Celler Credo, Bats, Bats, Bats in D.O. Penedes

360/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Penedes – Sant Sadurní d’Anoia – Celler Credo – Ratpenat 2013

Bats, Bats, Bats………,

image0031Ratpenat, 100 % Macabeu

There are plenty of wines that are made with Xarel.lo but I have personally tried very few made only with Macabeu, this is one of them and I am very happy I did try it, especially knowing that most of the turnover goes to a great cause!  It has a lovely golden yellow color with density and volume. The nose is fruity containing loads of apple notes. In the mouth it is fresh, round, with good acidity, fruity and highly drinkable. It doesn’t have a long aftertaste but leaves a good mouthfeel. A great way to get acquainted with the Macabeu varietal.

22581-cute-bat-1920x1200-animal-wallpaperMucielago, The Bat, enigmatic and secretive, but absolutely necessary for the balance of the ecosystem. The bat is the only flying mammal that exists on Earth. Their biology, highlighted by the longevity (it can live over 40 years) and a radar system that allows them to fly at night, and of course for them it is night all the time as they are blind. The white wine Ratpenat (bat) was born out of the compromise between Celler Credo and the Natural Science Museum of Granollers to defend the environment and the creatures that inhabit it. 60% of the benefits of this wine are used for projects that aim to publicize the importance of bats in the ecosystem and conservation of this mammal in the vineyard environment and as a natural and very efficient insectivore.

Celler-Credo-Vinya-de-la-Pedra-Blanca_03Ratpenat is made exclusively from old vines planted in 1950 from the estate of Pedra Blanca, in the Alt Penedès. The vineyards are cultivated following the principles of organic and biodynamic agriculture. They work with spontaneous vegetation cover (essential to fluff the soil and regulate water retention and drainage in a rained crop, as is the practice) and apply treatments with herbal medicine (phytotherapy) to monitor the presence of fungi and thus reinforce strains in a totally natural manner. Harvesting is done by hand to ensure the excellent quality of the grapes. Both the vinification and bottling are performed at the property. During the development of Ratpenat, maceration is done with the skins and stems for a few hours. Fermentation takes place in old oak barrels and then remains in the same barrels for a period of approximately three months. This wine can contain natural sediments.

Enric Soler, Moment of Truth in D.O. Penedes

355 & 356/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Penedes – Font-Rubi – Cal Raspallet Viticultors – Improvisacio 2013 & Nun Vinya dels Taus 2013

Moment of Truth………,

….., makes me know that he (Enric Soler) had the right idea from the beginning and he just needed to maintain his focus and elevate, update the formulas, in the way he makes his wines, making sure there´s always a message involved. First of December 2014, Monday, is going to be a day to remember. Today I took the time to once again leave the office and explore another exemplary wine maker in Catalunya and this time once again in the Penedes region. A man of Xarel.lo, interpreting the terroir and variety in his own way! This was for me, the Moment Of Truth! Would it be everythingI had heard, would it be as good as I had imagined? I am pretty sure you won´t be disappointed, especially Burgundy lovers will be fond of theses wines. If I had tried them under different circumstances and maybe during a blind tasting, I would probably not have ventured to guess that these wines are from Penedes, they just don´t make any sense and they confuse me, but what is more important, they make my senses work for their money.

DSC_0042Improvisacio 2013, 100% Xarel.lo

Pretty pale straw yellow color. Bright, clean and fine glyceric tears. An array of aromas, impressive, intense and seductive. The primaries are those of white fruit, lemon zest and light spicy notes, slightly floral. In needed quite some aeration to develop into a everlasting flow of aromas which seemed as if they would go on for ever. Ripe white fruit gained in intensity, opening up tropical fruit noted intermingled with good toasted, creamy and a floral touch. Light mineral background. The entry is very nice, seductive, elegant. A mature wine with fruit and well balanced oaky notes together with a crisp acidity. Very aromatic. Creamy texture. Long finish that leaves a mouthful of smoky sensations. Certainly a gastronomic wine and one of the better whites I have tasted this year.

DSC_0053Nun Vinya dels Taus 2013, 100% Xarel.lo

One of the most elegant and impressive wines, all categories, I have and the good fortune to try this year. Attractive yellow color with delicate gold reflections. Clean and bright. Glyceric tears. My first impression was that of indecisiveness, I couldn’t get my senses to interpret what was going on in the glass, as there was too much information that came too fast. Very complex sensations, hard to put in words. After a while I got my head around it. Very elegant, very fresh and seductive aromas. Intense ripe white fruit and citrus aromas and fresh flowers. Some vegetal notes but in a good way. Herbs, sage, fennel and soft menthol. All interspersed with the creaminess given by the oak. Once in the mouth it is very present, taking over and claiming the mouth as its own. Long travel, very deep, intense and concentrated. Excellent acidity which gives loads of freshness throughout its path. Elegant, long and persistent finish. This is a Super Catalan!

DSC_0033Enric Soler, Spanish sommelier champion, inherited a small vineyard in the Penedès by his grandfather in 2003. The vineyard is called Vinya dels Taus, and it was planted in 1940 after the Spanish civil war which ended in 1939. Prior to that the location of the vineyard served as an airfield for the republican forces. Today, it is a healthy 74 year old plantation of probably some of the best Xarel.lo in the world, with the help of which Enric set out to make the best white wine of Catalonia. In achieving this, he brought in the knowledge of the extremely talented wine maker Esther Nin. She in turn saw her chance to make white wine under ideal conditions. 2004 was the first vintage. It was difficult, as the vines at the time, still didn’t produce good enough grapes. The conversion to organic farming took time, and the year 2005 was the first to completely fulfill biodynamic principles. The year of 2006 received good response throughout the wine industry when the knowledge of the terroir started to fall into place for the duo making the wine. Since 2007, the wines are more or less constantly sold out and it was not easy to acquire a case to bring home, but I guess I do have some convincing skills.

DSC_0045Cal Raspallet is the name of this typical Catalan farmhouse, of the late nineteenth century where magic happens, and it maintains more or less the same structure as it did during the days of Enrics grandfathers rein. To find it, even though I had the coordinates, was not all that easy. No signs to indicate where it was and I actually passed it twice before asking a local older gentleman for directions. Finally there, Enric emerged from the house in which he lives with his family but which also serves as  the wine making facility, to great us. We were taken to the vineyard of Vinya dels Taus, which is a piece of vineyard of 0.89 hectares situated in the Alt Penedès, at the end of Torrelavit. It is a unique and varietal vineyard with great diversity of clones. The intention and philosophy is to bring the vineyard to a logical balance for the production of small clusters. Once the grapes reach the cellar, the philosophy is non-interventionist, allowing the wine to develop as they please. The arrangement of the barrels on one level and on a gravel soil improves compensation of temperature and humidity.

DSC_0005This is not a cellar that has a visitors centre or that, under normal circumstances, receives visitors. But, off course, there are always exceptions and in my case it is only due to my close friendship with one of Enrics former sommelier students that made the visit possible. This guy is a though nut to crack, and even though I on several occasion tried to get him to accept small groups that I ‘d like to bring, it was not an idea that really appeal to him. But let’s see what happens in the future? I’m not quite ready yet to give up on sharing this gem of a cellar with other wine lovers!

DSC_006330 to go!

Catalan Wine 365 and SweetEasy Wine Tours

Finca Valldosera, Right On in D.O. Penedès

352/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Penedès – Can Trabal – Finca Valldosera – Subirat Parent 2013

Right On………,

576_1347266415650-valldosera-Subirat-parent-vi-2011Subirat Parent 2013, 100% Subirat Parent

Yesterday it was about the Sumoll, today I introduce Subirat Parent, in the form of Valldoseras take on this lovely and fresh variety. Shiny yellow color with green reflexions. If you have once had a Subirat Parent wine, you will be able to quite easily distinguish it just by smelling it. It has a very special and unique aromatic profile which is quite intense. The aromas are predominately those of flowers and ripe grapes. Some orange blossom and tropical fruit, apricot and pineapple. Very clean and pleasant on entry. The palate has very good acidity, giving it freshness and roundness. Medium bodied, balanced and sweet. Very clean and pleasant on entering the mouth. Medium aftertaste and a slightly bitter finish. It shouts out, DRINK ME, please!

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In the Massís del Garraf where this delicate and at the same time very appreciated variety of grape is thriving, the Subirat Parent finds the best conditions for growth, offering its delicate aromas and flavors. Subirat Parent is an indigenous variety, family of malvasías, a grape forgotten over the years. It gives unique, perfumed, floral, subtle, sensual, pleasant and round white wines. It is also grown in Rioja, where it is known as Malvasía Riojana. It is also known as Malvasía de Alicante, Malvasía Francesa and Blanquirroja. It is mostly used in D.O. Alella and D.O. Penedes, as well as being certified for Cava making. There are extensive plantings in the Canary Islands where the veriety is used for a wide range of styles. One of its attributes is longevity; the variety often plays a supporting role in Rioja’s white blends when a period on oak is needed.

malvasia34 to go!

Catalan Wine 365 and SweetEasy Wine Tours

Finca Mas Rodó, Evenin´in D.O. Penedès

347/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Penedès – Sant Pere Sacarrera – Finca Mas Rodó – Mas Rodó Montonega 2011

Evenin´……….,

MRMontonega 2012Mas Rodó Montonega 2011, 100% Montonega

The kind of yellow color you´d find in a ripe pear, bright and clean. Pleasant nose and cool intensity with aromas of white fruit (pear), light citrus, herbaceous notes with hints of fresh, slightly wet, gras, very fragrant with floral touches. Nice and cool entry, long journey with fresh citrus notes (lemon) and soft white fruit (golden apple), herbaceous, good acidity, very refreshing and quite easy to drink, light and persistent. Long aftertaste of citrus. A must try for those of you that haven´t yet tried a Montonega mono-varietal wine!

Some say that the Montonega variety and the Parellada are the same, but though they are genetically interlinked, there are differences. If you have to opportunity to try mono-varietal wines made using theses two grapes, I am quite sure that you´d agree. The Parellada offers quite candy like aromas and taste, almost artificial, but off course depending on vilification and the Montonega is all freshness and citrus. Montonega is a pink-skinned grape variety grown in minute quantities in the region of Penedes. Here, vineyards are planted at altitudes of up to 810m. For decades, Montonega has been steadily losing ground to Parellada, the much more common variety to which it is genetically linked, mostly because of the low yields it produces. However, its grapes can result in wines that have an excellent intensity. Small berries and thick skins combine to add a good mouthfeel, supported by excellent acidity. The aromatic profile of Montonega wines tends to be fresh and citrusy.

We all know the difficulties involved in the development of mono-varietal wines and the complexity it carries, year after year, to maintain its quality. But taking on this challenge can mean that the wine lovers of the world get to enjoy the authentic flavors and aromas of the grapes vinified under these criteria. Finca Mas Rodó is located in the Alt Penedes region at 500m altitude, they only produce wines based on their own crops, grown on slopes. The farm offers three types of soil: stony, calcareous and argillaceous. With these features and looking for water stress, meaning that the roots have to go deep to find water, the ultimate expression of mineralization and soil is found in the wines. There is minimal intervention in the cultivation and no herbicides are being used. All this allows them to produce varietal wines with typicity marked by the climate of the area, its altitude and terrain types. Those are wines with distinct “terroir” character.

40 to go!

Catalan Wine 365 and SweetEasy Wine Tours

Temps de Vi, Shining Star in D.O. Penedes

337/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Penedes – Avinyonet del Penedès – Mas Comtal – Lyric 1993

Shining Star……..,

Time for wine, isn’t it always? Another day, another wine tasting. And why not share the Shining Star of Penedes with you……. This time with sommelier Oscar Villagarcia, one of the organizers of one of the top wine fairs in Catalonia. Temps de Vi. With regards to his wine tasting, all I can say is that it was done in a very professional manner. Six lovely wines were tasted and five of them are in time getting a posting each, except the Bru de Verdu 2012, which has already been covered.

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I’m starting of in the wrong end, with the last wine, a dessert wine but this was the winner for me and even though the tasting took place on Sunday evening, I still have the taste of the wine on my tongue. The setting was also spectacular, in an old city palace/town house with a grand entrance and a wonderful staircase leading up to the tasting room. Outside, on the village square, the November fair was going on, with local produce and music. If you would like to know more about todays winery, just follow the link!

mas-comtal-lyric-9471Lyric 1993, 100% Merlot

The color is dark amber, has a red streak to it and could be described as Tawny colored. The nose is a A – Z library of aromatic experiences. What stands out especially are the roasted notes from the barrel aging, mature forest fruit, berries and dried figs, apricot, peach and toasted hazelnuts. The palate is moderately dense and not too sweet, in any case, not sticky. The 19º alcohol is perceived, without being overwhelming or disturbing the overall experience in any way. It is comparable to……., well nothing really, but if I’d have to venture a description, it would have to be; Tokay meets Port meets Jerez. But this is really very unique beverage with refreshing acidity, carrying the aromas from the nose to the palate. What really stands out, is the length, which is almost eternal and where the multiple nuances, roasting, fruit and balanced sweetness come together in perfect harmony. This wine was the last of the evening and had us talking, inspiring us to word we hardly use, as only the best of wines can do!

It is a unique fortified wine which has been produced using the Merlot variety, following fortified liqueur wine methodology that partially ferments the must and then, tops it off with a grape alcohol from the same harvest. In this way, an excellently stable wine is achieved that is rich in sugars and with a high alcohol percentage. Over a 15-year period, small quantities in 225 litre casks have been made each year, following the aging process which characterizes the great fortified wines of Jerez. Hence, the wine has an age of 15 years. Recommended for marrying with foie gras appetizers. A good companion for strong blue cheeses. Ideal for pouring over a selection of fresh fruits and also a perfect combination with almond catanies, truffles and nuts.

Joan Milà, also known as “the Merlot Magician”, surprises us once again. This is the first FORTIFIED WINE elaborated by Joan and Albert, the result of a winemaking project of more than 15 years’ standing; a project that started with the harvest of ’93, coinciding with the beginning of a new era for the family estate. On this occasion, they have named it LYRIC, in reference to the poetry in which elemental and affective, sentimental and emotional tones predominate. A genre without its own metre and rhyme schemes. Utterly appropriate for this new project, which instead of following the rules results from a dream. Sweet wine with an extremely limited production. Spring 2008 saw the bottling of two hundred 50cl bottles, using a glass top to ensure its preservation and to prevent any unpleasant taste from corking. This is a true Signature Organic Wine and another Super Catalan!

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DSC_096151 to go!

 

The Winery of Jean León, The Rat Pack in D.O. Penedes

335/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Penedes – Jean León – Jean Leon 3055 Merlot-Petit Verdot 2011

The Rat Pack……..,

jl_3055_merlot-petit_verdot_tumbadoJean Leon 3055 Merlot-Petit Verdot 2011

A very nice blend of Merlot and Petit Verdot. The harvest took place during a single day for the Merlot (September 5) and during two days for the Petit Verdot (27 and September 28). The juice was fermented in stainless steel tanks at controlled temperature, where it macerated with the skins for 2 weeks. The wine was aged for 4 months in French oak barrels.

Leon Jean 3055 Merlot-Petit Verdot 2011 has a nice opaque cherry red color with garnet reflections. The nose is pure concentration of red fruit: strawberries, cherries and pomegranate that blends with menthol and subtle notes of toast. The palate is powerful and balanced, with tannins that provide great structure. Friendly, creamy and fine taste. Good memories at the end if ripe red fruit. Great dining companion with white meat dishes, red meat and some fish dishes such as cod.

Jean León was the man who flip-side turned the whole concept of vine growing on its head, locals in Penedes looking at him, at the time, as a crazy person. But I guess that is how it goes when we are talking about geniuses!

A street in Santander!

I am still amazed that no-one has made an epic movie about the life of Jean León, he certainly deserves a 3-hour silver screen appearance, so that everybody can get an insight into his turbulent and over achieving life, filled with tragedies, sorrow but also with entrepreneurial dreams being full-filled.

The Jean Leon winery and visitors center in Penedes

Half, if not more, of the wine experience is that of the story. The better the story the more interesting the wine gets! Have you ever heard of Ceferino Carrion? You probably know of Jean León? Same guy! Here is the story of a great man, an entrepreneur and the lovely wine left as a legacy.

jean_leon_Scala

A mover and a shaker from young age, due too circumstances which more or less forced him but also gave him the opportunity to live the American dream. He originated from Cantabria, and this is where the story starts in 1941, at the time Ceferino was only 13 years old and Europe was in the midst of the Second World War.

Jean Leon in Central Park

Santander, the capital of Cantabria, fell victim to a great fire in 1941. Fanned by a strong south wind, the fire burned for two days. There was only one casualty, a firefighter killed in the line of duty, but thousands of families were left homeless and the city was plunged into chaos. The fire destroyed the greater part of the medieval town centre and gutted the city’s Romanesque cathedral.

Jean_Leon_3055

One of the many families that lost all was that of Ceferino. And as a result they were forced to seek their fortune in the more prosperous city of Barcelona. Ceferino’s oldest brother and father died during the Second World War and Ceferino moved to Paris at the age of 19, with whatever little money he had and one small suitcase.

JeanLeon-01

After a short stint in the City of Light, only a few years after the end of the war, he decides to board a ship and as a stowaway find his way to the United States. In New York, he worked as and where he could, mainly as taxi driver, dishwasher and waiter at restaurants. With no papers and having entered the country illegally, he had to hide form authorities. Finally he had to head west, across the States, arriving in Hollywood.

At La Scala: Tony Franciosa, Zsa Zsa Gabor and friends. Standing: Jean León.

As a way to secure his stay in the States, he decided to sing up for military service and change his name, from that moment on, began to call himself Jean León. He came back unharmed from the Korean War and went back to work within the trade he already knew plenty about.

Frank Sinatra with Nat King Cole at Villa Capri, 1955.

As luck would have it, he found work at the Villa Capri restaurant, which was owned by the actor Frank Sinatra and baseball player Joe di Maggio. This allowed him to become friends with many of the actors that frequented the restaurant, which was how he came to befriend Natalie Wood, Grace Kelly and James Dean, to name just a few.

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He must have been a likable and outgoing guy since he made friends easily, developing a close friendship with James Dean, who agreed to help and invest in a new luxury restaurant in Beverly Hills – La Scala. Dean died, in a car crash with his Porsche, a day before signing the papers, but León went ahead and the new restaurant quickly became the Hollywood place for celebrity diners.

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On any given day at La Scala, it was not unusual to see Marilyn Monroe, Zsa Zsa Gabor, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, David Jansen, Tony Franciosa, Robert Wagner, to name but a few, having a friendly chat with Jean Leon about wines, cuisine or some intimate secrets that they shared. It is said, unconfirmed, that Jean León was the last person to see Marilyn Monroe alive. She called earlier that evening to cancel her booking but asked instead to have her dinner delivered.

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Family legend says he was disappointed with the available wines and therefore he travelled all over the world looking for the ideal estate, until one day he arrived in Catalonia and there, in the heart of the Penedès, he found what he was looking for.

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In 1962, Jean León acquired the best plots of land in the region and set up the Jean León Pago, where he was a pioneer in planting Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay.

jean-leon-cabernet-sauvignon-reserva-do-de-pago-penedes-spain-10334365

To be able to create the best wine possible, stories told say that he illegally obtaining cuttings of Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon while in France. The Cabernet came from the famous Lafite vineyard in Bordeaux.These were the first plantings in Spain of these grape varieties.

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The estate is divided into several sections known as “pagos,” and only one wine is produced in each section. All grapes for the premium wines are sourced from the vineyard. The “pago” concept is equivalent to the “cru” in Bordeaux, or the “vignetti” in Italy and the “quinta” in Portugal.

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As León’s business bloomed, his health diminished. And in 1993, realizing his death was imminent; he left Spain and sailed alone on his boat until his death in 1995. Today, we can share a bottle or two of his wines and the stories! Now all I have to do is to find investors willing to make the movie.

jean-leon-3055-chardonnayJean Leon 3055 Chardonnay 2012

3055 is related to one of his first jobs in New York, being the number of the Taxi he drove.

The color is  pale bright yellow and clear. The primary aroma is notable for the intensity of the white flowers and tropical fruits. Shows very nice hints of barrel aging. The palate is fresh and elegant, due to the great acidity which carries the wine. It’s hedonistic and offers long aftertaste. Goes well with tapas such as clams, razor clams, cockles, cuttlefish and octopus. Would not mind having it with grilled sardines, sole or hake maybe together with a light sauce.

 

Singular Wine by Cal Batlle and Celler Mas Candi, The Way of the Future in D.O. Penedes

320/365 – Catalonia –D.O. Penedes – Viticulture by Cal Batlle & Elaboration by Mas Candi – El Vesper de la Gloriosa 2013

The Way of the Future……,

vesper-de-la-gloriosaEl Vesper de la Gloriosa 2013, 50% Xarel.lo and 50% Macabeu

This is NOT a Cava,this is a Sparkling wine produced using the “Ancestral Method”. Pale yellow color with soft green iridescence, constant bubbles and a fine steady flow. On the nose there are aromas of white fruit (pear), hints of citrus (lemon) which provides a very refreshing background. Some creamy notes of pastries, brioche, soft nuts (almonds), presence of yeast with hints of warm bread and croissant, a touch of herbs. Pleasant coolness during its entry, tasty overall presence with fresh and ripe white fruit, light touch of a bitter taste, dried fruit notes, good acidity, spacious, light creaminess. Refreshing sparkly. Long and a aftertaste of white fruit and some citrus.

Ancestral;

adj.
1.

pertaining to ancestors; descending or claimed from ancestors:
an ancestral home.
2.

serving as a forerunner, prototype, or inspiration.

 

Ancient;

adj.
1. Of great age; very old.
2. Of or relating to times long past, especially those of the historical period before the fall of the Western Roman Empire (a.d. 476). See Synonyms at old.
3. Old-fashioned; antiquated.
4. Having the qualities associated with age, wisdom, or long use; venerable.
n.

1. A very old person.
2. A person who lived in times long past.
3. ancients

a. The peoples of the classical nations of antiquity.
b. The ancient Greek and Roman authors.

 

In addition to these definitions, the word(s) is/are used to name and define a type of natural sparkling wine, characterized by being produced by a single fermentation directly in the bottle. Too me, it represents one of the ways to make wine with minimal intervention, and I am happy to see that this production method has been reclaimed. The method is the “Ancestral Method” but I lay claim to it being Ancient as well, hence I use both definitions above!

The ancient fermentation method creates a spontaneous fermentation and uses no added sugar, nor tirage or expedition liqueur. Only sugar from the grapes is to be fermented. There’s no disgorging deposits, or if there is, it is the bare minimum, that is left in the bottle and the appearance can be a bit murky.

– The process would be:
o develop the base wine (still wine) using classic fermenting techniques and of course this depends on the process of each winery.
o make the cuvée, with the residual sugar still present, and the wine still being “still wine”. The fermentation and maturation of the base wine and the cuvée continues in the same bottle without added sugars, tirage/expedition.

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Having explained all of the above, El Vesper de la Gloriosa is a natural sparkling wine, made using the ancestral method with yeasts. This is a wine made through cooperation of two great wine entities, Viticulture by Cal Batlle & Elaboration by Mas Candi, with the aim of creating a sparkling wine that breaks the current cliches, and which is not indifferent to the consumer. It is a blend of Macabeo and Xarel·lo, planted in the early 50’s. To keep up the purity of the grape, they have opted to use the ancient method, fermented with autochthonous yeast from the same vineyard, adding no sulfur in its preparation. This sparkling wants to be a recognition to the history of the property, specifically recognizing the time of the Civil War, in which part of the property was occupied by a Republican airfield, called the “Vesper de la Gloriosa”.

71 to go!