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.
The 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.
The 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.
We 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.
We 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 really 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.
Thousands 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!
Last 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.
Our 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!
Then 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.
All in all, it was a fantastic day and I love my job!