Avoid Locauto Italy like the Plague

Barrachi 5Italy is probably first choice for many as a grape escape destination in the Old World. Perhaps the most visited wine region in Italy is Tuscany and most wine tourists making the journey to Italy will most likely be landing at Rome Fiumicino Airport or Leonardo da Vinci as it is also called. The FIT traveler will undoubtedly be a DIY wine tourist and one of the first things to do upon arrival will be to rent a car as most wineries tend to be down hidden lanes and not accessible by public transport.

So which car rental company should you choose? Better question would be which car rental NOT to choose? The answer to the latter question is clearly the Italian car rental company Locauto who since 2013 are partners with Enterprise Rent a car.

As Wine Pleasures organizes events and wine tasting tours for thousands of people each year in Italy we often need the use of a car rental company. We had the misfortune on 16 December 2015 to contract the services of Locauto and here is my story.

Upon arrival at Rome Airport I mistakenly made my way to the Hertz desk (our usual car rental provider) and gave in my papers and was surprised to discover we were using a different company namely Locauto.

Around the corner at the Locauto counter there were 3 ladies sat down chatting and having a laugh amongst themselves. After finishing off a few chuckles and words which amounted a 2 minutes, the one in the middle reached out for papers in hand and started the car rental admin. I was then asked to fill in a form requesting information provided at the time of booking online. By now 4 people had made a queue to get a car and at which time one of the employees went off somewhere while the other decided to do some computer work she obviously hadn’t finished prior to the 3 having a chat.

Locauto staff chuckle and giggle while customers wait
Locauto staff chuckle and giggle while customers wait

15 minutes later when all was signed I was told that the car was not ready but would be in 15 minutes and in the meantime I should make my way down to the car pick up area. This I did taking 7 minutes to get to the pick up spot. With papers in hand I was ready to go but this was not going to be an easy task. I was told that the car was not ready yet as it had to be washed and oil checked and so on and it would take 15 minutes to which I said that I could not be delayed any further as I had a meeting appointment somewhere in Marche to keep and suggested they gave me another car or up or down grade. Indeed, I pointed to a Renault Clio which was the model paid for and was told that the car I pointed out was automatic and therefore more expensive. 25 minutes later my car arrived and guess what it was the same Renault Clio that was parked up when I arrived and it was a manual drive.

Next came the damage check and I was shown a piece of paper indicating more than a dozen scratches or dents and was informed that the petrol gauge did not show a full tank of petro l as it was faulty and was told that I should trust Locauto or more specifically the girl in charge that the tank was full – well all of this took 10 more minutes making a total from desk to driving out of the car park a whopping 57 minutes !!

A Locauto scamming technique - faulty fuel gauge
A Locauto scamming technique – faulty fuel gauge

Well after that nothing else to report and yes I arrived about 30 mins late for my appointment.

Next day and just before arriving at the airport I stopped to refuel in order to return the car full of petrol and guess what? The fuel gauge needle marked a full tank and I thought to myself you lying  xxxxxxx

It was touch and go to get to the airport on time and in time to make check in. Returning the car proved to be another difficult task. With 7 employees seemingly all doing  the same thing looking at papers on a podium, I wasn’t prepared to stand around waiting again until someone decided to become available to sign the car in and so applied the shouting strategy to get a speedy attention and this worked.

6-7 Minutes later and the key was taken off me and the time of return recorded. Then came the inspection procedure and was told that there was some new damage on the front right side-wheel which were scratch marks. I said I had not had any accident nor had I hit anything or scuffed a curb. To which I was told that I should have pointed out this damage at time of pick you. Yeah 57 minutes waiting around and you want me to spend more time checking for scratches. As a customer I trust you do your job ad mark all the damage before handing the car over I should not need to check anything.

Don't accpet a Locauto car with dozens of scratch marks or dents. You'll be charged for one you did not make!
Don’t accept a Locauto car with dozens of scratch marks or dents

Then I raised the matter of wasting my time at pick up and the petrol gauge needle to which I was told sometimes it works and sometimes it does not. Further delay arguing was not an option as check in deadline was imminent.

Back in Barcelona our company wrote to Locauto outlining our cause of concern stating while we would not seek compensation for time-wasting and the difference in the cost of petrol of a full tank and a 90% full fuel tank we did not expect to be charged for scratch marks not caused during our 24 hour rental period.

Locauto replied using a no reply email address stating how much they had charged our credit card for damage without mention or apology for the inconvenience caused. Later through their website we endeavoured to submit our reply and claim only to find that the link to bring up a form did not work.

We went to twitter to find the Locauto account – they haven’t got one but there is the #Locauto which makes for interesting reading – most of the comments warning people to stay clear of Locauto. We looked at the Locauto FB page and were surprised how high the like number was at just over 3,000 people but then we went to the Hertz FB and page and saw 247,000 + likes which makes 3,000 seem like a true reflection. Indeed, we thought that these likes were most likely to be forced employee likes. We googled Locauto – pages of bad experiences including on TripAdvisor. Well enough was enough and so we decided to go public with our experience and warn other car rental users who NOT to work with.

From our experience I feel we must echo the stay clear of Locauto as per #Locauto as the service is frankly shoddy and we would say it is a company not to be trusted. As a business, it is not a sustainable one as their strategy is to get sales as opposed to building up loyal and happy customers. If Enterprise Rent a Car are partners they should take heed of the customer service crimes committed by Locauto staff and management and in view of the Locauto experience we feel we must also black list partners Enterprise.

Probable future of Locauto - no customers!
Probable future of Locauto – no customers!

Anthony Swift
Rental agreement number 25233.

We’d love to hear other people’s experiences. Please leave a comment.

Burbujas de Oro: Wine Pleasures puntua por encima de 95 puntos todos los 50 Grandes Cavas 2016

50 Great Cavas 2016 Front CoverWine Pleasures ha publicado los resultados del concurso anual 50 Great Cavas y todos los finalistas han obtenido Medalla de Oro.

Por primera vez, la publicación 50 Great Cavas se presenta como una revista de 152 páginas a todo color y reúne todos los cavas que han recibido Medallas de Oro y de Plata con fotos y notas de cata. Además la revista incluye apartados sobre la historia del Cava, explica como se elabora el Cava, aclara los tipos e estilos diferentes del Cava, expone las normas para la elaboración del Cava y hace hincapié en las bodegas con Cavas entre los 50 Greats con un reportaje sobre cada una destacando su historia, filosofía, variedades de uva, ubicación y opciones para practicar enoturismo.

50 Great Cavas 2016 tasting notes 50 Great Cavas 2016 – La Revista está disponible por €10,95 y es una lectura imprescindible para tanto los amantes como los profesionales del vino.

Muchos consumidores del vino en los mercados internacionales probablemente no tienen nunca la posibilidad de catar los 50 Grandes Cavas ya que muchos importadores de vino no hace caso al hecho de que el Cava está arriba con otros países de producción de espumosos como Champagne y Franciacorta. Gracias a una sinergía con la tienda online Decántalo, amantes de las burbujas de oro pueden beneficiarse de recibir uno o varios de los 50 Grandes Cavas 2016 a domicilio.

History of Cava50 Great Cavas y las bodegas con Cavas entre los 50 Grandes serán las protagonistas en el Congreso Internacional de Enoturismo que se celebrará en el Penedès los próximos días 5 – 6 de abril 2016 #IWINETC  www.iwinetc.com  Los asistentes además tendrán la posibilidad de visitar algunas de las bodegas con medallas de Oro dentro del programe pre and post Conference tours. Las siguientes bodegas ya han confirmado sus participación con el patrocinio de una visita para los congresistas IWINETC: Agustí Torelló Mata, Cava Varias, Codorníu y Vallformosa.

50 Great Cavas 2016 – La Revista se ha realizado con la colaboración del  Consejo Regulador del Cava.

  • Adernats XC (2008) y Codorníu Reina Mª Cristina Blanc de Noirs (2012) obtienen Oro con 98 puntos
  • 8 bodegas (Agustí Torelló Mata, Cava Bertha, Gramona, Juvé & Camps, Mas Codina, Pago de Tharys, Sumarroca & Vallformosa) consiguieron Oro con 97 puntos
  • Por otra parte hay un total de 66 Cavas clasificados como “Outstanding” fueron premiados con Medallas de Oro y 33 Cavas clasificados como “Highly Recommended” fueron otrogados con Medallas de Plata. La mayoría de las medallas fueron obtenidas por bodegas ubicadas dentro de la DO Penedès pero también hubo Grandes Cavas premiados en L’ Empordà, La Rioja y Valencia. Cabe destacar el valor-calidad de los Cavas mejor puntuados que oscilan entre € 9 y € 50 (PVP – precio venta público).
  • Los aficionados de los Cavas con crianzas largas (Cava Grand Reserva) no deberían perder de probar los Cavas calificados con sobresaliente: Castell Sant Antoni – Torre de L’ Homenatge (120 meses), PVP €49,95. Juvé & Camps – La Capella (108 meses), PVP € 67,00. Agustí Torelló Mata – Kripta (84 meses) PVP €51,00. Gramona – III Lustros (84 meses), PVP €25,00. Llopart –  Ex Vite (60 meses), PVP €41,00. Sumarroca. – Núria Claverol (60 meses), PVP €35,15. (50 meses).
  • Mas Codina Brut Reserva Rosé, Fermí Bohigas Brut Resrva, Canals Canals Duran Gran Reserva, Caves Mestres – Mestres Coquet & Celler Vell Cuvée Les Solanes han obtenido Medallas de Oro.
  • Pago de Tharys (Requena, Valencia) recibió 3 Medallas de Oro para las referencias Millésime, Millésime Rosé & Brut Nature
  • Mata i Coloma (Sant Sadurní) también conseguió 3 Medallas de Oro para Cava Pere Mata Reserva Familia, Cava Pere Mata L’Ensamblatge, Cava Pere Mata Cuvée Barcelona.
  • Catorce Cavas del “Penedès” obtuvieron Medallas de Oro, incluyendo Avia Lola – Canals I Munné, Brut Nature Reserva Ecológico – Felix Massana, Subirat Parent Brut Nature – Finca Valldosera, Gran Reserva Brut Vintage – Vilarnau, Perles Blanques – Cavas Naveran, Cava Varias Flors i Violes Brut – Cava Varias & Cossetània Gran Reserve – Castell D’Or
  • Cinco Cavas de zonas vitivinIcolas fuera del Penedès conseguieron Medallas de Oro: Celler Trobat (Empordà) – Rosat Brut, UVESTE (Valencia) -Vega Medien Brut Ecologico, Vegalfaro (Valencia) – Caprasia, Bodegas Muga (La Rioja) – Conde de Haro Rosé and Dominio de la Vega (Valencia) – Brut Reserva Especial.
  • Rovellats recibió una Medalla de Oro para Col.lecció y Capità Vidal también recibió Oro para Cava Fuchs de Vidal, Cuvée, Reserva, Brut Nature. Cuscó Berga recibió dos Medallas de Oro para Brut Nature Reserva and Brut Gran Reserva
  • Medallas de Oro también para Olivé Batllori, Pere Venture and Pep Wines.

50 Great Cavas – El Libro>>

International Wine Tourism Conference, Exhibition & Workshop 2016>>

Bubbles of Gold: Wine Pleasures announces the Gold medal winning Cavas for 2016

50 Great Cavas 2016 Front CoverWine Pleasures has published the results for its annual wine competition 50 Great Cavas.

Adernats XC (2008) and Codorníu Reina Mª Cristina Blanc de Noirs (2012) win Gold and receive scores of 98 points

8 producers (Agustí Torelló Mata, Cava Bertha, Gramona, Juvé & Camps, Mas Codina, Pago de Tharys, Sumarroca & Vallformosa) win gold scoring 97 points

50GC 2015 tasting notes66 Cavas classified as Outstanding were awarded Gold medals and 33 Cavas classified as Highly Recommended were awarded Silver medals. Most of the medals were awarded to producers in the Penedès wine region (Catalonia) but several awards went to producers in Empordà, La Rioja & Valencia. Some interesting retail prices too amongst the 50 Greats ranging from 9 Euros to 50 Euros making Cava a luxury you can afford whenever you wish.

  • Those looking to splurge on long aged Cava (Cava Grand Reserva) should try and get their hands on prize winners from prestigious Cava producers Castell Sant Antoni – Torre de L’ Homenatge (120 months), RRP €49,95. Juvé & Camps – La Capella (108 months), RRP € 67,00. Agustí Torelló Mata – Kripta (84 months) RRP €51,00. Gramona – III Lustros (84 months), RRP €25,00. Llopart –  Ex Vite (60 months), RRP €41,00. Sumarroca. – Núria Claverol (60 months), RRP €35,15.
  • Mas Codina Brut Reserva Rosé, Fermí Bohigas Brut Resrva, Canals Canals Duran Gran Reserva, Caves Mestres – Mestres Coquet & Celler Vell Cuvée Les Solanes all picked up golds.
  • Pago de Tharys (Requena, Valencia) received three Golds for its Millésime, Millésime Rosé & Brut Nature
  • Mata I Coloma (Sant Sadurní) was also awarded three Golds for its Cava Pere Mata Reserva Familia, Cava Pere Mata L’Ensamblatge, Cava Pere Mata Cuvée Barcelona.
  • Fourteen “Penedès” Cavas were also awarded Gold medals, including Avia Lola by Canals I Munné, Brut Nature Reserva Ecológico by Felix Massana, Subirat Parent Brut Nature by Finca Valldosera, Gran Reserva Brut Vintage by Vilarnau, Perles Blanques by Cavas Naveran, Cava Varias Flors i Violes Brut by Cava Varias & Cossetània Gran Reserve by Castell D’Or
  • Five Cavas from regions other than those located in the Penedès were also awarded Gold medals. Celler Trobat (Empordà) for its Rosat Brut, UVESTE (Valencia) for its Vega Medien Brut Ecologico, Vegalfaro (Valencia) for its Caprasia, Bodegas Muga (La Rioja) for its Conde de Haro Rosé and Dominio de la Vega (Valencia) for its Brut Reserva Especial.
  • Rovellats received gold for Col.lecció as did Capità Vidal for its Cava Fuchs de Vidal, Cuvée, Reserva, Brut Nature. Cuscó Berga picked up two gold medals for Brut Nature Reserva and Brut Gran Reserva
  • Gold also went to Cavas by Olivé Batllori, Pere Venture and Pep Wines.

History of CavaThe 2016 edition of 50 Great Cavas takes the form of a 154 page full colour collectable book and contains all the Gold and Silver medal winners with photos and tasting notes for each. The book also covers the history of Cava, outlines how Cava is made, clarifies the different Cava styles, spotlights successful regions and recognizes outstanding producers. A two page article on all of the participating wineries covering family history, winery philosophy, grape varieties, location and wine tourism options can also be found in the magazine. 50 Great Cavas 2016 – The Book is available to purchase for just €12,95 inc p&p and is a useful resource for both the trade and the end wine consumer/wine traveller.

50GC 2015 llopartMany wine consumers never ever get to taste any or all of the 50 Great Cavas, as many wine importers and distributors are not taking notice of the fact that Cava is shouldering with the preeminent sparkling wine producing regions such as Champagne and Franciacorta. Thanks to a synergy with online wine retailers, Decántalo bubble fans can benefit from the luxury of having any or all of the 50 Great Cavas delivered at home or at work.

History of Cava50 Great Cavas will be heavily featured at the International Wine Tourism Conference, Exhibition and Workshop #IWINETC  www.iwinetc.com  where conference delegates will be able to taste most of the 50 Greats and even get to visit a few of them. Agustí Torelló Mata, Cava Varias, Codorníu and Vallformosa have already confirmed visits to their wineries within the IWINETC programme.

workshop-iberian

50 Great Cavas 2016 – The Book was produced with the collaboration of the Consejo Regulador del Cava.

50 Great Cavas – The Book>>

International Wine Tourism Conference, Exhibition & Workshop 2016>>

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>>

Spanish Red Wine is on the Bubble in the Penedès

Lobban Wines in 50 Great Sparkling Wines of the WorldThe Lobban winery (or Bodega La Pamelita) was born in 2003.  Measuring in at only 100 squares metres, which is the legally minimum for a sparkling facility in Spain, Lobban winery is one of the smallest wineries in Spain.  Located near the Anoia, a river that weaves it’s way through the region of Penedès, the facility is just outside of the cava capital Sant Sadurni d’Anoia, in the charming village of Sant Jaume Sesolivere.

Lobban Wines in 50 Great Sparkling Wines of the WorldThe story of this unique winery is actually the story of Scottish winemaker Pamela Geddes.  This is because Pamela Geddes is the life-blood of Lobban wines.

Each bottle is cleaned, labeled, hand riddled and disgorged and finally corked by winemaker Pamela Geddes!  It truly is a one-woman show, which is absolutely remarkable when one experiences the outstanding quality of these unique sparkling red wines.  Check out her scores in the annual e-book 50 Great Sparkling Wines of the World On her own, she is able to disgorge, clean and label up to 400 bottles per day.

Lobban Wines in 50 Great Sparkling Wines of the World 3Born and educated in microbiology in Scotland, Pamela first worked in the whisky industry and moved into wine production to become a Sparkling Red Wine specialist! Pamela has worked for 15 years as a microbiologist for some of the world’s best-known wineries, from Southcorp and Penfolds in Australia to Chile’s Viña Millaman where she also spent several vintages. After visiting Barcelona and falling in love with the city, Pamela decided to settle here and became a contract winemaker, working on different projects and doing consultant work before setting up her own winemaking project, La Pamelita.

Lobban Wines in 50 Great Sparkling Wines of the World 4Pamela forged her reputation with Spain’s only sparkling red wine, La Pamelita, inspired by her formative years in Australia learning about sparkling wines during her years at Penfolds. This unusual wine is truly an experience to taste, with jammy fruit notes of cherry and spice lifted by the gentle effervescence.  The name of the wine stems from her days in Chile, where people would often call her “Señora Pamela”, a name she felt didn’t quite suit her.  She prefers la Pamelita!  La Rosita, a sparkling rosé named for her niece, and Lobban, another sparkling red whose moniker is a family name on her father’s side, complete her current catalogue of sparkling wines.  Her wines are made with the traditional Champagne method and complexity is developed with up to 36 months on yeast lees.

Lobban Wines in 50 Great Sparkling Wines of the World 6Pamela Geddes is a trailblazer and borderline workaholic.  Her current “under construction” projects include still wines, vermouth Rosso with a focus on unique botanical infusions, and sparkling wines in Chile made with Pinot Noir grapes. She spends part of each year in Chile to sort out blends for a project there with sparkling reds made from Malbec grapes, goes to Scotland each year, and has several projects on the go in Spain with other winemakers.  Somehow amongst all of this jet setting and contributing to these fantastic projects, she always finds her way back to her lovely little winery in the Penedés region of Spain.

Lobban Wines in 50 Great Sparkling Wines of the World 2It is in this small facility that Pamela creates some of the most unique sparkling wines in the world.  These works are award winning, truly artisanal, and impossible to forget.  The entire sparkling process is performed here manually using traditional artisanal techniques and therefore each bottle is an individual and unique hand crafted product.

Lobban Wines in 50 Great Sparkling Wines of the World 8Pamela Geddes is an uncompromising stickler for quality and crafts truly fine wines. She has worked with an artist to create the labels and the artwork on the tops of her wines.  Each cap, cage and – in the case of the Lobban sparkling red – tartan stripe sticker, is placed by Pamela herself.  Pamela produces up to 8,000 bottles per year of sparkling wines of superb quality.  The Wine Pleasures team is inspired by this wine maker’s impressive passion, craftsmanship and skill.

Ayesha Durrani

Get a free copy of 50 Great Sparkling Wines of the World here>>

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

Le Vin du Diable

IWINETC La ChampagneChampagnes’ place in the popular culture originates in the cellars of the Hautvillers’ Benedictine Abbey. Fermentation of wine produced there would stop prematurely due to exposure to low temperatures common to northern France harsh colder seasons. As the spring approached the dormant yeasts enclosed in the seasoning bottles would start consuming sugars again with carbon dioxide as a side effect. Pressure inside the containers would raise eventually leading to severe explosions shattering vast stocks of wine, giving this primitive sparkling wine the nickname: “le vin du diable“.

Cave - JF. MalletHere is where the famous Dom Perignon enters the stage. Widely known as modern champagne’s first propagator he was in fact hired by Hautvillers’ abbot to find a solution to the devastating bubbles problem. Successful as he was in this field hadn’t it been for the English, his name would be forever lost in the tides of history. And perhaps so would be the effervescence which makes champagne an object of universal praise today. English upper-classes – very fond of French wine – would witness the same process of unintended double fermentation as their southern neighbours, but what was seen as an obvious flaw they had forged into a much desired merit.

Champagne Mumm - Reims©CCB-Coll.CDT Marne (3)In 17th century technological advances in Britain enabled production of durable glass bottles in coal-driven ovens. Together with implementation of cork stoppers and scientific approach to fermentation process, the way was open for champagne to take its place in the world of viticulture. In 1662 an English scientist, Christopher Merret, presented his work on wine production describing what today is known as méthode champenoise, the most sophisticated method used in sparkling wine production. But it would be a century more until champagne’s inevitable conquest of European tastes had been complete.

vignoble_2556The champagne spread from the palaces of 18th century aristocrats to engulf most of the continent. As production slowly but constantly shifted to sparkles in north-eastern France the Champagne Houses were founded. With developments of the Industrial Revolution those soon-to-be giants of the wine industry were able storm the holds of the emerging middle-class. Susceptible to Europe’s varying tastes (sweetness levels dropped reasonably for example) champagne has changed a lot. The fashion, upheld by the strict production control forced with introduction of the appellation in early 20th century, drove sales to unprecedented levels. Today, champagne still retains its position as a symbol of things select and exquisite in the popular culture.

Find out more about champage at the International Wine Tourism Conference (IWINETC) by clicking on the Conference programme below:

IWINETC 2015 Conference Front Cover