The Early Bird Catches the Parés Baltà Harvest

Wine Plesures 50 Great Cava country bike tourThere is no better way to start a day than with a scenic, educational cycle through the wine valleys of the Penedès. We started at 7am just as the sun was spectacularly lifting the fog from the valley. The morning ahead was bound to be good, and we couldn’t wait!

We started at Wine Pleasures, in the High Penedès at approximately 700 metres. From here we began with a steady uphill for 3 kilometres to our highest point of 800 metres or so. The fog was lifting and the view back over the valley was beautiful. There was not a sound to be heard apart from the quiet murmur of a grape harvester and its team of tractors going about their  harvest.

jabaliWe started a fairly steady decent down, due to a combination of loose gravel and a few steeper sections, all of which added to the excitement. Just to make sure we were wide awake, a large wild boar darted quickly across the road just 5 metres ahead of us! With our heads working overtime with concentration we passed some remarkable viewpoints, stopping at many for a few photos and a drink. Cava expert, Anthony Swift of Wine Pleasures, explained at each stop what we were seeing and how this related to the growth, harvest and unique taste of the Cava from the region.

Wine Plesures 50 Great Cava country bike tourAs the sound of machinery got louder, we hit a nice easy decent and I actually decided to take a tumble and really investigate the surface we were riding on. Anthony showed a lot of sympathy whilst Josie showed very little between bursts of laughter! All was good and around the bend was where the action of harvesting was happening.

Wine Plesures 50 Great Cava country bike tourWe parked up and entered the busy domain of a Parés Baltà Pinot Noir grape harvest. The hype of activity was exciting and everyone working was very welcoming. Anthony ran through the basics of what was going on, in particular the fact that red grapes in the Penedès valley are in a minority, and between the tractor and harvester Wine Plesures 50 Great Cava country bike tourdriver and the hand pickers cleaning up any missed bunches you could tell there was a passion associated with what they were achieving. Parés Baltà has over 200 years of history stemming back to the 1790’s, so it is no surprise there is pride within the work. As well as this, over the 5 estates owned by Parés Baltà  in the region, Wine Plesures 50 Great Cava country bike tour100% of their wines and Cavas are organically certified. We even heard how they use flocks of sheep to graze in the vineyards which in turn provides a vast amount of natural fertiliser. After learning of the harvest technique and general processes of the Parés Baltà  team, we were given a bunch of Pinot Noir grapes and hit the road.

Wine Plesures 50 Great Cava country bike tourThe ride home was again extremely scenic weaving through roads lined with vineyards and steady inclines and declines perfect for 8 o’clock in the morning. Our last stopover was at Hemmingway House, a spectacular mansion shaped very much like a castle. At the top of the house there is a visible oil pouring hideaway right over the doorway so I suspect it had castle like duties in the past. After a few stories, pictures and a drink, it was time to return for breakfast.

Pares Balta 22The 2 hours we had been a fantastic start to the day and we felt knowledgeable and energised for what lay ahead. Again I cannot  recommend Wine Pleasures enough. The gear and information providing is great and the general vibe of the tours are always positive. Parés Baltà  are an extremely well reputed producer of wine and cava in the region and feature in this years edition of 50 GREAT CAVAS, and I can see why. The staff was extremely nice and the way in which they operate seemed to be about more than just a grape harvest. Parés Baltà  also do daily tours of their winery.

Wine Plesures 50 Great Cava country bike tourWe had a great morning and would not hesitate doing it again!

Doug McIntosh & Josie Hudson, Wine Trail Travellers from Australia.

Rovellats; Amazing history & Great Cava!

Rovellats 50 Great Cavas 2016On a regular Saturday in August, we experienced one of the most scenic, educational and amazing wine tours. The tour began with an incredibly scenic bike ride followed by a winery tour with a huge difference. Rovellats Estate was far more than your regular wine tour with the whole estate stooped in history dating back to the 10th century. Between the bike ride through the Penedès wine region and Rovellats history, it was never going to disappoint!

Rovellats 50 Great Cavas 2016The journey started at Wine Pleasures, located in the High Penedès at 700 metres with a steady downhill pedal through pine forests and views as far as the eye could see. As we progressed, the country opened up into many small vineyards and orchards so close to the road you could nearly pick the fruit as you passed by. Our guide and Cava expert, Anthony pointed out many features in the landscape, including many old churches and a couple of preserved rock huts purely formed into an igloo shape with rocks, no concrete! As we approached the village of Sant Marti Rovellats 50 Great Cavas 2016Sarroca we hit flatter country and the bigger vineyards really started. This lead to a couple of great stops tasting ripe grapes ready to pick – the best of these was easily the sweetness of the Chardonnay grapes. As we entered the village of Sant Marti Sarroca, Anthony explained the speckling of vineyard and orchard courtyards throughout the town. In the past, Sant Marti Sarroca, had been completely dominated by vineyards and orchards but due to increasing settlement, houses were built and vineyards replaced. So as the tractor started up in the middle of town, we proceeded toward Rovellats. This 5km bike ride was beautiful! Large vineyards and winter cereal stubble running from the flats to the hills for kilometres. As we enjoyed the tranquility of the ride, along came 50 Great Cava producer Rovellats.

Rovellats 50 Great Cavas 2016 9As we pedaled into the Rovellats Estate, we were met with a grandness and a feeling of historic significance. The numerous flourishing roses, flowers and trees, as well as the modernist sculptures, fountains and large pergola led to an instant rush of excitement, but this was just the beginning! It was no wonder that Rovellats has been included in the wine and Cava routes of Catalonia by the European Council of Wine Routes.

Rovellats 50 Great Cavas 2016 10Our first stop after admiring the garden area and hearing of the many garden parties hosted here in the past, was the chapel. This is no ordinary chapel as it is converted from an old wine, round pressing chamber! The chapel now boasts elegance with modernist frescos decorating the walls and Rovellats 50 Great Cavas 2016 15ceiling. Crowning the chapel is an identical replica of the original Black Virgin of the Monastery of Montserrat. The chapel is accompanied by an eye-catching buttress bell tower which really makes the conversion complete.

From the chapel we then hit the grand entrance, better known as the Masia. This typical Catalonian entrance welcomes visitors with a Roman arch dating back to the 10th century, built out of the original half point stone. You are then exposed to a 14th century gothic vault and original remains of an old wine press now used as a wall support for the kitchen. The kitchen itself demonstrates the way in which they lived with a modern rendition of the typical fireplace used for both cooking and warmth, as seen through the moulded seats in the walls surrounding the fire.

Rovellats 50 Great Cavas 2016 3As we get closer to the current day operations of Rovellats, we pass through the old cellar and the museum, both of which boast direct evidence to the estates past. The old cellar is flanked both sides by old vats and oak barrels as this was the place where the first Rovellats Cava was produced. Following the chain of old maps and aerial views of the 210 hectare estate, as well as  photographs of famous personalities to have visited Rovellats, we stroll along the original wagon rails into the museum.

The museum is the type of place you could spend Rovellats 50 Great Cavas 2016 4hours and still not have seen or read the details of the history of both the wine and Cava making at Rovellats but also the posters boasting of parties and festivals of sort through the Art Nouveau periods in the 1920’s to 60’s. The several antique tools and devices used over the years for Cava production, together with the collection of old bottles, glasses, labels, awards and advertising posters made for an enlightening walk into the past of Rovellats, and we were very happy to be heading back here for tastings at the end of the tour!

Rovellats 50 Great Cavas 2016 5As we walked through the first ancient cave of Rovellats, surrounded by old capping and corking tools and many decorative musty bottles due to humidity, we get into the modern day Cava operations of Rovellats.

The large fermentation vats and more modern machinery to improve the Rovellats 50 Great Cavas 2016 6production of Rovellats, are testimony to the change over the 3 generations involved in the Cava making. Unfortunately, we were unable to see the process in action but the explanation of what we were looking at was visual enough. But onto possibly the most amazing part of the estate, the Rotonda.

Rovellats 50 Great Cavas 2016 7The Rotonda is the location where the Rovellats Cavas are patiently aged for between 2-6 years. The cave itself is a six-point star structure and a central circle that is 12m below ground. It is in fact, the worlds only radial cellar left of this design. It has a natural temperature of 13ºC, is very humid, and had bottles of ageing Cava for as long as the eye can see down every point of the star shaped design. Thousands and thousands of bottles!

Rovellats 50 Great Cavas 2016 8After passing through the modern conveyer belts for the cleaning, corking and labelling of the bottles, we passed through the grand warehouses previously used for hosting the many elaborate parties at the estate but now used for carton and bottle storage. The grandness is well and truly still evident however, with high ceilings and arches and elaborate staircases with railings decorated with old Cava bottles. After this it was time to head back to the museum for the tasting.

50 Great CavasRovellats offered three of their Cavas for tasting, and made sure we all received the full glass to enlighten our tastebuds. The first was the flagship Cava of the family business, Gran Rerserva Brut Nature from 2009. This was strong tasting Cava whilst be very flavoursome on the palette. You could get the sense of a fruity, almond aftertaste. Next in line was the Imperial Rose. This was my least favourite of the three but again was crisp and clean in taste whilst giving hints of a fruity background. The last of the three, and potentially due to it being lunchtime, my favourite, was the refreshing flavours of the Premier Brut Nature. The tasting of these three Cavas was fantastic as you mingled with other visitors whilst exploring the history of Rovellats further. 

Rovellats 50 Great Cavas 2016 11The tour of Rovellats was over, and what a tour it was. We happily jumped back on our bikes and continued back to Sant Marti Sarroca via unmissable landscapes yet again. The day finished in the village with a sandwich in Sant Marti Sarroca and a bit more Cava!

It is very easy to recommend the two businesses involved in the day as it is a day we will never forget. Wine Pleasures and Anthony took us on a full region information and sight seeing tour. The bikes were modern, well maintained and more than enough to allow for easy cycling. Rovellats Estate was incredible and the whole day couldn’t have been any better for us.

50 Great Cavas3 of the Rovellats Cavas (Masia S.XV Brut Nature, Rovellats Col.lecció and Rovellats Gran Reservva Brut Nature) are amongst the 50 Great Cavas and 50 Great Sparkling Wines of the World annual publications.

Doug McIntosh & Josie Hudson, Wine Trail Travellers.

Experiencing “The Essence of Vilarnau”

50 Great #Cava producer Vilarnau The Wine Pleasures team took another amazingly fun field trip for the 50 Great Cavas book 2016 to the vineyards and winery of Vilarnau. We were lucky enough to take the official “Essence of Vilarnou” tour of the facilities with our superstar guide Georgina Saumell.  It was a beautiful and hot afternoon typical of early August in the Mid Penedes region of Spain.  I was immediately impressed by the look of the grounds here, lush well manicured lawns a strikingly beautiful sign at the property’s entrance and vineyards spread across from where the facility now sits to a castle on a hill nearby.  There is a gorgeous clear view of Montserrat from almost anywhere on the vineyards.

50 Great #Cava producer VilarnauThe tour began outside in the Jardin Vilarnau, near a petrified oak tree and the canal that runs near it, amongst the lush green lawns.  Our guide, Georgina, explained to us that the original property of the Vilarnau family began here, and the oak tree acted as one of the borders.  The other, she pointed out to us, was on the other side of the vineyards, right next to the Subirat castle.  The castle sits atop a hill in the distance, and looks glorious in the sunshine.

50 Great #Cava producer VilarnauThe location of the vineyards here is ideal, as on one side there is the striking Montserrat mountain, which protects the vineyards from the cold winds of the Pyrenees.  Towards the east, it opens up to the Mediterranean sea.  On the south, the vineyards are bordered by Serrada Litoral, which means “jagged coastline”.  The vineyards are situated 250m above sea level, and the vines absolutely thrive in these conditions.   There are 20 hectares of vines growing here, all situated perfectly and planted in the best direction to receive sunlight and also gentle Mediterranean breezes, which help them reach ideal ripeness for the grapes.  The soil here is comprised mostly of silt and clay.

Local varieties of grapes such as Macabeo and Xarel.lo, are grown here in the traditional manner.  Chardonnary and Pinot Noir are also grown, adjacent to the indigenous grapes, though they are treated differently.  Georgina explained to us that these grapes are accustomed to much more moisture in the soil, and so they are watered using a simple pipe line.  She also shows us the wire put on all plants, which is sprayed with the pheromones of female butterflies.  This is an organic farming practice that repels insects and also prevents their reproduction, acting as kind of distraction for the pests.  The vineyards of Vilarnau have been growing their grapes using organic farming practices for years, and are in the process of obtaining organic certification.   Vilarnau also uses another local grape, Parellada, for their cavas.  Since the vineyards are located in the Mid Penedès, and Parellada grows best in the High Penedès, Vilarnau sources these grapes from around 35 local growers that have vineyards there.

50 Great #Cava producer VilarnauWe continued past the vineyards to the lake on the property.  Georgina told us about some of the sustainability efforts of Vilarnau, including cycling water back into the lake to be reused.  From this point there are lovely views of the Mid Penedès region and many other vineyards in the surrounding area.

50 Great #Cava producer VilarnauWe were then taken to the area where the wine is processed after harvest.  Georgina showed us the machinery used for stomping the grapes, separating stem (which is used for fertilizer) and fruit, and walked us through the process leading up to first fermentation.  All grapes, in the case of their cavas, are fermented separately until blended for second fermentation.

Then we were led to the cellars and barrel room.   On the way we got to see a r50 Great #Cava producer Vilarnaueally unique series of artworks made with different Vilarnau wines rather than paints, by artist Marta Arañó.  Georgina explained to us that Vilarnau frequently gives local Catalan artists the opportunity to display their works here.

50 Great #Cava producer VilarnauThousands of bottles were stacked on all sides of the enormous cellar.   Our group was shown the gyropalletes, which are used for most wines.  They do however have a premium cava, called the Albert Vilarnau, which is riddled by hand and aged for at least 48 months. This is a very special cava, and the Chardonnay used for this blend is aged in French oak.  The barrel room is also home to four experimental and specially made amphorae, containing wine made with Xarel.lo, that the Wine Pleasures team would love to try one day!

50 Great #Cava producer VilarnauLast but definitely not least, was the tasting room.   And, wow, what a beautiful space.  The entire winery was designed in 2005 by prestigious Catalan architect Antonio Miro, and the tasting room, lobby and shop area are truly the crown of this impressive work.    The walls facing the vineyards are made of thin, pristine glass, and one can really feel the surrounding nature and tranquility.  Soft light streams in and allows one to see the true colours of the cavas and wines during tasting.  The interior is elegant and cozy, and made with fine materials such as oak.  The warm toned colours are inviting and the room is just luminous.

50 Great #Cava producer VilarnauOur fabulous guide, Georgina, began the tasting with the Vilarnau Brut Nature Reserva.  I got notes of grapefruit and berry, stewed pear and a pleasant nutty finish.  Next was the Gran Reserva.  Both of these cavas are a blend of Macabeo, Parellada and Chardonnay, with the Gran Reserva containing less Macabeo and more Chardonnay.  For me the Gran Reserva was beautiful and more complex, with notes of apricot jam, almonds and ripe strawberries and a fine, delicate bubble.  Finally we tried the Brut Rose, which is 90% Trepat and 10% Pinot Noir.  This was so bright and floral, with fresh raspberries and rose petals and notes of candied lemon on the nose.  All of these cavas will be featured in the 2016 edition of 50 Great Cavas!

50 Great #Cava producer VilarnauThen the entire Wine Pleasures team basically freaked out over an absolutely unforgettable cava.  We took home six bottles.  I cannot fully express how special and unique this cava is…  It is made with a grape called Subirat Parent.  This is an indigenous grape that has been pretty much abandoned and forgotten by grape growers in the area and wine drinkers around the world.  The reason is that the skins are so delicate and fragile.  The loss was too great for growers and efforts to grow them were instead focused on safer options with greater yields.   Vilarnau recovered a few hectares of these vines and create a 100% Subirat Parent Brut Nature Reserva.

Georgina compared the grapes to a Moscatel, but made into cava.  From this description and the quality of Vilarnau’s wines, I knew I would be floored by this wine.  It really was everything and more I could have hoped for.  Personally I love to find floral notes in wine, but I am not huge on sweet and syrupy still whites that are often made with 100% Moscatel, Riesling or Gewurztraminer.  Instead, this cava was a delicate and stunningly gorgeous Brut Nature; meaning no sugar is added after second fermentation and it contains less than 3g of residual sugar per litre.

For me the nose was tropical ripe fruits and a beautiful floral bouquet.  Jasmine, guava jelly, rose petals, melon and lychee, with a long elegant finish.  I am not exaggerating when I say I would buy this wine for my (imaginary, hypothetical) wedding.  I just love it and so did the whole team.

50 Great #Cava producer VilarnauWe left the winery super impressed with the outstanding quality and craftsmanship of the wines here.  Our guide, Georgina Saumell, was so awesome.  Give that woman a salary raise.

All in all, it was a fantastic day and I love my job!

Ayesha Durrani

50 Great Cavas>>

Mid Summer Evening Duo of Gastronomy & Music Matched with Sumarroca Wines

Sumarroca 50 Great Cavas 2016Some of the Wine Pleasures team recently had the, ahem, pleasure of taking a tour of the Sumarroca winery cellars, tasting room, vineyards and more one beautiful day in Spain’s Penedès wine region.  It was an absolutely fantastic experience, made more so by the enthusiasm and warm friendliness of Carles Sumarroca, his wife Nuria Claverol and the General Manager Josep Puig Subirana. We tasted an absolutely delicious cava which will be featured in the 50 Great Cavas 2016 book, and were invited to a special event at their chateau, the Heretat Sabartes Estate.  We arrived the next evening, finding our way around lots of roundabouts with a less than cooperative GPS, and pulled up to the impressive 19th century modernist mansion.

In the words of Josep, “Es otro mundo”, and it truly is like another world.

Sumarroca 50 Great CavasWe arrived at about 8 in the evening, a lovely time to see the sun streaming through the branches of the enormous tree in the center of the driveway approaching the mansion.  Near the entrance to the estate, there is a stand alone building used as a space for performances, with seating and a stage set up for the music later in the evening.  The estate has 25 hectares of vineyards, where Muscat, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling are absolutely thriving in the chalky soil typical of the Baix Penedès.   The lawns around the mansion are beautifully manicured, and we are greeted with glasses of Cava Rosado immediately.  Many guests have arrived already for the event, an evening of gastronomic delights, wine and a musical performance by a very talented Catalan guitarist, Xavier Coll.

Sumarroca 50 Great CavasWe walk with our glasses of delicate and refreshing cava, and meet Josep on a grassy knoll to the left of the mansion.  Just beyond is a large bar set up with many tables around it for open-air dining.  Josep gives us a tour of much of the estate, including large rooms with beautiful floral arrangements, furnishings, tables set with pristine linens and stemware and enormous floor to ceiling windows with views of the vineyards surrounding the estate.  It is in these rooms that many events and even weddings have been hosted.

Sumarroca 50 Great CavasBehind the mansion itself, you can take in the view of their own vineyards and neighbouring vineyards on all sides.  There is a lovely pool surrounded with lush green plants, and a duck waddling around, to the delight of the guests (myself especially J )

We explored the estate, enjoyed glasses of cava and the tasty appetizers.  It was soon time for dinner and all the smiling guests began to head for the grassy hill where beautiful large, round tables were set.  It was a social kind of dinner, each table was set for eight, so we had the opportunity to Sumarroca 50 Great Cavaseat and mingle with some new faces and enjoy our meal with Josep.  It was beginning to get dark now, and we headed to the bar to try more wines.  Their Temps de Flors was absolutely lovely, delicate, floral.  It is a blend mainly of Xarel-lo combined with the sweet and elegant aromas of Muscat and Gewurtzraminer, which are international grapes that are grown in their own vineyards.

Dinner was an absolute delight.  We didn’t know what to expect.  I personally expected something perhaps a little more traditional from an estate such as this, which boasts such timeless beauty.  Instead we saw many different tables set up with food all around the perimeter of the grassy seating area on the lush lawn.  Each table represented food from a different part of the world.  The mushroom risotto and caprese salad from the Italian table were absolutely mouth-watering.  The sushi was fantastic, including red tuna nigiri, salmon sashimi and much more.  Lamb kebabs and humus awaited in a Middle Eastern themed table.  Omelettes with prawns, cheeses and crackers were on offer at a French inspired table.  Fajitas with guacamole and tortilla chips on a Mexican inspired table.  Small steak burgers grilled right before your eyes and topped with cheese and caramelized onion were a great surprise at what I guess is an American table, complete with French fries and ketchup.

Sumarroca 50 Great CavasWhen we first sat down we went to the bar at the epicenter of all these tables and ordered a glass of wine each.  Later someone came to bring us bottles for the table.  We were so impressed, and I personally felt completely spoiled.  The food was truly impressive and all the guests were having a fantastic time.  The energy of the night was infectious, everyone was well fed and had all the wine you could possibly ask for, smiles and laughter abound.

As darkness spread and the stars began to Xavier Coll at Sumarroca 50 Great Cavascome out for the evening, all the guests finished with their dinners and were led to the performance hall near the entrance of the estate.  There was a small stage set up and we were lucky enough to snag seats right at the front.  Four acoustic instruments were set up, a traditional guitar and three other string instruments bearing similarities to the guitar, some with more strings, all different sizes.  Xavier Coll came out and played hauntingly beautiful music with each instrument, that had the room shrouded in silence as all the guests watched on with bated breath.  He played three songs with the traditional guitar.  All the songs so far had been only guitar music, but with the final song he demonstrated his very powerful and moving voice.  The entire crowd was stirred by this show of talent and he received a standing ovation.

It was truly an unforgettable evening, and far exceeded my expectations.  If you have the chance to experience this, we highly recommend this to anyone with an appreciation for fine foods and wine, a healthy appetite and an ear for traditional music.

Ayesha Durrani

 

50 Great Cavas Será un Libro Impreso en 2016

Centro de Interpretación de Cava.A lo largo de los últimos 4 años que Wine Pleasures lleva con la publicación 50 Great Cavas hemos podido observar que:

  • Muchos  importadores de vino y sobre todo en Japón, lo utilizan para descubrir y comprar nuevos cavas
  • Los consumidores de vino agradecen que existe una información objetiva sobre el Cava y a la hora de comprar una botella de Cava, tener una referencia fiable sobre el producto
  • Los enoturistas utilizan el libro para programar visitas y catas.
  • Con la colaboración de la tienda online Decántalo durante los dos últimos muchos bodegas han conseguido un canal de distribución más para la venta de sus cavas

Vallformosa Winery.Además, Wine Pleasures por su parte está promocionando un producto enoturístico: el 50 Great Cava Tour que consiste únicamente en visitas a bodegas con catas de Cavas entre los 50 Greats del año vigente.

Para 2015 y 2016 hacia a dónde vamos con la iniciativa?

Primero, hemos tomado la decisión de hacer 50 Great Cavas 2015 impreso ya que han sido muchas solicitudes de recibir el libro impreso. Para Cavas Llopart.la readacción 2015/2016, hemos convocado los escritores conocidos Terry y Kathy Sullivan de Wine Trail Traveler . Con el libro impreso pretendemos conseguir un tangible en los despachos de importadores, distribuidores y en las tiendas de vino y un tangible atractivo en las casas de los wine lovers quienes son al final y al cabo los enoturistas que pueden llegar a visitar las bodegas con Cavas entre los 50 Greats.

Cataluña será la sede de la International Wine Tourism Conference 2016 (IWINETC 2016), uno de los congresos anuales más importantes de enoturismo a escala mundial. Puede leer el artículo en La Vanguardia

Catalonia-is-your-homeiwinetcAprovechando que el Congreso Internacional de Enoturismo se va a celebrar en España en Abril 2016, Wine Pleasures (Organizadores del evento), mediante catas 50 Great Cavas, visitas 50 Great Cavas y la difusión del libro impreso 50 Great Cavas, lograrà llegar a un público amplio a nivel mundial – asistirán tour operators y agencias especializados en enoturismo, someliers, importadores de vino, medios de prensa especializao en vino y enoturismo y un sinfín de personas relacionadas con el negocio wine tourism.

Centro de Interpretación de Cava.La Convocatoria para 50 Great Cavas 2015/2016 está abierta hasta el 15 de mayo 2015. Algunas de las bodegas inscritas hasta la fecha incluyen Canals i Munné, Juvé i Camps, Adernats Vinícola de Nulles,  Dominio de la Vega, Gramona, Mascaró, Bertha, Felix Masanna, Rovellats y Vegalfaro.

Véase 50 Great Cavas 2014 en a portada abajo:

50 Great Cavas 2014 cover

Se Convoca 50 Great Cavas 2015

Wine Pleasures ha anunciado la convocatoria de la 5ª edición de 50 Great Cavas 2015, cuya finalidad es contribuir a la promoción de este producto representativo de los vinos  de España, así como mejorar su imagen y posicionamiento en el mercado. También tiene como objetivo la promoción del enoturismo hacia las bodegas incluidas entre los 50 mejores cavas.

Podrán participar en la convocatoria sólo los espumosos que pertenezcan a la Denominación de Origen Cava.

Mediante la convocatoria de los 50 Great Cavas Wine Pleasures reconoce la excelencia de los productos en 9 categorias:

Categoría 1 – Brut Nature
Categoría 2 – Brut Nature Reserva
Categoría 3 – Brut Nature Gran Reserva
Categoría 4 – Extra-Brut Reserva
Categoría 5 – Extra-Brut Gran Reserva
Categoría 6 – Brut
Categoría 7 – Brut Reserva
Categoría 8 – Brut Gran Reserva
Categoría 9 – Rosado

La quinta edición del Concurso 50 Great Cavas de este año celebrará las catas de selección de los vinos participantes del 25 al 29 de mayo. Las sesiones contarán en su panel de catadores con enólogos, sumilleres y periodistas.

La publicación del libro 50 Great Cavas esta prevista para los finales de junio y contará con un apartado sobre la elaboración y producción de Cava, notas de catas de los 50 Cavas mejor puntuados y un reportaje sobre cada bodega y su oferta enoturística.

50 Great Cavas Edición 2014>>

50 Great Cavas en Twitter: @50GreatCavas #50GC

50 Great Cavas en FB>>

Some of the 50 Great Cavas producers in 2014:

Discover the Palace of Cava

50 Great Cavas 2014 Pere VenturaPenedes is one of the most significant winemaking regions of Spain and the birthplace of celestial drink called Cava. Grapes were cultivated here in the 4th century BC or even earlier so the traditions have been carefully preserved and passed down in many generations. But specifically here the winemakers created a sparkling wine to the French technology and today Cava remains the main rival of Champagne.

50 Great Cavas 2014 Pere VenturaNumerous vineyards scattered around the highlands of Penedes all have a special feeling of creativeness and serenity. As you pass them by, you can see how carefully the grapes are pruned for the winter, how neat are the yards and how everything is arranged with great care and attention. We shall talk about our visit to one of the 50 Great Cava producers of Spain, the Pere Ventura winery, located at the main entrance (or exit depending on which you go) of Sant Sadurní d’Anoia.

50 Great Cavas Pere Ventura 2014The title of the article “Palace of Cava” was conjured up the instant we entered through the winery gates. The “Palace” has 60 hectares of vineyards close by from which the traditional varieties are grown in the best soil and carefully handpicked. Guests are welcome not by Pere Ventura himself, but by his spouse Mireia. The Pere Ventura Company was founded only 23 years ago, but today is one of the most successful wine and cava producers in Spain, selling 1.2 million bottles of wine a year. Mireia manages to give a hearty welcome to every single person visiting her ‘palace’ (now, in January it is mainly locals, the pure Catalan speech is audible), to advise and sell cava and control her employees at the same time.

50 Great Cavas 2014 Pere VenturaWe were met by our guide – a polite young man in a uniform suit and with a small flashlight. Having kindly warned that on the way there will be a set of descents and turns, he invited us to enter. The wine cellars of Pere Ventura have three levels of depth and two kilometers of length. Bottles of a cava, draped with webs and moss, are laid out along walls in the traditional way – absolutely horizontal in rimas (the Catalan name of rows of bottles). They are all corked with metal to prevent the smell of natural cork to infuse the aroma of the drink. They explained that cava is much more sensitive to foreign smells than wine. The temperature, lighting and humidity level are also specific for cava aging here.

50 Great Cavas Pere VENTURACellars are built in a traditional Catalan style with vaulted arches. All galleries and corridors are connected among themselves, easy to move around. Moving from the hall to the hall, we saw all process of aging of the inspiring drink.

Pere Ventura produces cava from three local varieties of grapes – Xarel-lo, Parellada and Macabeo. They grow here at three different levels of heights. Wines are aged both in bottles and in the wooden barrels on display for visitors, occupying the special hall. At the end of our tour, we were shown the power-operated room where bottles are corked and labelled by machines, while final quality control is manual.

50 Great Cavas 2014 Pere VenturaWe have also learned that Pere Ventura comes from a noble family of wine makers. His ancestors stood at the origins of creation of a cava at the end of the 19th century. Being the wine maker in the fourth generation, Pere Ventura isn’t afraid to experiment and is responsible for quality of a product with his name on.

The guided tour ends with wine tasting with traditional Catalan snacks like almond truffles, grain bars, smoked sausage and cheese. From five sorts of a cava that were offered, three were included into the 50 Great Cavas according to Winepleasures.com. At the moment, it is the only authoritative rating of a cava recognized in Spain. They were:

50 Grat Cavas 2013 Pere VenturaBrut Reserva Cupatge D´Honor Vintage 2011 (93 points 50 Great Cavas 2014)– Brioche, baked apples, vanilla & subtle citric notes. Fresh entrance & palate. Medium finish.

Tresor Rosé (95 points 50 Great Cavas 2014)– Wild strawberries on the nose. Explosion of fruit on the palate. Crisp short finish. Pleasant mouthfeel. Resplendent!

Tresor Brut Reserva (93 points 50 Great Cavas 2014) – Green apples with subtle notes of almonds & pastry. Creamy entrance with balanced acidity. Fresh medium finish.

Guided tours available at 10h, 12h and 16h on working days by appointment.

How to get to and visit Pere Ventura

La Fassina, Phylloxera, Calçots & 50 Great Cavas

50 Great Cava Media Tour 2014The final day of the Wine Pleasures 50 Great Cava Tour found our intrepid group in Sant Sadurni d’Anoia, the epicenter and world capital of Cava.

Our first stop was at the Centro de Interpretación de Cava – La Fassina de Can Guineu where we were able to learn all about Cava in the excellent self-paced multi-media touch screens. The interactive panels tell the story of the region and the history of Cava production. One of the most interesting sections depicted the many adverts and posters promoting Cava Festivals over the years. I think these posters, beautiful examples of graphic design, would make for great souvenirs. I wish the museum gift shop carried them.

50 Great Cavas 2014 Media TourBut the true focal point of the museum pertains to phylloxera. Most people think of phylloxera as a devastating pest that destroys vineyards, but from the perspective of Spain it was an economic opportunity to capitalize on the misfortune of France.

There is an entire exhibit room devoted to the phylloxera festival that’s held every September 7 & 8 in Sant Sadurni d’Anoia. A short film shows the annual Phylloxera Festival as it celebrates the tiny bug in a lively fashion. Part Mardi Gras style carnival, and part folk festival, the phylloxera is honored with a giant replica of the aphid and the whole town joins in a parade and revels in the streets with many people wearing paper mâché bug heads that are quite 50 Great Cavas 2014 Media Tourhorrific looking. The exhibit also had examples of angry vine head masks that were gruesome and looked like the faces on the apple trees in the Wizard of Oz.

For a more profound experience, you can get up close and personal with a 3D phylloxera insect from larvae state to full-grown creature that will look you right in the eye as you stand before an interactive display. This is best experienced after a glass of Cava, or for those in a good state of mental health. If you are prone to nightmares I suggest you skip it.

50 Great Cava Media Tour 2014The rest of the Centro de Interpretación de Cava has plenty to see and enjoy including a 3D film on the region and wine making process.  The film ends with the motto: “the offspring of a feeling” –which I suppose can be open to all sorts if interpretations –but many in our group thought it evoked a double entendre with a sexual overtone. Well, not many in our group just one who shall remain nameless but here’s a hint –“butter fingers” with an iPhone. Okay, enough insider information. On with the tour–

The museum was a previously a distillery, and in the basement, a former tank room, you can watch a light and sound show projected on the walls and ceiling that depicts the primary elements necessary for the production of Cava— earth, water, wind, fire/sunlight and of course, time. The room shakes with surround sound and a gentle breeze blows on cue to give you the feeling of total immersion in the vineyard. Afterwards you will be panting for a taste of Cava.

50 Great Cavas Wine Pleasures visits Celler VellLuckily for us we only had to trot up a few flights of stairs to a conference room where we tasted several Cava’s from the small artisan producer, Celler Vell. In the tasting line-up was the Estruch Brut Gran Reserva 2009, the Celler Vell Extra Brut Gran Reserva, and the Celler Vell Brut Nature Reserva –all awarded in the list of 50 Great Cava’s of 2014. 

Next stop on the 50 Great Cava’s tour– Canals & Munné to view the cellars and taste the award winning Cava’s. 2015 will mark 100 years of Cava production at Canals & Munné and we brain-stormed a few ideas for the centennial celebration next year with export manager Natalia de la Calle Zancajo. Then we were given a tour of the facility and the charming Oscar Medina Canals demonstrated the manual corking equipment and showed us how the cage and cap was attached to the bottle.

In the tasting room we tried several of the wonderful Cava’s including an organic offering, Dionysus Brut Nature, and my personal favorite the Insuperable a blend of 40% Macabeau, 30% Xarel•lo, and 30% Perellada—a lovely balanced Cava with a floral nose, bright fruit flavors, and a bit of spice on the finish.

50 Great Cavas 2014 Canals i MunnéAfterwards we went back to the Cava centric town of Sant Siduru d’Anoia to the original location of Canals & Munné, which is now a restaurant and there we commenced upon a long lunch and paired traditional foods of the region with several more of the Cava’s.

The highlight of the meal were the calçots –fresh green onions that are barbecued six minutes on each side, then the center shoot is pulled from the long green outer leaves, dipped in salsa de calçots and eaten by throwing your head back and dropping the onion into your mouth and hopefully not down your shirt. Fortunately plastic bibs were provided to keep everyone pristine.

50 Great Cavas 2014Natalia showed us how to prepare the traditional Catalan appetizer Pa amb tomàquet which consists of tomato, garlic and olive oil on fresh toasted bread. She cautioned us not fill up on too much before the main meal but it was hard to resist. In addition to the fabulous calçots, the lunch included plates of fresh salad greens, artichokes, white beans, roasted peppers and eggplant, lamb and sausage with potatoes and the signature dessert Creme Catalan. The wines served were the Canals & Munné 1915 blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Xarel*lo and Macabeu. Alos the Reserve de L’Avi, and the Gran Duc Cava in the distinctive flared bottom bottle.

After the meal we had a grappa like digestive Marc De Cava made from the pomaces of the Cava’s. Thus with a toast and a salute we ended our meal and the 50 Great Cava tour came to a close. What a week it was.

Marcy Gordon

50 Great Cavas 2014 cover

Stories in a Glass – the Vilafranca VINSEUM Wine Museum

Vinseum 3“What does a glass of wine contain? A wish, a memory, a story…” our guide at VINSEUM, the Villafranca wine museum had suggested poetically to our small group at the start of our visit early that morning. By the time we’d finished the tour we’d learnt that a glass of vino contains so much more than grapes, yeast and sugar.

Set in an historic palace opposite the handsome cathedral in the centre of Villafranca, the museum, which reopened two years ago after an impressive remodelling, is the first museum dedicated to wine and cava in Catalonia.

Vinseum 2We began our visit on the top floor with an introduction by our guide Cecilia to the collections, including archaeological relics that demonstrated the long history and origins of wine in the region.

An audio visual presentation, enhanced by timed illumination of displays, told us that wine was introduced to Spain 2,700 years, when it arrived by sea, most probably with the Phoenicians, whilst a collection of objects related to the history of the vine and wine in Catalunya included treasures such as the oldest grape seeds dating to the 7th century BC.

Vinseum 4“Viticulture became important under the Romans who were already organizing their wines by age,” Cecilia revealed as she described the beginnings of viniculture in Catalonia and the disastrous affect of phylloxera on the early industry.

Many grape varieties were lost although it was thanks to phylloxera that oenology began after more scientific techniques were introduced to the study of wine.

Another video delved deeper into the winemaking process, from explaining the many parameters used to measure, monitor and identify wine quality, from using Ph levels to gauge acidity to calculating sugar content to check alcohol, and demonstrated with cute animations how yeast consumes sugar and once it’s consumed all we’re left with is wine.

vinseum 5Downstairs we browsed displays of ancient amphorae from Iberia, Rome, North Africa used to transport wine across the sea, along with beautiful old bottles and the very first barrel labels.

In the final room, windows gave onto the leafy streets of Villafranca and the splendid city cathedral, while an ornate Gothic alter piece from 1456 reminded us of the religious uses of wine and a handsome antique bar of its immeasurable social value. Not that we needed any reminders!

50 Great Cavas 2014  Pure by MascaroMost museum tours end in the gift shop but here visitors finish with a tasting in the bar, included in the €7 fee (along with an audio tour). The stylish little bar specialises in wine from Catalunya and is open to the public. It was in here that we got to sample yet another of the 50 Great Cavas 2014 –  Cava Reserva Brut Nature “Pure” by Mascaró

Lara Dunston

 

50 Great Cavas Media Tour Round-up Day 3 – Cavatron Picks up Steam

50 Great Cavas tasting Museu FerrocarrilesI’ve tasted wine in a vineyard. I’ve sipped and slurped in many a dull function room. I’ve sampled wines in rustic cellars, on metal gang ways high above the fermentation tanks, next to barrels in quite a few cobweb-filled cellars. I’ve drunk wines at the back of a coach stuck in snow and, this week, in an old stone hut on the edge of a vineyard. Today was a first however – a wine tasting in a railway museum.

Cava Dominio de la Vega Brut Reserva EspecialSadly not in one of the period carriages – there was a fantastic 1950s first class compartment that looked more airline than rail side – but here we were between an old vernacular and a Victorian steam train in the Museu del Ferrocarril de Catalunya. The wines were from Dominio de la Vega. Just four: Cava Artemayor Brut Nature,  a 50 Great Cava winning Brut Reserva Especial (and very special it was too) plus two red wines made from bobal. After several days of full-on cava tasting the reds were a welcomed me diversion. Some preferred the young vibrancy and fruit of the younger wine, but for me the depth and complexity of the single vineyard (La Beata) won the day.

Now fully up to speed on the history, of gauges, expansion and financial situation of the Spanish railway since 1312 or somesuch we shunted on to the unexcitingly named Bohigas winery.

Fermi Bohigas 50 Great Cavas 2013But what’s this? A welcome rosé cava in the entrance court yard a stroll through the hot midday sun to the vineyards and on to a cooling glass of their Blanc de Blanc Xarel-lo, passing a church and Aussie outback style windmill on route. Then through the cellars, the traditional styled rooms of the family home – including a loft room packed with a totally eclectic mix of bric-a-brac , memorabilia and random ‘stuff’ (a golden cherub, a human skull, a wooden sailing boat, dozens of dust laden tins, picture frames, hanging handbags, a row of decanters, two gramophones, a pair of ballet shoes…) an amazing collection that revealed more strangeness the longer one lingered.

50 Great Cavas 2And then a legendary lunch food/wine matching. The opening tapas – tuna tartare, scallops over mashed potato and cabbage, mixed croquettes, were, to a dish, superb. In season trumpet mushrooms appeared under a fried quail egg topping a slither of bacon and a slice of crisp bread and also in a Risotto every bit as good as the best from Italy. The wine of choice for all these dishes was the excellent Udina de Fermi Bohigas – White Garnacha, Xarel-lo and a splash of Chenin Blanc of all things, made for a stunning intro to the lunch. Other wines served included the firm Fermi de Fermi Bohigas 2009 a Syrah/Samso blend (Samso being Carignan) and the yeasty, beautifully balanced, Noa de Bohigas cava, one of the 50 Great Cavas.

A fantastic visit. We’ve had some really fantastic wines during the first few days of the cavathron; these were some of the best.

Vallformosa 50 Great Cavas 2012 - a Wine Pleasures visitContinuing the day – a tour of Vallformosa which must be one of the larger producers in Catalyuna. Elsewhere this years harvest has finished but at Vallformosa the final tractor loads of Parellada arrived just as we meandered through the winery. Said tractors tipped the grapes while us photographers snapped away with iPhones and SLRs. I managed to grab a stunningly interesting vine video – its up on twitter if you really have nothing better to do… (twitter tag #50gc)

Many wines on show here. To our tired and jadded palates we introduced such lovingly blended delights as a gently coloured merlot/sumoll and a syrah/tempranillo and several finely structured cavas. The Vallformosa range is well worth hunting down.

Masia Olivera 2And that was Thursday. It ended with me getting lost trying to find my hotel room at Masia Olivera and making friends with a young alsatian. She slept on my bath towel at the bottom of my bed.  Another wine tour first.

Andrew Barrow