giving of descent yield at the property of Mas Comtal, providing wines with complexity, coming from the Pinot Blanc, and aromatic strength of the Riesling. In addition to which it is abundantly clear that these wines has great ageing potential. Simply, a wine that has to be tried. Only but huge downside……., only 1.995 bottle produced of the 2012 vintage!

189 to go!

Catalan Wine 365 and the SweetEasy Lifestyle

Albet I Noya, Ella Era Mala in D.O. Penedes

191/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Penedes – Sant Pau d’Ordal – Albet I Noya – Lignum Blanc 2013

Ella Era Mala…….,

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Lignum Blanc 2013, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Xarel.lo

The grapes for this wine come from the estate in Costers de l’Ordal. The vineyards are over 300m above sea level, and are a selection of the oldest vines of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, growing in dry calcareous soils that have been organically farmed. Bright straw color yellow color. Aromas of white flowers, ripe fruit and some spiciness. The barrel, which only the Chardonnay has spent time in, is noted but just slightly in the background. Almost equal parts Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc (with a small portion of Xarel.lo) makes this a crisp, medium-bodied and fruit driven wine. In addition you will note intense floral notes and light herbal notes. The palate is rich, fruity, fresh and well structured. Slightly bitter which is quite appealing and good persistence.

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The Can Vendrell modernist cellar of Albet I Noya was built in 1925 and houses the principal vinification processes. The Xapallà cellar next door was finished in August 2004 and houses the temperature-controlled warehouse, the barrel hall and a new bottling plant. The new gravity-based l’Era cellar was opened in 2010 to produce the Albet I Noya top wines separately.

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Organic wine is largely wine from organically grown grapes, but the regulations primarily limit the quantity of sulphur dioxide that can be used, approximately half the levels permitted in a conventional cellar. This means that the Can Vendrell cellar is required to maintain a level of hygiene far superior to that of a conventional cellar. Nonetheless, once more we can see that the key to making great wines lies in the quality of the raw materials: the grapes.

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By working only with grapes in optimum sanitary conditions, Albet i Noya are able to work largely without using SO2. They use authoctonous yeasts from the Albet i Noya vineyards, selected from the Xarel·lo variety and they are working in the selection of other yeasts for the remaining varieties. The fermenting vats have an inert gas system (a mix of nitrogen and CO2) to prevent potential alterations in the wine. Once again, the emphasis is on prevention rather than cure: as the wine cannot be chemically corrected, the hygiene of the cellar is key to avoiding disappointments. The cellar equipment is cleaned using high pressure hot water (up to 90°C) instead of chemical products.

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Of the 145 hectares they control, 80.5 are given over exclusively to the cultivation of vines. The estate vines cover the western slopes of the Ordal mountain range known as “Costers d’Ordal”, following the curves of the terrain in stepped terraces or on slopes exposed to the midday sun. As in all good wine-growing land, the soil in Can Vendrell has low organic content, with a variable content of clay and sand on a bed of calcareous stone, a permeable base with good moisture retention. Leaving aside for a moment the suitability of the land for wine growing, there are other factors which intervene in the selection of the most suitable vines for cultivation, such as the lie of the land, the hours of sun, the humidity and altitude of the terrain.

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The white varieties are Chardonnay (1.1ha) Macabeu (9.7ha), Xarel·lo (19.1ha), Parellada (10.5ha), Moscatell (0.4ha), Viogner (1.5ha), Sauvignon Blanc (0.3ha), Riesling (1.5ha), Garnatxa Blanca (0.2ha) and 4 experimental varieties (0.8ha). The red varieties are Cabernet Sauvignon (10ha), Tempranillo o Ull de llebre (8.3ha), Merlot (5.4ha), Syrah (6ha), Garnatxa negre (2.2ha), Pinot Noir (2.9ha), and 6 experimental varieties (0.8ha). Whilst the Xarel·lo, Macabeu and Parellada are the varieties traditionally planted in the Penedès region, the others had been lost at the end of the 19th century with the Phylloxera crisis and the growth of Cava, until their reintroduction to Can Vendrell by the Albet family in the early eighties.

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Josep M. i Toni Albet i Noya, started a ambitious project in 1998 collecting 7 lost grapes varieties. The aim of the project is to test seven ancient grape varieties, both from a point of view of vineyard management and of winemaking potential. The grape varieties have been recovered from old and abandoned vineyards, including one found in Albet i Noya’s estate. The search for old varieties has been so successful that they have extended it to a second phase of the project with seven more varieties that started in 2012 and will last until 2020.

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The belief is that some of these varieties date from before the phylloxera plague. When Phylloxera hit Europe’s vineyards, the price of grapes and wine in the Penedès went sky high. As a result a lot of the less productive varieties were abandoned in favor of higher yielding ones. In the Penedès it is believed there were some 30 varieties more than are currently cultivated. As we now know, which often is the case, these lower yielding plants produce more concentrated fruit, these could be excellent candidate for winemaking.

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Once the seven varieties (four whites and three reds) were selected, they grafted 500 vines of each, 250 with vigorous rootstock (Richter 110) and the other half with a less vigorous strain (41-B). The idea is to pick and vinify each strain separately. The wines are made in a small cellar, specifically designed for micro-vinifications with small 500 litre tanks, but all the technological advances of the main cellar.

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To make the project as parcipitative as possible, and to get a feel for the real potential of these varieties, every year they send samples of the wines to 165 people in 24 countries: importers, distributors, sommeliers, wine critics, renowned winemakers, as well as the Consell Regulador de la DO. Penedès and the Institut Català de la Vinya i el Vi (INCAVI). The participants then return their tasting notes and impressions of each wine.

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With this feedback, and their own internal data over five years, they decide which of the varieties have the potential to be planted more extensively to produce wine on a commercial scale. To date they can announce that after the fifth vintage in 2006, they finished the first phase of the project with two white varieties (Marina Rión and Vidal) and one red (Belat) that show both excellent quality and good farming potential. They plan to plant a hectare of each and officially request their approval by the Denominació d’Origen Penedès.

BElat Albet I nOya

In the coming years they will work to encourage the official organisms to accelerate the process of approving these three autochthonous varieties that they consider to be important to the future of the Penedès region.

190 to go!

Catalan Wine 365 and the SweetEasy Lifestyle

Quim Batlle, You’re My Latest, Greatest Inspiration in D.O Alella

190/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Alella – Lugar la Sentiu/Tiana – Quim Batlle – Foranell Garnatxa Blanca 2008

You’re My Latest, Greatest Inspiration…….,

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Foranell Garnatxa Blanca 2008

Green flashes in the pale straw yellow, typical for the wines from the region. The nose provides primary aromas of citrus (mandarin and grapefruit, etc.), with very pronounced ripe fruit (peach and banana). Light ageing in French oak brings hints of vanilla and cocoa, while the terroir gives flavors of spices and minerales. The mouth has an excellent structure, wide step and a very persistent after-taste. Pairing with original, sensational dishes that contrast the flavours of the wine, like prawn carpaccio with pistachio oil or cod with garlic mousseline.

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The grape variety of White Grenache or Garnatxa Blanca is known under several names. You might have heard of Garnatxa Blanca as Garnacha Blanca, the x in the first is the Catalan spelling. The other known names are Garnacha Gris, Garnacho Blanco, Grenache Blanc, Lledoné, Silla Blanc, Sillina Blanc…., this is the variety that forms the Foranell White Grenache.

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The White Grenache is a Spanish white grape variety and it is found widespread throughout Spain, being particularly abundant in Tarragona, Zaragoza and Teruel. This is a variety cultivated  in D.O. Alella, Carignan, Cigales, L’Emporda-Costa Brava, Navarra, Priorat, Rioja, Somontano, Tarragona and Terra Alta primarily, but we can also find it in Aragon, if we wander outside Catalonia. According to the Order APA/1819/2007, the white grenache is recommended in the regions of Aragon and Catalonia, in the latter being known as Garnatxa Blanca and Lladoner Blanco of the vitis vinifera variety; it is also authorized in Navarre, Basque Country and La Rioja.

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As a plant, it is quite productive and disease resistant, producing not very large but compact clusters. The berries are medium-sized, round, yellow-green in colour. The grape variety Garnatxa Blanca, is in certain areas vinified on its own or blended with Macabeo, Parellada to produce Cava and Pedro Ximenez or Moscatel to prepare Mistelas. In the case of producing varietal wines they usually give of a nice level of alcohol, fresh, full-bodied and elegant wines, with a pale yellow color, on the nose it is quite floral and shows loads of ripe fruit aromas and flavours.

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191 to go!

Catalan Wine 365 and the SweetEasy Lifestyle

Celler Jane Ventura, The Lazy Song in D.O. Penedes

189/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Penedes – El Vendrell – Jane Ventura – Mas Vilella 2009

The Lazy Song……..,

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Mas Vilella 2009, 100% Cabernet Sauvignon

Nice cherry dark cherry with garnet edges and violet reflections. Clean and bright. Good intensity with a significant fruit load, lots of ripe red fruit, spice, hints of undergrowth, leather, licorice and mineral background. The palate is powerful with a good structure and excellent acidity. Firm and long finish, persistent tannins. The retronasal reminds me of compotes and red fruits appear as well as toasted notes.

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THE DAY!

Apparently it is with some difficulty one tries to decide to visit the wineries in the vicinity. So many great producers just around the corner from where we live and yet, most of the time we go to Priorat, Montsant, Terra Alta and so on. Living in Penedes means there are choices and choices when it comes to wine and Cava producers. As you will discover with time, I am going to cover all the DO:s of Catalonia and hopefully it is going to be 12 DO:s, 365 wines and Cavas during 2014. I will be writing about D.O. Penedes several times, this is just the first in a row of many. First out is Jane Ventura and out of all their wines and Cavas I have chosen the Cava Do to start with. I am sure I will, over the year to come, have to revisit and cover some of their wines as well.

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Almost all of our SweetEasy guests stay at Gimenelles, a wonderful rural hotel, with lovely owners. They had been telling us over and over again, that we should visit Jane Ventura and so one day, it just happens! A quick call to the owner/winemaker Gerard Jane and of we go.

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THE TRIP!

Now, as I mentioned above, we live really close to Jane Ventura winery and even closer if we want to visit their vineyards and old rural estate, Masia as it is called in Catalan. The name of their Masia is Mas Vilella and it is normally here they start their visits, all for us to be able to understand where the grapes grow. The Masia is located in a very scenic place, which is not the case with the winery. At the Masia, a tour of the estate, the vineyards and then the obligatory tasting of almost all of the products. Barrel tasting occur if Gerard realizes that wine lovers are visiting. Our village is Llorenc del Penedes, in the lower Penedes, and about 10 minutes from El Vendrell where the winery is located. All this, only one hours drive from Barcelona. Trains and busses also come to El Vendrell, so it is quite convenient to get here. 

The country side estate, Mas Vilella, of Jane Ventura.

THE VILLAGE!

At this point of the blog I would normally like to capture some of the charm of the village/town. Wont happen this time, as the least exiting thing about Jane Ventura and D.O. Penedes is El Vendrell, nice and all but hardly worth writing about, but…, should anyone like to know more about El Vendrell, just follow the link and you shall be informed. I’ll cover the winery in more detail instead!

THE WINERY!

To really understand and appreciate the wines and Cavas of Jane Ventura, one has to visit both the old Masia as well as the winery in town. The vineyards are located around and not to far from the old Masia, although there are some vineyards located at higher altitudes as well. As such, this is where the grape reception is taking place, de-steaming and fermentation, vinification as well as barrel aging of red wines, production still whites and base Cavas.

Kitchen come tasting room at the old Masia. Gerad Jane doing a tasting for a group of Swedish hospitality workers.

Overall philosophy of Gerard Jane is a little bit tricky to convey in writing. Meeting him is really the only way to understand the full extent of his love for the soil and grapes, but there is more. Music is a huge part of the whole concept. The labels of the Reserva de la Musica are said to be interpreting or transferring the pentatonic musical scale.

Reserva de la Musica, with it's pentatonic scale label.

The unique label design of the Reserva de l'Orgue.

The design of the label for the Gran Reserva de l’Orgue 2006 is inspired from the original sketch made by the organ maker L. Scherrer in 1775. Each bottle has been personalised so that it carries the name of one of the organ pipes, which are also illustrated on the cylindrical case. After the first visit to Jane Ventura there has been many more. Not only visits to the wineries but also to events hosted by Gerard. Again, music playing a pivotal role. The Cava Do, which I am covering in this blog, was launched at thePau Casals museum in Sant Salvador, during a wonderful cello concert and subsequent Cava tasting.

The Malvasija de Sitges, a specially composed piece of music and a Catalan desert to complete the experience.

Another event combined three musical pieces, each composed for three different Jane Ventura wines, as well as pastries. All three elements said to enhance each other. Piedra seca, dry stone walls, is another passion that Gerard holds close to his heart. So, the only way to really understand this man, is face to face and with plenty of time.

To the memory of Josep Valles. Rebuilding of a dry stone wall at the entrance to Mas Vilella.

Cava Do is my preferred house Cava!

Always in my fridge, cost/quality 10 out of 10.

Cava Do de Jane Ventura, Gran Reserva Vintage 2008, D.O. Cava from Penedes, Xarel.lo 60%, Macabeu 26% and Parellada 14%

Let’s start by explaining that the holy trinity in Cava-making consists, traditionally, by using the grapes Xarel.lo, Macabeu and Parellada. The coupage depends, as in many cases, on yield, quality, varietals of the winery and grower and ultimately decision of the winemaker, what he wants to use. The Xarel.lo brings stronger flavors to the blend and certainly carries more aromatic sensations than the other two varietals.

Xarel.lo Grapes

The Macabeu (catalan spelling), Macabeo or Viura as it is also known, has traditionally been used to produce young, and hence acidic, still wines of not so high quality. Being a grape that grows easily, it is abundant here in Penedes and it has given yields of up to 6-8 kg per vine. Now, this little princess of grapes is being used more seriously by producers that are willing to prune hard. This way the grape can evolve in the best way possible and reach its potential with 13% as to show the character and aromas that it can carry. A good quality Macabeu grape sometimes is used 100% for wines that can age well.

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Parellada! My new found love. I find it difficult to find Parellada wines, at least if it is to be 100% Parellada. That’s a shame as I over recent months have encountered wonderful wines made of this tasty grape. I promise to cover Parellada in more detail in the future and suggest some nice Parellada wines. Parellada is widely planted in Penedes and preffered sites are located at high altitudes. It imparts a green-apple character on the wine it helps to produce and marries well with the body of Macabeo and the earthen flavors of Xarel-lo.

My notes, and I have done a few for the Cava Do, tell me that I am inconsistent in my observations. But nevertheless I’ll try to give a fair understanding of this fresh Cava, suitable for any party.

Sur lie for a minimum of 36 months and 5% of the wine is barrel fermented in French oak for 45 months.

Yellow straw color with slight gold reflections and fine, constant bubbles. Has a clean average nose and clean bouquet. Delicate and very pleasant with outstanding fruity aromas, floral notes and herbs in the back of the mouth with hints of minerals and intensive citrus notes. It has an extensive and direct taste, it is marked by excellent acidity, defined and deep, giving it a freshness and a soft carbon. Long and persistent.

192 to go!

Catalan Wine 365 and the SweetEasy Lifestyle