New Penedès wines at Palauet Luca
This year I arrived at the annual tasting of fresh releases from Penedès accompanied by able sipping companions Tom Mulholland and Clive Callaghan. A good round of tasting like this can take all day but I could only stay for a few hours so I stuck to seasonal whites and rosés. To coin a phrase I dropped the boys in the deep end from which they were the last to emerge but I’m sure you can thrust their recommendations on the reds.
While bowing to the established participants and friends it was enjoyable to find two new wineries.
Bodegas Ca n’Estella located in north Alt Penedès close to Montserrat has fairly shot to the top of the charts receiving no less than 6 medals and special mentions in the last few months. Their top scorer is Clot dels Oms Rosat selecció ’03 but they also received attention for their Chardonnay ’03 and Cabernet Sauvignon ‘01, not bad for a bodega with less than three years under the belt. The rosé is one of the new generation with oodles of action on the nose and great flavour, avoiding any candy characteristic. Jordi Valls Flos and family are biting the bullet at both ends by opening a wine shop in Barcelona by the name of Porta.Caeli . You’ll find it on Cabestany 24 behind Corte Inglès Diagonal. Bodegas Ca n’Estella: [email protected] 616 965 269.
Celler Cal Costas is another family concern that has just embarked on the path of commercialising their own wines J. Miquel Jané. The label design will require more attention but Josep Miquel impressed with his wine-making style. None of the wines were short on nose, texture, length or flavour. I’m a big fan of the Xarel.lo variety and the simply named blanc ’03 captivated me. The Cabernet Rosat ’03 receives the high five for its toasty originality and long clean flavour. A rare and feline Sauvignon Blanc ‘03 proves that behind the sleepy village of Guardiola de Font Rubi there is a mean micro climate and keen wine makers.
For quality wines at 21st century prices, Masia Cal Costas. www.calcostas.com 654 127 597.
The Parato wine cellar in el Pla de Penedès was perhaps the first to plant the Pinot Noir variety with which they produce a camembert rich Rosat Pinot Noir ‘03. The Blanc Xarel.lo XXV ’02 to celebrate their twentififth anniversary takes the native Penedès variety to new heights with cool notes of almond and honey. Expect to pay from 4 euros for a true originality, rock solid reputation, perfect presentation. Parato: www.tros.es/parato 93 898 81 82
Castell de Mirall , another new kid on the block impressed both my quaffing partners.
Their bodega located in La Granada on the Vilafranca – Sant Sadurni road produce a “very drinkable” Ferré Catasús Cabernet Sauvignon ’03 that was just piped for points by their Ferré Catasús Merlot ’01. Castell de Mirall www.castelldelmirall.com 93 879 45 58.
Medal Winning Penedès
31 companies presented some 208 wines at the Palauet Luca. These included 47 recent medal winners of international wine competitions such as Vinitalia, Mondial du Rosé, Chardonnay du Monde, Mondial de Brussels, Challenge international de Vin and the International Wine and Spirit Competition.
Golds medals winners were Bodegas Pinord for their Chardonnay ‘03 and Chateldon Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon ’99, Albet i Noya’s Dolç Adria ’00, Jean Leon’s Cabernet Sauvignon Gran reserva ’96, Castell de Vilarnau Les Planes Chardonnay ’02, Marques de Monistrol l’Hereu ’99, Mas Comtal Rosat de Llàgrima ’03 and Bodegas Ca n’Estella Clot dels Oms Rosat Selecció ’03.
Its worth noting that Penedès, always the most innovative of Iberian denominations is dominating the Spanish rankings in these competitions. All of these wines are extremely reasonably priced.
For more information on competitions, medal winners and statistics about Penedès visit www.dopenedès.es.
A quick rundown on the environment of DO Penedès. 5,800 cultivators care for a total area of 27.500 hectacres, 5.800 Ha. are now dedicated to red wines, an increase of 93.33% over ten years, a healthy level of replantation and innovation. Average size of a typical vineyard is 0.35 with less than 33 parcels of more than10 hectacres. Of the registered 275 cellars,158 bottle. National sales amount to 33 million bottles and export 16 million.
A word across the bows to the people at DO Penedès and by default any bodega. If you are making a determined effort to make a quality presentation (and you have to against larger competition from everywhere else on the planet) your English, French and German texts have to be correct “pels ulls de fora”. You have lots of English speaking friends, use them.
Tourism in the area continues to struggle against more concerted efforts by Priorat, Conca de Barbera and even tiny Terra Alta (population 12.000), not to mention the rest of Spain and Europe and it’s not for want of attractions. None of the bodegas that have come to my attention contribute anything to the number of overnight stays, generally doing what they do in the area, rowing their own boat i punto.
Web pages and visitor centres should keep a minimum of local tourist information, accommodation, restaurants and calendar of events, again in “English” English (the global second language). However, instead of seeing the extra value of association with the land, towns and people there is a determined effort to keep it a big secret. There is nothing to be ashamed of and a lot to gain by attracting visitors and I don’t mean round bus trips from Barcelona or the coast. For English info on what’s on in Penedès and Southern Catalunya check out www.elmolitours.com-calendar of events.
What will you do if the Catalan tripartit starts waving tax at alcohol with the enthusiasm of an Irish Government or how to skip all the middlemen and have a productive DIY Cava Saturday afternoon? An activity practised by thousands of locals up to a few years ago and now being saved by the thirsty foreigners. So howsitdone?
You go back to basics.
A group of friends/family/enthusiastic drinkers.
About 4 carbootloads of cava bottles (640 to be on the safe side).
A tank full of 500 litres of base wine (9º).
Sugar 20/23 gms/ltr depending on ageing and 10/30 gms/100 ltrs of yeast, 650 plastic capsules& caps.
A tireless stirrer or two for consistent pop, perched about shoulder height (tractor trailers are perfect) allows the mix of wine/sugar/yeast to gravity flow to the bottle filler. Use a plastic pipe syphon and finger or you can rig up something using a toilet cistern. A light touch with a hammer inserts the plastic capsule “mother yeast” catcher and the bottle passes on to the crown capper. (most Cava receives its cork only when it is ready to be dispatched). Keep Cava in a quiet, dark, cool earthquake and vibration proof corner for a year
Total cost for 650 bottles not including labour, around 450 euros or a dollar a bottle.
Bodegas Pinord goes South to Priorat
Some suggest that a few years from now many of the cavas will be in the hands of industrial conglomerates, but as easy as the previous article pretends to make cava-making, the long term investment in skills, machinery, buildings and property would encourage most accountants to stay on the beach. Isn’t there a phrase that says if you want to lose a fortune rapidly, try getting into the wine business.
The wineries of Penedès have abundant knowledge of varieties, soils, climate, production, sales and marketing, nevertheless, even an bodega as experienced as Pinord can find the going tough when the new location is the DO Priorat.
Priorat means higher temperatures, lower humidity, solid rock or slate soils at 45º angles that are hugely labour intensive, requiring 4 times more work for 4 times less produce. Add to this the ambition to do everything ecologically and you increase the previous torture by a similar multiple.
To achieve approval of ecological husbandry, the arsenal of materials a conventional winery can use is reduced to pea shooters in the form of a specific copper sulphate to combat mildew and many pairs of crossed fingers.
10 hectacres is not a small area to have to reterrace and replant. In this case it meant serious earth moving on a couple of small mountains. Garnatxa, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot were planted and while we were visiting workers were thinning leaves “podar en verd”. Juan Valles, the farm manager showed us the difference between these varieties. Merlot grows longer stalks and the still milimetre sized grapes are more spread out than those of Cabernet Sauvignon which is slower at all stages of its development and wine making, being last to harvest and slowest to mature after fermentation. Garnatxa has a much lighter leaf colouring, almost yellow, and you soon recognise why this is one of the survivors of this landscape, even as seedlings the branches are more muscular and tougher than the delicate Cabernet.
Stress isn’t just something that affects overworked urban dwellers, it’s common among the vines in Priorat as well. Combine the low water retaining slate rock llicorella soil, parched high summer temperatures, low overnight humidity/condensation and you could have a vineyard of 50.000 dried up vines in very short time. Fortunatly there is a healthy two way flow of collaboration between the hardened natives of Priorat and the new arrivals from Penedès and I watched as a helpful neighbour grafted a bud of his own Cabernet clone onto the more delicate Penedès vine.
Returning to the new cellar its evident that the miniature fermentation and storage tanks, sorting table, pneumatic press, American and French oak barrels from at least 6 different origins are all part of a highly concerted effort and attention to detail which will reach fruition in the next year.
London Wine and Spirit Challenge gold medals for their Chateldon Cabernet Reservas, Chardonnays and La Nansa needle wines are a wee hint to the reception awaiting Pinord’s new Priorat wines.
Royal Rosé Finale
The Brut Rosé Cava served as an aperitif at the recent wedding of Prince Philippe and Doña Letizia was produced by Castell de Parellada. Many cavas have begun to produce rosé cavas recently but this Brut Rosat is a classic and was doing the rounds as Salvador Dalí’s favourite bubbly and already exists as a special edition in collaboration with the Dali Foundation called Torre Galatea to commemorate the painters centenary. Garnatxa, Monastrell and Pinot Noir varieties feature in the blend that gives it an elegant raspberry colour and floral aromas. The other cava served during dessert at the royal wedding was a Vintage Brut produced by Seguras Viudas.
What’s on in June/July
Mercat de Mar, Calafell
Caminants de l'Arboç, program of walks 977 67 04 60
Open Natura BTT/Mountain bike, Martorelles
June 5/6 Environmental Fair, Fira del Medi Ambient, Tàrrega
June 6 Tombet, Castellers de Vilafranca, green cycle
June, Aj Rocafort de Queralt. BTT 125 kms Mountain Bike
June 11/13 Harley Davidson International, Calafel
June 19 Wine-tasting, Business Lunch Group, Sant Cugat, [email protected]
June 25 Tres Tombs,(horses & carts) Prat de Lluçanès
July Mediaeval market in Santa Oliva/Castell de la Verge de Remei,
July 4 Mercat Mediaeval , Batea, Terra Alta. 977 43 00 03
July 10/11 Copa Cat BTT/Mountain bike, Vall de Lord 93 806 60 00
July 10 - Aug 22 Pau Casals Festival, Baix Penedès