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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Let’s go Organic with Albet I Noya, Evidence in D.O Penedes

319/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Penedes – Sant Pau d’Ordal – Albet I Noya – La MiLana 2011

Evidence……..,

lamilanaLa MiLana 2011, Caladoc, Ull de Llebre (Tempranillo), Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

Dark garnet color, bright with high layers. The primary aromas are those of new wood, they clearly stand out. Once aerated, lots of ripe fruit (red and black) shows their presence. Toasty but well integrated. Mineral notes and hints of vanilla. The palate has a very powerful attack, full-bodied and sweet. Very well integrated tannins. Roasted notes are very present in the mouth as well. Long and persistent. Nice one! The variety Caladoc was created by grape breeder Paul Truel in 1958. The grape is a crossing between Grenache and Malbec that Truel created with the aim of having a vine that could grow in southern France that was less prone to coulure than either of its parents.

La Milana vineyard are 11 terraces that make up 7 ha. around the Can Milà de la Roca farmhouse. 150 years ago this land was farmed directly by Mr Milà’s wife and hence became known as La Milana. The blend of the four varieties is the same proportion as the makeup of the vienyards, making this a true single vineyard wine. Perhaps this is what gives it such harmony and a clear expression of place. Hand picking with a vineyard selection is followed by a triage grape by grape after destemming. The winemaking process is centred on the utmost respect for the fruit of these vineyards..

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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. Albet i Noya continue to research new methods and grape varieties. They are currently experimenting with seven pre-phylloxera grape varieties with 500 vines of each type. They have looked for varieties that had survived naturally in the wild, indicating a high natural resistance to diseases. They are looking for both sensorial and ecological qualities in these vines. Early results indicate two varieties with considerable possibilities. They also work with Incavi (The Catalan institute of Vines and Wine), to select authoctonous varieties that have greater resistance to parasites whilst producing quality fruit.

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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.

 

72 to go!

 

Cellar Can Ràfols dels Caus, Autumn Leaves in D.O. Penedes

305/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Penedes – Avinyonet del Penedes – Cellar Can Ràfols dels Caus – Ad Fines 2003

Autumn Leaves………,

prod-large-ad-finesAd Fines 2003, 100% Pinot Noir

Bright cherry red color, medium layer, clean, thick and slow legs. Intense aromas of red strawberry, underbrush, sweet baked tomato, roasted apples. Very inviting with some light spicy aromas. Balsamic notes, scrub, mint? (Spearmint). In the mouth it is soft spoken, silky and tasty. Come over as easy to imbibe with delicate tannins. Not to broad, quite gentle fruit, medium long finish, black fruit, sweet spices, cocoa, and a very cool touch of cured meat. A lovely, delicate and inviting Pinot Noir! Ad Fines is probably the best Pinot Noir monovarietal produced under the D.O. of Penedes. I like it a lot but do I think it’s worth the price tag? Hmmmmmmm, well while we’re at it, let’s decide that after another glass!

And so the story goes, that about three years ago, I was at the right place at the right time! Meet with Xavi Nolla as he was introducing me to a winery in Montsant, which I have already covered. At the time Xavi was doing wine tastings every Tuesday at Lola Tapes in Tarragona. We went a couple of Tuesdays to taste some excellent wines and great tapas.

Lola Tapes in Tarragona, wine tasting with Xavi Nolla

At the time, the knowledge of Catalan wineries was quite limited so this excellent sommelier was, and still is, a great source, recommending several cellars! One of them being Can Ràfols dels Caus! Thank you for the tip, my friend!

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Only a few days after getting the insight, a phone call was placed and we were off to the massif of Garraf, a national park and protected area, southwest of Sitges, towards Vilafranca and within the D.O. of Penedes.

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Upon arrival we were well received, greeted and shown the sites by Marc Rusca Baena, the in-house sommelier. After this, the first visit, there has been additional ones! And if I decide there will be many more. Will YOU join me next time? Well, that’s all up to you, I’m always available for a visit and tasting at Can Ràfols! Ops, just remembered that I am going there this Sunday with a small group of wine lovers from Barcelona!

Marc Ruscas Baena and a friend,having a glass or two!

The Garraf wine-growing region is a protected area within the traditional boundaries of the Garraf National Park. The Can Ràfols dels Caus estate is situated at an altitude of 300 m, and stands on a rise between the ravines of two watercourses surrounded by vineyards growing on the terraced slopes. From some of the highest vineyards, such as “la Calma” or “el Rocallís” the sea can be seen, some 15km away.

Don't be surprised if you find fossils while waking around, there are plenty of them!

This situation is paramount for obtaining healthy grapes, as they are sheltered from the damp air coming in from the coastline, but are equally protected from the sporadic hailstorms in the Sierra of Ordal or the Pre-Coastal mountain range.

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The Garraf Massif has an unusual mesoclimate. The daytime is sun-drenched and hot despite the tempering effect of the sea, which sends in a cooling breeze towards the afternoon. This allows the vines to complete their growth cycle and reach full ripeness.

Automated granite "doors" leading into the winery!

Only 50 hectares of this 455-hectare estate are vineyards, 2 hectares being used for olive groves, 1 hectare for almond orchards and the rest for woodland, scrubland and rocky terrain. The size of the single vineyards ranges from 0.15 hectares (the smallest) to 2 hectares (the largest).

Part of the winery exterior

Can Ràfols dels Caus has always been a forerunner and trend-setter, and some twenty-five years after Carlos Esteva started his wine venture, he decided to take a giant step forward by building a new cellar. The aim was not to squeeze in more vats, barrels and bottles, but to work better.

Carlos and friends welcomed at the winery!

With this project, the winery’s potential for producing quality wines has multiplied, as the cellar is now geared to promoting micro-vinifications, separating batches even more and research. The cellar has been designed so that it is completely carved out of the Dolomitic limestone of the Garraf, invisible from above ground and totally integrated into the landscape.

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This would probably be the perfect location for the next James Bond movie. The scoundrel being a crazy wine maker, wanting to take over the world by making his wine so addictive he would have the whole human race in chains! Carlos is slightly crazy, like all artists, but in a good way! To see what he saw, being a visionary, in 1979, is simply “have to see to believe, based”!

Part of the winery interior

This place is simply amazing! The location, the grounds, the mansion, the winery, the whole concept and the wines, oh the wines! Just writing about it………., I might stop writing and set of for a quick visit! Sure, I can write about it, but the only truth is, you have to sample it yourself.

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All I can say is, it will be worth your while! If we were talking Guide Michelin, this would be a 3 star, worth a trip of its own! Enough with the superlatives!

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Can Ràfols dels Caus winery produces a range of wines, most of them are great! I believe the current count is 7 or 8 reds, 6 whites, probably around four Cavas and three rose.

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And The Grapes Are, Save Your Soul in D.O. Cava

301/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Cava – Torrelavit – Segura Viudas – Brut Segura Viudas Reserva Heredad

Save Your Soul……..,

564Brut Segura Viudas Reserva Heredad, 67% Macabeu and 33% Parellada

This premium Cava is one of the best in its class! The balance between elegance, ripe fruit and the aging being its distinctive features. The vinous, distinctive flavor, full aroma and a delicate finish put it on a level of quality Cavas which can only be referred to as Super Catalan Cava. Bright golden color with fine bubbles. Complex on the nose, aroma of lees, nuts and herbs. Powerful entry, rich in the mouth and a great acidity. Fine bitter ending. Food Cava of the best kind presented in a very special bottle.

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Let’s take a moment and have a look at the specifics of Cava, Cava making and the grapes that are used and of course, allowed according to the rules of the appellation. The origins of Cava are associated with the splendour of Catalan wine production during the mid-nineteenth century and the fame of Champagne at the end of the eighteenth century. The fermentation process that Louis Pasteur developed in his microbiological studies was adopted as part of the second fermentation in the bottle, while the discovery that cork preserved the bubbles was made during this stage. This was the birth of the traditional production method.

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During the nineteenth century, several families in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia started researching this new production technique and applied it to crops in the zone. As a result of their studies and trials, linked to the prestigious Instituto Agrícola Catalán Sant Isidre, they used this on autochthonous white grape varieties. This was the birth of Cava, which has a specific identity that makes it different from all other top-quality sparkling wines.

During the twenties, Cava became established in the Spanish market, achieving high growth in the sixties and its international consolidation in the eighties. Nowadays it is one of the most dynamic, prosperous wine-producing sectors, producing more than 200 million bottles every year for consumers all over the world. This sparkling wine is produced using the traditional method that has created its own identity through the decades as a result of factors such as the use of autochthonous grapes and the mild climate of the growing region. Its personality has been so successful that Cava is currently sold in more than 120 countries worldwide. The term Cava is derived from the Catalan word for the caves (or cellars) where it is traditionally aged and stored.

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The Penedés wine-producing region, 40 kilometres south of Barcelona, is where 95% of the total Cava production takes place. Cava’s specific characteristics originate in the traditional historical zone in terms of classic viticulture and production conditions. However, Cava is also produced in other regions of Catalonia (Girona, Lleida and Tarragona), as well as some areas in the Autonomous Regions of La Rioja, Aragon, Navarra, the Basque Country, Valencia and Extremadura. In total it is produced in 159 municipalities from around 32,000 hectares of vines. 

Because of its geographical and orographic diversity, the traditional zone of the Penedès has a large variety of soils. Wines are grown in the central zone, far from the coast of the Mediterranean Sea and protected by the mountains of Montserrat. Soils are calcareous, with a medium permeability. The climate is typically Mediterranean, luminous and sunny. Winters are mild and summers are not too hot. All this, together with moderate rainfall spread out throughout the year, produces an optimum microclimate for cultivating the vine and ripening the grapes.

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The wine makers around the corner prefer to make the Brut Nature, without adding expedition liqueur, as the local market prefer this type of Cava. But the Brut as well as the Semiseco have over the past few years increased in production, mostly because of the demands from the export markets. The levels of added expedition liqueur or sugar are as follows; Brut Nature: no added sugar, Extra Brut: up to 6 grams of sugar per liter, Brut: up to 15 grams of sugar per liter, Extra Seco: between 12 and 20 grams per liter, Seco: between 17 and 35 grams per liter, Semiseco: between 33 and 50 grams per liter and finally Dulce: more than 50 grams per liter. There’s a Cava for every taste!

The main grape varieties are: Xarel·lo, Macabeo and Parellada together with Chardonnay and Subirat Parent/Malvasía Riojana and two varieties of red grapes: Garnatxa Tinta and Monastrell. Only two red varieties are authorised for producing rosé Cava: Pinot Noir and Trepat.

xarel-lo1Xarel·lo is a round, white grape with a thick skin. The taste as it grows on the vine is semi-sweet. It has a natural acidity which provides fresh fruit aromas of apple, grapefruit and lemon to the wine. It is one of the primary grapes in Cavas grown in the following Designations of Origin: Alella, Penede`s, Tarragona and Costers del Segre. I’d call this baby “The Body of Cava”.

macabeuMacabeu is one of the most widely planted white grapes in the North of Spain, where it is usually referred to as Viura. It is responsible for the floral notes in Cava wines, very resistant to oxidiation and has a low acidity. In addition to being a primary varietal in Cava, it has also seen great success in Rioja and Southern France. Also spelled Macabeo in Castilian/Spanish. “The Soul of Cava”.

VARIEDADES UVA 09 036Parellada is the least planted of the traditional Cava grapes. This varietal brings acidity and fresh fruit characteristics, at times very candy like and almost always some kind of banana, in comparison to the more prevalent Macabeu and Xarel·lo. While it grows best on higher altitudes, yielding bright, crisp wines, Parellada produces a softer wine in the vineyards situated on valley floors. One of my favorite grapes. This would be “The Makeup of Cava”.

1280px-ChardonnayChardonnay is the most widely planted variety in the world and one of the most important grapes for sparkling wines, its inclusion into Spanish sparkling wines in the early 1980’s is still controversial since it is not one of the traditional three Cava grapes. It adds body and toasted, creamy notes to the wine, and also takes on characteristics of the oak, if used, during the aging process.

640px-Malvasia_grapesSubirat Parent/Malvasía Riojana is one of Spain’s most characterful white varieties, it can be found in many regions including Rioja and Valencia. In Catalonia it is known as Subirat Parent and 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.

trepatTrepat is a red grape variety that is grown primarily in the Conca de Barberà and Costers del Segre DO:s of Catalonia. Ampelographers believe that the grape is likely indigenous to northeast Spain and today there are approximately 1,500 hectares (3,700 acres) of the variety used mostly for light rosé. It has the potential for fine red wines, but is primarily used to add light, subtle characteristics and color to rosé Cava. Over the years Trepat has been known under a variety of synonyms including: Bonicaire, Embolicaire, Parrel, Trapat, Traput and Trepan.

DSCF0323Mataró/Monastrell is commonly known as Mourvèdre, tends to produce tannic wines that can be high in alcohol, adds structure and color to Cava. The variety was probably introduced to Catalonia by the Phoenicians around 500 BC. The French-adapted name Mourvèdre likely came from Murviedro (Mourvèdre in Catalan, nowadays Sagunt) near Valencia while the Catalan name Mataró likely came from Mataró, near the modern-day city of Barcelona.

GarnatxaGarnatxa/Garnacha/Grenache is one of the most widely planted red wine grape varieties in the world. It is a variety that requires hot, dry conditions which makes it ideal for growing in DOQ Priorat. It is generally spicy, berry-flavored and soft on the palate with a relatively high alcohol content, but it needs careful control of yields for best results. It tends to lack acidity, tannin or color, so it is typically blended with other grapes to add body and a sweet fruitiness to Cava.

Pinot_Noir_Grape_VinePinot Noir produces some of the finest wines in the world, but also very delicate and difficult to produce due to its sensitive nature. Compact grape clusters and thin skins make the Pinot Noir susceptible to different diseases. When young, wines made from Pinot Noir tend to have red fruit aromas of cherries, raspberries and strawberries. It provides Cava wine with great floral aromatics and for the rosé Cava it lends its color.

83 to go!

Celler Vell, Just One Of Those Things in D.O. Cava

299/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Cava – Sant Sadurni d’Anoia – Celler Vell – Celler Vell Brut Nature Reserva

Just One Of Those Things…….,

celler-vell-brut-nature-reservaCeller Vell Brut Nature Reserva, Xarel.lo, Macabeu and Parellada

There’s a reason this is the best selling Cava of Celler Vell, good quality to price comparison and that goes along way. Brilliant gold colour. Very fine, persistent bubbles. Inviting with an elegant bouquet, with hints of both fruit and aging. Full-bodied, fresh and dry. Perfectly balanced for the perfect equation: body and lightness.

cava-celler-vell_1Established in 1954 Celler Vell was originally found in the centre of the village but as the business grew in the 80s the site became too small and it was moved to its current location just outside Sant Sadurni d’Anoia. Perched on top of a hill the cellar looks over 2 hectares of vineyards also enjoying a superior view over the town filled with charismatic old Catalan buildings. The family owned “boutique ” winery and the Cavas they produce, both come together as a product of their philosophy, which is to embrace the traditional Cava grapes of the Penedes. The range of the Cavas produced is done by using the region’s typical varieties: Xarel.lo, Macabeu and Parellada (with the exception of the rosé which is produced using Carinena and Tempranillo).

 

celler_1Celler Vell offers a unique opportunity for their customers, one of the first wineries to do so, this is that they will produce bottles of their quality Cava and add personalized labels. A very popular initiative, private events or weddings enjoy the exclusivity of their very own cava brand, quite a keepsake. This is also nice for restaurants who like to offer a holistic in house experience for their guests. One specialty Cava proudly produced by Celler Vell is the Cuvee Les Solanes this is a different Cava due to the first  fermentation in an oak barrel, a subtle taste that leads to a gourmet drink of distinction. They are also set to have another fine Cava on the market in a few months boasting a long aging using the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir varieties. A recent addition to the winery is the tasting area for their visitors to enjoy a glass of Cava and take full advantage of the countryside views. If time allows, as he is a busy guy, the labeled Cava can be enjoyed together with the owner Josep, who is more than happy to share his knowledge and passion of his family business.

85 to go!

 

The winery of Mas Codina, Three Little Birds in D.O. Penedes

294/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Penedes – Puigdalber – Mas Codina – Vinya Ferrer 2008

Three Little Birds…..,

1112161xVinya Ferrer 2008, 100% Cabernet Sauvignon

This great gem mad of the best Cabernet grapes Mas Codina as is deeply colored, shows a bright, flashy nose of blackberries, cloves, and anise fruit tones with a cigar-like to mocha under notes. These characteristics carry over nicely to a well-balanced, integrated palate impression with good complexity, excellent structure and a finish that refuses to surrender. A fun, fresh Cab that reminds me more of something from the Loire Valley with its subtle herb, tobacco and spice notes. A food-friendly Tuesday night wine. 5 months in stainless steel tanks. 14 months in oak barrels of 225 liters. The wine is left to age for a minimum of one year in the bottle.

……., Rise up this mornin’, Smile with the risin’ sun, Three little birds, Each by my doorstep, Singin’ sweet songs, Of melodies pure and true, and the below is my message to you……

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The Garriga family, has been dedicated to providing the utmost of quality wines and Cavas to satisfy the growing demand for new age wines, while looking forward investigating new techniques in order to elaborate and improve existing products, and forging ahead with new ones always maintaining a strong foundation and passion for vineyards. Situated in the Alt Penedès, Mas Codina is a 40 ha. estate winery dating from 1681 which has always been dedicated to the growing of grapes and wine production.

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It was only in 1985 that Antoni Garriga, current owner of Mas Codina started bottling wine and Cava derived from grapes from his own vineyards. A range of high quality wines and cava is the result of the family’s passion for viticulture and wines as well as for the grape varieties that are grown. Production per hectare is limited, which is another factor that must be taken into account.

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The traditional wine making process has been passed trough the family generations until the present. This unique artisan method of wine-making combined with employing the latest technology makes Mas Codina wines and Cavas exceptional. The result of this process is that during some blind tastings, Mas Codina products have on occasions been accepted and prized next to some well known brads, so even if you haven’t heard of them before, keep your ears to the ground, because they are coming!

69-1293-largeMas Codina Syrah 2009

Lovely deep cherry color with garnet edges. The nose is balsamic, slight herbal with some toasted notes and spices. In the mouth it is ripe, very tasty, meaty/slightly jammy fruit both red and black, a nice mix.

90 to go!

 

Oliver Viticultors, Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes in Cavaland!

291/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Cava – Subirats – Oliver Viticultors – Sadurni Oliver Brut Nature 2011

Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes……..,

RBN-granSadurni Oliver Brut Nature 2011, 40% Xarel.lo, 30% Macabeu, 20% Parellada and 10% Chardonnay

Pale yellow color with yellow to green reflections, small bubbles which rise slowly as a rosary, finally forming the crown.  The scent is fresh, thanks to the fruity notes of the cuvée and the contribution of aging on yeast. This Cava spends a minimum of 18 months before being released, but it is more likely that it has spent up to 30 moths on its lees. Vinosity is clean and it’s easy to drink, the entrance is creamy and light. Well structured on the palate, smooth and balanced. The retronasal sensations are clean. Foams perfectly without excess of carbon dioxide, and it has a balanced acidity. A real walk through the mouth.

The low value of the Penedès grapes has caused some of the growers to abandon their family heritage and pursue their happiness in a world outside the wonderful world of wine. Some still hope that the next generation continues the family project and this on the other hand has caused some growers to create their own cellars. This is one of may such enterprises. The exciting project of Oliver Viticultors is located at the Maset Cal Xic de l’Agustí, in the village of Can Batista (Subirats). It is the project of Sadurni Oliver and Gemma Sivilla, making it a family business that produces handcrafted and sparkling Cavas “with feeling”. I especially like the elegance, openness and the fruit of their Cavas, like for example their Pinot Noir Rosé. They appeared in the latest edition of Cavatast St. Sadurní, that’s when I tasted their products the first time, and I am happy to say they are going to be there for this years edition as well!

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They have vineyards in Subirats, Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, Sant Martí Sarroca, Torrelles de Foix and Font-rubí. Totaling 55 acres, on which they nurture 12 different varieties of grapes. A wine heritage! Trust in the future also make wines. The Oliver/Sivilla family states, “We are first and foremost about the love for Penedes, the love for this land, its vineyards and its landscape. We are growers (viticultors), proud to keep the legacy of our ancestors alive : the land that changed hands from generation to generation”.

Bubbles, bubbles……., bubbles everywhere I turn! Today the great Cava party in Sant Sadurni d’Anoia is about to start. Attracting visitors from all over the world, this Cava fair is going to show the best of what D.O. Penedes and D.O. Cava can offer. There’s going to be bubbles high and low and I for one am going to take the opportunity to spend a day or two, tasting Cavas from the cellars, existing in and around Sant Sadurni d’Anoia! There’s no good way of transmitting the experience so for that reason I invite you to come and share in the festivities yourself. If you can’t make it this year, you should know that this event takes place every year, at almost the same date.

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Like every year at this time, I declare another classic events that occur in the wine scene, and this one especially for lovers of Cava, Cavatast 2014, to be held this year from 3 to 5 October in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, marking another wine making year that has passed in the world capital of Cava. Throughout the weekend you can enjoy the best of the best wine cellars, Cava tastings for “penny” but besides that, there are many other activities, winery visits, artisanal work from the region, gastronomy, music and many more activities, which you can have a look at in the Program of activities Cavatast 2014.

93 to go!