Oops Upside Your Head, Cava and 12 grapes!

427/365 – Catalonia – Happy New Year – Time for Cava & Grapes – Kripta Cava Gran Reserva 2007

Oops Upside Your Head……,

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I don’t know how you celebrate New Years Eve but for me the choice is easy. One of my favorite Cavas is going to flow, the Cava which made me understand that there’s more to Catalan Cava than the mass produced bubbly sold cheap all over the world! Tonight a minute before midnight, I am celebrating what has been and christening the New Year with yet another bottle of Kripta. It was only four and half years ago I got to try it the fist time and since then it has been a returning companion and always present in my wine cellar. I would  also like to introduce you to the tradition of 12 grapes. In Spain, Portugal, and South America people celebrate new year’s eve with Cava and 12 grapes. By midnight, each time the clock chimes, you have to put a grape in your mouth – and eat it. By the time the clock has finished chiming, you have to have finished your grapes! It’s said eating all 12 grapes for new Year’s Eve will bring you luck and happiness for the new year! Make sure the grapes you are about to eat are not too big!Eating-12-Grapes

With this I wish all of you a wonderful New Years Eve and a fantastic 2015 with, hopefully, many great wines and lots of laughter with good friends. I also hope to see you here in Catalonia so that we might be able to share a glass or two together. HAPPY NEW YEAR and THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH FOR FOLLOWING MY BLOG!

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Kripta Cava Gran Reserva 2007, 45% Macabeo, 20% Xarel•lo and 35% Parellada

Straw yellow with golden reflections. Elegant, fine and persistent bubbles. Intense, clean and honest. Nose of good intensity with very refreshing initial citrus notes (lemon peel) accompanied by ripe white fruit (sweet pear), hints of apricots, fresh herbal notes of thyme and lavender, milk and fine yeast, with memories of fine pastries, candied fruit and pine nuts and a light floral background. The silkiness is enhanced by the foam which transmits a background of vanilla, ripe fruit and light toast. Long and complex aftertaste, as the aromas of the nose and mouth are repeated, emphasizing vanilla, butter and toast as a legacy of its long aging. Happy Days, Lovely Days and frequently repeated! A Cava with body and soul that goes Oooops Upside Your Head! Happy New Year my wine loving friends!

Then there was none! And that’s how you write a blog  about Catalan Wine during 365 days, consecutive!

Catalan Wine 365 and SweetEasy Wine Tours

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Apostrophe and 15 Selected Cava to finish the year!

397 – 411/365 – Catalonia – 15 Selected Great Cavas

Apostrophe………,

…. just lean back  and chill, can’t go wrong with Zappa and Cava! The year only has another 2 days to go, so it might be time to get some Cava to celebrate what has been and what is coming. I wish you all a fine ending to the old year and a great 2015! With todays entry I have selected some of my favorite Cavas, as I did with the whites the other day and this time again, in no particular order! Enjoy!

be14Bertha Siglo XXI Gran Reserva, Macabeo, Parellada, Xarel·lo and 10% Chardonnay

Minimum maturation sur lies, 36 months, which produces a great aromatic complexity. Bright yellow color with fine and steady bubbles. Intensive and extensive aromatic range, white fruit and flowers perfectly conjugated with lees aging: confectionery, brioche, smoked, dried fruits. Very elegant nose.  The entrance of this Cava is fresh, creamy and elegant. The bubbles are subtle, fine and very well built, durable and with an original personality. Its aftertaste is very long and delicate. If you need a food Cava, this is the one, not that I mind enjoying it as is!

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Intense Rosat Brut Nature 2009, Pinot 77%, Monastrell 23%

Intensive deep pink colour with abundant slow rising medium size bubbles. On the nose red fruits are perceived together with very refreshing balsamic sensations and a slight mineral background. The palate is dominated by red fruit nuances, it has a good balance and acidity. Candied red fruit, light floral notes and fine toasty notes provided as a background. Very fresh with integrated carbon, spicy touch at the very end. Persistent minerality. This is, like all Recaredo Cavas, is a Brut Nature but due to the fruitiness perceived as sweet. Has a great personality!

agusti-torello-mata-cava-barrica-brut-nature-2007Cava Agusti Torello Mata, Reserva Barrica 2007

Pale yellow with golden reflections and fine and abundant bubbles. The nose is a festival of flavors, starting with candied fruit, baked apple and floral notes that are slowly giving way to notes of aging. Pastries, yeast, vanilla, oak, candied sugar and nuts. The palate has a fresh entry with a fairly potent carbon, excellent acidity and a really long finish, with hints of parenting and a citrus and bitter twist at the end. Another piece of Iberico works well with this one!

1523015_1440203786197413_1940330730_oMas de la Basserola – Cava Brut Nature Seleccio, Parellada/Macabeu

This is a well structured, balanced, fresh and fruity Cava. The crianza is well done which has led to a nice integration of the carbon dioxide, resulting in a soft and pleasant experience. The color is clear yellow straw with a light green hue and steady and fine bubbles. The aromas are subtle, complex and expresses a touch of yeast, brioche and white fruit. Dry, tasty and elegant notes. Good acidity, gives of a medium long finish.

 

GramonaGramona Gran Reserva Brut 1999, 70% Xarel.lo and 39% Macabeu

Bright yellow with a bright gold hue, clean with fine and steady bubbles. Great intensity on the nose with a predominance of pastries and bread, dried yeast, toasted brioche thin and freshly baked croissants, lactic and creamy notes with pleasant memories of baked cakes or pastry with cream or apple compote (Apffelstrudel), candied orange, almonds and toasted pine nuts, tart dried figs that give it a sweet touch, outstanding aromatic intensity that is accompanied by a marked mineral background at the very end. The palate has a huge input, a creamy grand tour with ripe fruit (candied orange, white fruit and somewhat syrupy candied fruit and some dried apricots), excellent acidity, at times reminiscent of the profile of Amontillado sherry with the ageing notes and oxidation, roasted nuts, slightly sweet, good texture and impressive structure that appeals to all the senses, majestic persistence. Long long after taste of ripe fruit and some sweetish after taste of yeast and fine pastries. A Cava that leaves you speechless! This is a true Super Catalan Cava!

Alta Alella Opus Evolutium

Alta Alella Opus Evolutium, Organic Brut Nature Gran Reserva, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir

All Cavas made in Catalonia are presumed, more or less to contain Xarel.lo, Macabeu and Parellada. Chardonay and Pinot Noir are not mainstream, but when they are used, AA Opus Evolutium can happen! According to the regulations all of the five varieties mentioned above are allowed. Historically the indigenous grapes are the ones used mostly. Right or wrong, sticking to imported grapes can make all the difference. This Cava is kept on French oak for 4 months and a minimum of 36 months sur lies. The color is intense with greenish tones. The bubbles are plentiful, small and constant, elegant with a persistent crown. Intense color and greenish tones. Primary aromas of white fruit, pear. well balanced in the mouth and medium structure. Very tasty, aromatic and persistent.

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.

anne-marie1Anne Marie Cava Brut Nature Reserva, 40% Macabeo, 40% Xarel.lo and 20% Parellada

Straw yellow colour with green tones. Fine, slow rising bubbles, forming strings of pearls and a lovely crown of mousse. Delicate aging aromas with diary notes of fresh butter against a backdrop of ripe fruit. Pleasant and fresh during entry, opening up fully over the palate. Well-integrated carbon dioxide. The light aging aromas merge with ripe fruit and hints of toast and dried fruit and nuts. Full with good length and long-lasting flavours. Elegant, subtle Cava with great sensitivity, conveying the personality of its creator. With a well-designed, sober and distinguished presentation, this very special Cava cries out to be enjoyed. The Anne Marie comes as Brut and Semi Sec as well. I prefer my Cava dry so I tend to go for the Brut Nature.

CarlesAndreuRosatBrutBarricaSM_logoTorre de L’Homenatge 2003, 50% Xarel.lo, 25% Macabeu and 25% Parellada

Golden color with soft bright reflections, clean, good and fine bubbles, slow rising. The nose gives off intense aromas highlighting a multitude of pastries, brioche, toast, creamy with white fruit and a slight citrus presence, nuts appear along the way. Secondary gave orange peel and slightly bitter nutty overtones. The acidity is not overwhelming, but rather well equilibrated. Creamy entry, candied sugar, toffee. Broad and vivid, long aftertaste of candied fruit with notes of nuts. This is a a true vintage Cava, only released in 1999, 2003 and 2005. 4.000 – 5.000 Bottles unleashed. The 2003 vintage was a year with hot and dry climate, with a difficult harvest, giving low volume.

DSC_0968Cristina Gran Reserva Extra Brut 2006, 10% Macabeo, 35% Xarel·lo, 35 %, Parellada and 20% Chardonnay. 5% of the Xarel·lo is barrel fermented and the Cava has had a minimum period of 60 months sur lies.

This brut cava was selected by the Cava Regulatory Board to be served at the Infanta Cristina’s wedding banquet. To rise to the occasion of this great honour, the Cristina Gran Reserva was created as an exceptional signature Cava. For this special edition, blends of the best vintages, most suited for the long aging periods characteristic of Mas Tinell Cavas, have been used. Intense golden color with fine bubbles. Aromatically complex, showing ripe fruit, like peach, apricot and apple. Fresh and sweet at the same time. Unctuous mouth, balanced  and structured. Nice notes of toast and a final presence of aniseed. Long aftertaste, fresh and glyceric sensations.

castellroig-reserva-familiar-brut-nature-cava-catalonia-spain-10438583Castellroig Reserva Familiar Brut Nature 2005

Bright golden yellow colour with very fine bubbles that form a delicate bubble chain. Great set full of aromatic complexity. Fresh fruit is perceived among its good toasted aromas, its abundant notes of spices, its intense touch of nuts and its light buttery notes of brioche on a subtle herbal background. A great Cava! Its intensity is noticed from the attack. It shows the complexity provided by its long aging with creamy notes and toasted aromas. Its elegant acidity balances the set. It has a very tasty and very long finish.Very elegant and very serious Cava.

20100630214755-1Titiana Pinot Noir Rosé 2012, Brut 

Dark salmon pink with flashes of light ruby and grenadine around the edges, clean and very elegant. The nose is pure raspberry and aromas or ripe berries such as blackberries and blueberries. The palate is round, tasty and very long. Fresh yet subtle, this wine stands well against creamy and mildly spiced food. A great alternative to everyday wines, the only thing that might bring the overall impression down, is the price. Mouthfilling, delicately but richly flavoured, and exceptionally long.

rosaeCava rosae, 100% Pinot Noir

Attractive pale and soft salmon pink color. Fine and persistent bubbles forming a dense crown. Fresh and highly complex aroma with very smoky tones, subtle nose, red fruit finish. The palate is balanced, broad, savoury, rich and elegant, its evolution shows varietal character, ending with a very long and elegant palate with great sensations. This is an elegant and dynamic Cava, which asks you to either love it or hate it. It is NOT a Cava to enjoy just as it is, because it does demand some food to go with it. I tried it with Jamon Iberico, Bellota and it worked wonders. I do believe it would work well with grilled food as well, both meats and fish, as the smoky character it possesses would be enhanced by a summer bbq! I consider this one to be a Super Catalan Cava!

carles-andreu-cava-reserva-barrica-brut-nature-75cl-do-cavaCava Reserva Barrica Brut Nature, Macabeu, Parellada and Chardonnay

Clear and golden straw colour, with a thin and consistent rosary of bubbles, it presents itself during the tasting as a very fruitful Cava and with a fine fusion between the wine and the barrel. In the mouth it is smooth with a good structure and some notes of wood in the background, fresh and persistent, with an explosion of little bubbles that gives a nice tickling feeling. This Cava is made using a meticulous selection of base wines from Macabeu, Parellada and Chardonnay, grapes from vines with a balanced yield. After separate vinification of the three varieties, the final “coupage” is prepared and the wine is then aged in French oak barrels for around six months before the second fermentation in the bottle. The second fermentation is carried out very slowly with these Cavas, at a constant temperature of 14ºC. The ageing period is prolonged to twenty-six months.

Recaredo Turó d‘en Mota 2002Recaredo Turó d‘en Mota 2002, 100% Xarel.lo

Straw yellow colour, very bright and clean. The bubble rise steadily forming a very thin crown. Surprising with its great intensity, expressiveness, complexity after such long ageing. Very cool, with lots of ripe fruit, especially citrus, interspersed with soft and delicate roasted nuts. Subtle mineral background.  A seductive Cava. A Cava which fills the mouth with total expression, intensity, elegance. Very thin, with a long dry run, nuanced and very fresh. Carbonic perfectly integrated. Full harmony, lively, very nice. Extraordinarily long after taste.

Turo d’en Mota represents the elegance of simplicity: a single vineyard, single variety per each vintage and very limited production. It is a champagne terroir in the broadest sense, ie, with the expression of limestone, Mediterranean microclimate and Xarel·lo from vineyards planted as a single farm in 1940. The first fermentation in oak barrels and the it gets to rests in the bottle for more than 100 months. Very limited production, not exceeding 3,000 bottles. Recommend opening few minutes before serving and please, please, please…….., don’t serve it to cold, around 12 to 14 degrees Celsius should do the trick . Only for special occasions! One of the great ones and certainly to be considered to celebrate New Years Eve with a very special someone!

2 to go!

Catalan Wine 365 and SweetEasy Wine Tours

Jamon and Cava, The Ultimate Marriage On Days Like These!

396/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Cava & D.O. Jamon – Jamon and Cava – Mont-Ferrant Blanes Brut Nature

On days like these….

mont-ferrant-blanes-brut-nature-264433Mont-Ferrant Blanes Brut Nature, Chardonnay, Macabeo, Parellada, Xarel·lo

Golden yellow color of medium intensity, very vivid and brilliant intensity, with remarkably fine bubbles. On the nose the complexity is huge, given its long time sur lees. Aniseed notes, toasted bread, a touch of yeast and even a fruity background. The palate is lively, with good acidity, tasty but not heavy, leading to an outstanding finish. An excellent choice together with a lovely plate of Jamon Iberico! Agustí Vilaret founded the Mont-Ferrant cellars in 1865 in Blanes. During 1872 they presented their production at the Concurso Exposición de Barcelona. This presentation demonstrates, in a documented way, that Mont-Ferrant is the oldest Cava producer among all the companies in the current sector. They define their customers as a legion of friends who they constantly want to please, offering them a wide taste palette so they can decide which kind of Cava goes best whit the occasion at hand, for me any day is good enough for a glass of good Cava and great Jamon Iberico.

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Besides writing I also have the obligation, and interest, to follow wine bloggers around the world to see what they are up to. Amazed by the ability they have at churning out piece after piece! Wow! Tonight! Writers block! What is that? A real thing or just a way for those claiming to write something, anything, to have an excuse! Well, if you ask me it’s something true. Then again, excuses are the nails that hold failure together.

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Had a, one in a million, bad wine cellar visit today, threw me off bunds and I haven’t quite bounced back yet! My thought was to write a cover for the producer visited, but can’t find myself doing Catalonia, the land of wine, that misfortune.  Has to be the Italian job! Yes, there are bad wine producer and less god wines here as well. My point is to give you the ins and outs when it come to the ones you should visit, not the ones you shouldn’t.

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However, all that may be, here I am and writing ahead, thanking my friend, my help and inspiration for the night, for that! Having had a long conversation over the FB, I got talked into a starting point, and here it is. Not what you might expect, but nevertheless an article! Parings! The perfect marriage is when you experience an excellent wine with a mouthwatering meal, and the two together make a unity worth repeating and sticking to.

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Fish and shellfish with white or bubbly, juicy tender red meats with heavy reds, sweet and fortified with cheeses and glorious desserts! All works for me. Pairing Cava and ham, Jamon Iberico to be exact, two quality products that harmonize perfectly, is something that I discovered living here, take the custom as it is. If you haven’t tried it yet, you should!

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It is little known that one of the most interesting pairings for the palate is the combination of a good Cava with delicious dried ham. I say this because Iberian ham, Iberian pork or ham from the white pig, goes really well with a good Cava. So I will propose replacing the red wine, a classic, with a sparkling like Cava, not Champagne mind you! Doesn’t exist in my book! The nuances of the ham will enhance the Cava and vice versa.

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First of all, it’s known that in one small piece of ham different flavors ca be extracted. Remember also that the taste of a thin slice cut is different from a thicker slice. It is essential to cut the ham into perspective. This itself can make us appreciate the flavor and aroma which is conducive to the different ham D.O:s Another key factor is the serving temperature. Too cold ham loses many of its organoleptic qualities. The factors mentioned so far can be controlled. Learning to cut the ham or serve it at the right temperature and knowing the differences between different parts of each piece is hugely important.

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Additional factors to have in mind are; pig breed, Iberian or white. Fodder. Climatology. Manufacturing process (salting and curing times). Fodder is one of the most important factors, so I would like to dwell a little longer on this. Because fodder texture, taste and aroma of ham vary substantially, leading us to choose the type of Cava for pairing. The type of food in the fattening phase (last few months before slaughter) is distinguished by:

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Iberian pig , with a natural diet based primarily on acorns and grass from the meadow (Iberian acorn palettes).

White or Iberian pig fed mainly cereals such as barley and wheat (hams and Iberian bait).

In the different D.O:s, these factors are controlled by the Regulatory Council of each, so that the resulting product is always fairly homogeneous. Generically, let’s look at the qualities of aromas and flavors of all the ham D.O:s of Spain.

IBERIAN PIG .

Ham D.O. Pedroches . Pleasant and intense aroma with a slightly sweet flavor.

Ham D.O Guijuelo . Delicate and fragrant aroma with a slightly salty taste.

Ham D.O. Huelva. Delicate and exquisite aroma with an intense and persistent flavor.

Ham D.O. Dehesa de Extremadura. Intense, enjoyable and nuanced aromas with a little salty , intense and persistent flavor.

WHITE PIG .

Ham D.O. Teruel. Soft, pleasant and evocative aroma with a delicate flavor and slightly salty .

Ham D.O. Trévelez . Soft and penetrating aroma with a taste considered the sweetest on the market.

Now let’s look at the Cava!

Well-cut ham is very important, serving Cava in at the right temperature, equality important. Try to achieve 5 to 8 º C before serving.

To achieve this temperature, do not use the freezer. A rapid change in temperature can affect the characteristics of Cava. Better cool it for a few hours in the refrigerator. If there has been an oversight and we have Cava at room temperature and urgently need to open a bottle, I recommend putting it in a ice bucket for about 20 minutes.

After various hams and Cava tastings, I have come to the following conclusion. The Cava pairs perfectly with ham and enhance its flavor, generally the dry ones!

In conclusion, no need for strawberries, a festive occasions or shellfish! Bring out the ham and the Cava! More importantly, tonight’s Catalan wine! Enjoy!

3 to go!

Catalan Wine 365 and SweetEasy Wine Tours

Cava Hotel Mas Tinell, Bottle of Wine in D.O. Penedes

376/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Penedes – Vilafranca del Penedes – Cava & Hotel Mas Tinell – Gisele 2011

Bottle of Wine……..,

Gisele-webGisele 2011, Xarel.lo and Muscat

Very brilliant, golden yellow with light gold reflections, a really nice color. Medium intensity nose with clean and fresh citrus accents, floral notes, white stone fruit, slightly smoky, nutty and well integrated wood. Very pleasant nose that continues with some tropical fruit such as lychee, banana and pineapple. On the palate, it is unctuous and complex with balanced acidity. Slightly greasy texture that provides good body to the wine. It has a very expressive retronasal finish ennobled by the slight wooden undertones from the barrel aging from one of the varieties, Some of the Xarel.lo wine was fermented in French oak barrels with subsequent battonage. It is complex and evolves by releasing different aromatic tones once opened. It lingers in the mouth, very unctuous, with toasty and spicy hints.

The Bottle…..,

…… people in the bottle, there’s people livin’ in the bottle. Well, maybe not living there but at least visiting for a while and enjoying five star service. Hotels can have many shapes and forms, I know, it used to be my line of work. Many years with boutique hotels in both Europe and Africa, and I still haven’t seen what I saw in Vilafranca del Penedes, people living in a bottle. Marketing ploy or just another expression of Spanish design?

Techo-Hotel-Mas-TinellMany wineries all over Spain have been designed by famous architects but not just for the sake of creating a beautiful building, but also something that works, both environmentally and when it comes to the workability as a winery. In the case of Mas Tinell, it is a two step project. The winery as such has existed for quite some time but the current owners acquired it 1989 and only recently, in 2013 they opened what must be one of the coolest looking hotels in the area!

DSC_0849Have you heard of Mas Tinell in Vilafranca del Penedes? If you have, then you know that it is a unique building. A 5 star hotel remarkable for its peculiar shape, which resembles two rows of bottles of cava put into rhyme. It is a project of the architects Josep Lluís Juanpere and Escamis (GCA Arquitectes ) who won the Gold Medal in the 2011 “Shanghai International Interior Design Festival.

cava-hotel-mastinellAmongst building materials, ceramics highlights a clear identification with the Modernism of Antonio Gaudí, which decorates the roof, achieving an impressive aerial view and in complete harmony with the carpet of vineyards stretching through the Penedes. What’s more, it is also a sustainable building. Visiting a place like this is not only about wine, but also ecotourism and spoiling oneself. The building has cross ventilation, rainwater is reused and it has a biomass boiler.

DSC_0870A good example of sustainable architecture, which in turn respects the environment and the environment in which it is located. The idea of ​​integrating the environment of a building with vines, being that the land surrounding the property is all vineyards and the way that the bottles are stacked during fermentation in rhyme (second fermentation) is what captured my attention the first time I drove past it.

cava-hotel-mastinell-1How would you like to spend a night or two in a bottle? I know I for one, wouldn’t mind that notion at all! There are a total of 11 guest rooms and 1 suit, so it is to be considered a boutique hotel. All rooms are designed in a way so that the guests feel like they are sleeping in a wine bottle.

cava_hotel_mas_tinell_habitacio_0016-1The circular shapes all over are illustrating bubbles.  It is comfortable, spacious and welcoming and the ground floor restaurant serves some amazing courses. A part from the guest rooms and restaurant, there is also a tasting room and a convention center for up to 160 people.

DSC_1002However, it is not only for its exterior shape and its relationship with the environment that makes it unique. As you well may know, it is located in the region of Penedès, an area that enjoys a typical Mediterranean climate ideal for growing grapes. This region is home to approximately 95 % of all Cava elaborated. It is for this reason that the setting of the hotel is one of the best for those who want a true wine tourism experience in situ.

All the rooms are named after grapes. Nice touch! This one is Trepat.

The Mas Tinell is a small winery with a clear Mediterranean spirit, sociable, active, very natural and current, yet respectful and identified with the tradition of the land and has been all these things during their 25 years of existence.

The bubbles are everywhere!

Mas Tinell was founded in 1989 . Its headquarters, surrounded by vineyards and built in traditional architectural style of a Catalan farmhouse, houses modern facilities featuring cutting edge technology to produce white wines, Cava and red wines of exceptional quality and limited production.

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During the visit I was very well received by the young but commited General Manager of the hotel and also got to meet with the wine maker and the winery workers. This is certainly a place I’m going to return to, to enjoy a nice meal with some great wines and to stay a night in the bottle!

9 to go!

Catalan Wine 365 and SweetEasy Wine Tours

Vins i Caves de Finca Orioll Rossell, C(ava)hampagne and Wine in D.O. Cava

370/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Cava – La Gornal – Finca Orioll Rossell – Cava Brut Nature Gran Reserva 2010

C(ava)hampagne and Wine……,

Gran Reserva Oriol RossellCava Brut Nature Gran Reserva 2010, Xarel.lo and Macabeu

Pale straw yellow colour with golden highlights, clean and crisp, with fine and slow rising bubbles. The aromas are elegant and complex, with plenty of pleasant and powerful notes of aging, great level of mature white fruits. All these fragrances come together during the first mouthful and the tastes are balanced, providing the sensation of richness and of a very high complexity helped by extremely fine and well integrated bubbles. The finish is long and there are noticeable toasted and dried fruit aromas. Simply, a great Cava!

Coming together at the Masia (Chateau in this case) of Oriol Rossell, is nothing less than feeling the beat of history. Truly charming place to visit! It is a fully working winery but also a home. The set up was initiated by a very good friend and sommelier, Agustin Palome Garcia, who has been trying to get us to visit this producer for quite some time and finally there was no going back. I was fortunate to meet Agustin during one of his wine/food  pairing events at Loidi restaurant in Barcelona and since then we have been in touch frequently.

This guy knows how to pair excellent food with great wines! Thank you Agustin Palome Garcia!

Sun was shining, as it usually is in Penedes and already some vintners are complaining that it’s to dry. But what can you do, farmers/growers always complain, they are like fishermen, the fish is never the right size and that’s if they catch any! Standard here is, that it’s okay to be a bit late, and so was my friend, but that’s not a worry since it’s always expected.

A part of the very welcoming inner courtyard at Oriol Rossell.

Days are laid back, visits are not following the clock and the visitors are greeted and looked after as where they old friends, asking questions, getting answers and stories are told. Time is forgotten, no stress, just the way it should be. You can’t stress wine or Cava, it should have the time it needs to develop, whether it’s sur lees or in the barrel, that same feeling is transmitted and felt at Oriol Rossell, when you visit!

Salvi, Agustin, a friend of theirs and Yolanda.

The wine maker, Salvi, together with Yolanda Oriol Rossell, the wife of the current owner Toni, were the ones to receive us and take care of us during the coming three and a half hours. Taking us for a walk in the vineyards, which are all surrounding the winery (Chateau), making it feel very French. There are very few wineries here that can offer the same type of visit and I for one believe that this dimension adds to the whole experience.

The main building (mansion) is occupying the central part of the inner courtyard.

Cal Cassanyes is the name of the Estate where the vineyards of Oriol Rossell are located and the wines and Cavas are all made from the grapes surrounding the Estate. The total is 85 hectares of vine, covering parts of both Alt Penedès and Baix Penedès. The fact that the Estate is surrounded by the Prelitoral mountains to the North and coastal mountains to the South, as well as being a few kilometres from the sea, results in a very special microclimate which gives character to the wines. 

One of many vineyards, this one, an old Xarel.lo.

Xarel·lo is the most planted white grape variety as there is no better place for the cultivation of this variety in the area. Other whites grown are the traditional ones, such as Macabeu and Parellada. The red varieties are Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir. Oriol Rossell had two passions in his life, viticulture and castellers, he formed the first castellers team in Vilafranca del Penedes and the strength and unity needed to build “human towers” is evident in the wine, structured and potent!

In the mansion, the walls of an entire room are covered with castellers memorabilia.

The Castellers de Vilafranca is a cultural and sporting association whose main objective is to build castells (human towers). It has the status of a public-interest association. The group was founded in 1948 in response to the increased interest in human tower building in Vilafranca del Penedès, a Catalan tradition that has evolved since the 18th century Ball de Valencians, a dance from Valencia. The best way to experience the human towers is to visit Catalonia during the time of the fiesta major, celebrated in different towns over a number of days.

Castellers in Vilafranca del Penedes building a human tower.

Nowadays, the Castellers de Vilafranca have about 400 active human tower building members of all ages, with no discrimination on the grounds of race, religion, sex or social status. They share the common goal of building human towers, democratic values, cooperation and team work, a constant desire to surpass themselves, and a will to maintain a lead over a select and competitive group of rival human tower associations. The passion and soul of Oriol Rossell live on, both in his wines and also in the human towers.

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The soil on the Estate is mainly a sandy-clay soil, ideal for the production of fine delicate wines. Even though the Estate is unified, there are a wide variety of soils: to the North lie the poorer and finer soils while the most fertile are in the centre. The most gravelly soil is found in the South, ideal for white wines while giving structure and colour to the red wines. The content of organic matter and nitrogen in the soil is very low but the level of magnesium is high which ensures good acidity and sugar levels at harvest time.

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Cal Cassanyes is an old, ancestral manor house, dating back to at least the 17th century (the date “1637” is found engraved on a stone as you enter the main mansion). The wine cellar, in Art Nouveau style, was built in 1908. Wine growers and producers for centuries, they have been producing cava for the last thirty years, always endeavouring to obtain  the maximum quality cava following time-honoured traditions.  

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Many cellars, producing Cava, in both Sant Sadurni d’Anoina and other parts of Penedes, are claiming to use pupitres for the remuage. Most of them are having old pupitres and are happy to show them, however, the whole process is done with the help of the gyropallette. Nothing wrong with that, it was just so surprising that there still are wine makers out there that go for strict tradition. Labor intensive but probably, as the wine maker Salvi explained, the difference is not noticeable in the Cava but it is certainly known in the heart.

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Once the secondary fermentation is complete, the bottles undergo remuage or riddling, a process of collecting the sediment created during the fermentation at the tip of the bottle. This is either done en pupitre or on a gyropallette. A pupitre is a pair of heavy, hinged rectangular blocks, each containing 60 holes cut at an angle. This allows the bottle to be held by the neck in any position between horizontal and vertical with the neck pointing downward. The bottles start in a horizontal position and the pupitreis gradually moved by hand over roughly three weeks until the bottles are fully upside down. A gyropallette is a computerized pallet that holds over 500 bottles and completes the process in about eight days.

The folder to the right presenting the latest range of fruity and modern vintages. The Xino-Xano (Step by Step) series.

After the tour, we sat down to try a few, since it is a working day we didn’t try the whole range, of their products. In total they make five Cavas and 6 still wines of different levels, aging and styles. Sparkling, white, rose and reds are all represented with their own unique personality.  If you feel like visiting a manor, with a French chateau feel to it, this is the place. Not only for the historic feel but also for some very well made wines!

15 to go!

Catalan Wine 365 and SweetEasy Wine Tours

Can descRegut, Bitter Sweet Symphony in D.O. Penedes

361/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Penedes – Vilobi del Penedes – Can descRegut – Vermell 2012

Bitter Sweet Symphony…….,

vermell-2012_f_10006987Vermell 2012, 100% Red Xarel.lo

Vibrant yellow-orange color. Equally vibrantly nose, where apple aromas are found comfortably nestled on a citrus background, reminiscent of lime. Some green touches, laurel and a hint of geranium. Medium-bodied, smooth and elegant flavor. Balanced acidity and a slight bitter hint which is actually quite nice. It pairs well with cheeses and with oven baked fish.

Can DEscregutCold maceration of the skins for about 48hours, to extract the aromas of the varietal and some of the color.  A static clearing of the must is then carried out at 14ºC and the alcoholic fermentation takes place in stainless steel tanks. After fermentation it ages with its lees for 4 months. 100% Red Xarel.lo. The Red xarel.lo is a genetic mutation of the White Xarel.lo. It is rarely cutivated in the central Penedès region. It comes from old vines, planted 60 years ago, producing less grapes but with more taste concentration. The grape skin is red, and thicker than the White Xarel.lo, giving a different taste.

 

010c5670990903fea0d8c88858a804e9_400x400Can Descregut is an old traditional farmhouse, restored in 1990, when it became a winery to produce wine and Cava. This project works with young vineyards of traditional white varieties like Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel·lo and the Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon when it comes to red varieties. As explained above, they also have a very small plot of the Red Xarel.lo or as it is called here in Catalunya, Xarel.lo Vermell. They have 50 hectares of vineyards, all ecological. The most striking peculiarity of the visit to the facilities of Can Descregut is its zoo, where they have a lot of animals, both domestic and exotic. It is possible to take a walk to see the zoo, especially attractive for children. The visitors can see the whole process of wine and Cava making, from the vineyard to the bottle. The owners of the company are responsible for giving the didactic explanations and take you for a tour of the property. Furthermore, they offer the possibility to have a meal at the estate, a calçotada or barbecue, depending on the time of year.

24 to go!

Catalan Wine 365 and SweetEasy Wine Tours

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