Cava is such an up and down drink. One moment it’s full-on on-trend and touted as Prosecco’s superior and the next disparaged as uncool and disdained as a mass-produced party plonk which shouldn’t be drunk later than brunch. And not as good as Prosecco.
But Catalonia has undergone a revolution. With an emphasis on organic and biodynamic farming and strict focus on the region’s native grapes (from the classic varieties of xarel-lo, Macabeo, and parellada to the lesser-known red sumoll and trepat), a new generation of winemakers is re-defining Cava. By not using the name.
Although still making classic good-value Cavas, the big boys with the big houses and estates – Freixenet (don’t discount its Elyssia Pinot Noir), Cordoniu, Sumarroca, Cavas Ferret, Juve y Camps, and Castell d’Olerdola (which makes an excellent deep cerise rose) are being taken on by young traditional experimentalists as well as some long-established makers.
Nine producers- Gramona, Llopart, Nadal, Recaredo, Sabaté i Coca, Torelló, Huguet-Can Freixes, Júlia Bernat and Mas Candí.- have created their own brand. “Corpinnat” (The heart). Cava does not appear on any labels. Although the contents are Cava. In all but name.
Says Corpinnat CEO and President Ton Mata: “Corpinnat is the name of a sparkling wine made in a very special way and from a special place—from the Corazón del Penedès.” The first sparkling wines in the traditional method were made in the Iberian Peninsula almost 150 years ago. I believe Corpinnat will become a reference within the greatest sparkling wines of the world.”
The family-owned vineyard with production going back to 1924 works on very low yields, maintaining a commitment to make only vintage brut nature sparkling wines marked by long aging (more than 30 months on the lees). The brand was established with the aim of distinguishing top-class terroir sparkling wines made solely in the heart of the Penedès region (forty minutes from Barcelona) from 100% organic grapes, harvested by hand and entirely vinified on site. Recaredo is the region’s first producer to obtain Demeter’s international certification for biodynamic viticulture using horsetail, chamomile, nettle, and yarrow to control fungus. Lookout got Celler Credo and Spain’s phytotherapy wine.
The first bottle of Penedes wine was produced in 1878. The new seal of excellence – EU registered – confirms discerning production techniques and is stubbornly non max production. Says Xavier Nadal Parades: “Our grandparents called it champagne and our parents called it Cava. But our wine continues to evolve, and our children will call it Corpinnat.”
Although not part of Corpinnat, three friends – CEO Eric Enquete Albert, Ingnasi Romeu (whose family owns the nCan Battle farm), and Ramon Masip are behind this new old Canvas. Says Albert: “Our intention was not to build a high-tech super modern winery, but to acknowledge and respect the past. We wanted to fuse the past with the present.
And when we say past, we really do mean the past. Considering wine has been produced in this region for the last 2,500 years we have had more than enough time to perfect our art.”
Fourth-generation farmers since 1892, the organic Penedès vineyards boast calcareous-clay soil, low rainfall, and the Mediterranean nearby, with old and young wines trained in traditional and modern ways. A minimal intervention winemaking cellar without corrections to the must, without the addition of sulfur but with native yeast fermentation.
Situated in Les Gunyoles in Avinyonet del Penedès and founded in 2006 by four young viticulture and enology students, who had studied in Burgundy, vegetal waste is crushed with leaves and grass to create natural compost. The flagship Xarel·lo grapes are fermented in four different types of barrels, French oak, American oak, Acacia, and Chestnut wood. The wine then ages for 8 months in its lees, employing the battonage process once a week. Vine-grower Ramon Jané, his wife Mercè Cuscó and the oenologist Toni Carb started bottling these new Cava in 2006 Segunyola, sourced from a single parcel of 60-year-old xarel-lo vines and elevating pét-nat.
Reserva is still used on some labels. With its limited edition “trencadís” mosaic pattern, inspired by the great Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi, this Spanish sparkler has the soft beads and elegant apple and lemon flavors of true Cava.
Manel Aviñó worked for 17 years as the technical director of one of the region’s large cava houses before turning edgy. Disgorging by hand and long aging on the lees, a practice associated with the Champagne method wines of the world, but virtually unheard of for Cava. Greco di Subur Blanc de Blancs Brut Nature uses the rare malvasia de Sitges grape. The family estate is in the Parque Natural del Garraf. Says Manel: “We are a vinegrowers’ family trying to grasp the terroir’s essence with our wines.”Raventos
Conca del Riu Anoia is a new Cava DO. The name of a small geographical area centered around the River Anoia Basin, between the Catalan Pre-Coastal and Coastal Ranges. Signature golden sparkling wines only bottled in the most exceptional vintages.