A visit to Juvé y Camps

The winemakers of Juvé y Camps do not have much to complain about in terms of their view from their laboratory. Montserrat is towering in all its glory right outside the window, surrounded by blue skies and green vineyards. Also their test room has the same great view, and we could admire it while we had the opportunity to try their very high quality cavoas along with their winemaker Antonio Orte Vella and export manager Victor Bernabé, this afternoon.

We talked a lot about the different components a base wine needs to have, to make a cava with long storage capabilities. Also my question about what factors that influences the development of the bubbles character got an answer. Unfortunately, this also seems to be a topic under discussion, or at least a question cava producers seem to have many different theories about. Everything from the different grapes verities tendency to give different mousse, the yeast character, the temperature of the wine during the second fermentation, and some other parameters that were so chemically complex that I could not not quite keep up.

Juvé y Camps makes fantastically nice products, but their La Familia (far left in picture), is the most sold. A Cava with great complexity that would fit well with many of our Swedish dishes like elk, and even rain deer. While the Cinta Purpura and Gran (in picture), as well as a rosé and a blanc de noirs (not in photo) were all super nice. I do admit that I just love well aged cavas, and since that is Juvé y Camps speciality, I have really come to the right place!

Victor also told us that their cavas hopefully soon will be available in Sweden, which I really hope!

Now it’s time to pack the bags, so they are ready to be loaded into the car tomorrow to go to the last two visits to Recarerdo and Gramona, before it is off to the airport.

I sincerely hope that we will not have overweight, even though I know that it is a lot of bottles. So keep your fingers crossed!

Feel at home for real at Cal Ruget Biohotel.

In Penedes, there are not many hotels. Naturally, we had problems to find accommodation in Sant Sadurni d’Anoia or in Vila Franca who is also one of the larger villages in the region. Luckily we got a recommendation from a friend at Freixenet, who knows a couple who runs a rural hotel in the middle of the vineyards, overlooking the montain of Montserrat.

Cal Ruget Biohotell  is a great little family hotel run by Veronica, and Florian who are originally from Spain and Germany. They are the friendliest people I ever met and will do anything to make their guests feel welcome and at ease. One can not wish for anything better!

Veronica, and Florian has a wonderful garden where they grow all kinds of vegetables and fruits, including olives (of which they make their own fantastic olive oil), grapes, almonds, tomatoes, lettuce, peppers and much more.

Not only do they have their own vegetables, they also have great kitchen where they cook wonderful food, so there is no reason to go out in some restaurant. Rarely have I eaten so fresh and well prepared food. This great food combined with incredible wines from the region and of course cava, makes the stay here top notch!

Not only do you be treated with great food and drink, but you can also relax in the pool and cool off in while you admire the beautiful landscape of mountains and vineyards, since the hotel is located amidst the vineyards. But I do not know whether to call it a hotel, even though it is… since the coziness and friendliness here is quite different than you might expect in an ordinary hotel. It is almost like visiting friends. In addition, Veronica, and Florian are incredibly interested in wine and cava and can arrange winery visits wherever in the region you desire.

I can not talk warmly enough about Cal Ruget, for a nicer place I can not imagine!
I have already booked another week in the spring when my husband and I will come back, of course to relax but also to do a lot of winery visits. Who needs charter and allinclusive when you have Cal Ruget Biohotel, with pool, sun, vines, fantastic food and unbelievable good wine every day? Moreover, it takes only 40 minutes to drive here from Barcelona and you are right in the heart of “cava country”.

I wish all my friends a relaxing week with Veronica, and Florian, with interesting cava visits and nice food. If you want to go by yourself, you come with us this spring, for they have room for twenty people.

 

An other day in the world of cava! Vilarnau, Codorníu and Parés Baltà

Up early, quick breakfast and shower before the we went back to Vilarnau to look more carefully at how the automated harvest is done, because now it was time for Parellada. The machines are extremely efficient and shakes the grapes that are collected in large containers on the harvester’s roof.

The machine has legs on either side of the rows. Two bands within the legs of the machine shakes the grapes quickly but gently so that the grapes come off. What remains is the stem of the grape that is completely intact. The stem then dries up and then falls off during the autumn.

When the harvester is full, it goes to a waiting tractor with trailer and empties it’s harvest. After which the tractor can go to the press, which in this case is located fifty meters from the vineyard.

At Vilarnau they cool the grapes to about fifteen degrees in a special cooling system before they press them. This is to preserve the aromas and acidity in the best way and to prevent oxidation.

After the quick visit in the morning, we went to Codorniu, which is the second largest cava producers in Spain with its production of about 40 mil bottles a year.

Codorniu is known worldwide for their very special building which in it’s architecture resembles a small cathedral.

Codornius basement is incredibly long and the oldest parts are crooked and over a hundred years old.

 

What is fascinating about Codorniu is that they do not have modern automated gyro-palettes despite their great production, but instead they have a kind of old-fashioned full manual swings, which does the task of getting the yeast collected on the cork.
Codornius winemaker Bruno Colmar Marti met up with us after the tour, for a tasting in the old house of the famliy Raventós. The family has a great interest in art and on the walls hang a lot of the paintings that were Codornius early marketing.

It’s always very exciting to hear the wine makers thoughts about their products and what work that is behind the compositions. Bruno is an incredibly nice and kind man, who when I told him about my upcoming adventure on Saturday with the Stockholm Half Marathon, told me that he had run the Chicago marathon last year and cried of joy when he reached the finish line. Although his experiences of running in Stockholm during a visit to Sweden during the winter, had not been as enjoyable. But this rather because it was so cold and he only had brought shorts and t-shirt with him. That’s what I wear at home when I run, he said cheerfully.

We thanked him so much for the visit and promised to come back soon.

Our second visit for the day was Pares Balta. Here we met Barbara who took us up to the highest lying vineyards at 750 meters above sea level Here the grow pinot noir, chardonnay, Parellada and Grenache, which all has a different flavor concentration than those growing in the valley. The vineyards on the mountain are small and follow each other in irregular terraces as the hight increases. Barbara told us that on the top of the mountain live the odd Russian millionaire who tried to buy a nearby vineyard, belonging Pares Balta, to make room for a guest parking, but without luck.

Back in the cellars and offices, we tried the caves of the house. Mild and balanced with a very soft mousse throughout the portfolio. However, we left with their Rosé (not shown) and their Cuvée de Carol (far left) which had left an extra imprint, guaranteeing them a place in our suitcase home.

 

The house also have still wines that are of a very high quality. Their wines from Priorat, for example, was just amazing for only 20 Euro.

Well worth a visit if you ever are in the region!

To visit four cava producers in one day is hard work!

It’s harvest time in the Penedès. It is from August until now everything happens, and it is this all the producers and grape frames have waited for. The grape presses are working all night long and everyone is doing their outmost to get the grapes home as quickly as possible. I myself am totally exhausted after a day with visits to four cava producers, with lots of information and a very high tempo.

We started this morning with Segura Viudas which is one of the larger houses. Something special with Segura Viudas is that they ensure that all their grapes are harvested by hand, whether it’s their own vineyards or their contracted farmers. On the road, the following days,  we meet tractor after tractor with the clearly marked twenty-five kg boxes marked clearly with the name of Segura Viudas. The reason for using the small boxes is to avoid the grapes from being crushed, since the grapes then starts to oxidate, leaving a brown must which does not measure up to the quality standards.

In the thirty-degree heat (even at ten o’clock), we went up along one of the vineyards edges where the harvest of Macabeu were being rounded up. It was not easy to find the harvest workers since they work quickly and swapped their picking place when we arrived. But in the end we found the ten men who was harvesting the grapes, all dressed in blue almost looking like a brigade of Smurfs.

The boxes are loaded onto trucks and driven to the press, where they go through seven different quality controls including measuring the acidity, the future alcoholic strength, and other parameters to detect the unauthorized  use pesticides on the grapes during the year.

What is left after pressing is the whole stem, and pips that are either used as natural fertilizer or sent on to the cosmetics industry that extracts the grape seed oil, which apparently  contain antioxidants and other utilities.

Then we went to Freixenet, the world’s largest producer of sparkling wine with 130 million bottles a year. Freixenet has also been the producer who has been at the forefront of technology development which has helped the other producers in the region.

The capacity is huge at Freixenet and their 10 tanks á 600 000 liters each, and their six tanks á 1.2 million liters enables Freixenet to keep the huge volumes of their production.

One of the building’s inventions are the gyropalette, and the modernizing of the same. Instead of taking about one week to remove the yeast after the second fermentation, it is taking these swinging gyro-palettes only 60 minutes, which is absolutely fantastic and obviously it’s a key to the company’s effective production.

After Freixenet we went to the smaller house of Vilarnau. They have only one available cava brut in Sweden, which is sad for us because they have a tremendously visionary  winemaker named Eva. She is experimenting with new grapes and new wood barrels, which hopefully will lead to exciting products in the future.

Here we also got to see traces of machine-picked grapes. Unlike hand-picking, where the whole bunch is harvested, the machine takes only the grapes and leaves the stalk on the vine, which almost looks a little scary. The naked grape stem remains hanging on the vine and within weeks they have almost withered away.

Tomorrow we shall return in the morning to see how it actually looks like when the mechanical harvesters which will be exciting.

Behind the Villarnau building the two year old “kitesurfing course” is situated. But instead of being wind dependent, this one is run on a wire. It looked amazingly nice in the heat, when the designer of the kitesurfing track himself, was  practicing tricks in the ramp.

Apparently the others who work at Vilarnau, sometimes use the track after work, even if all do not engage in the most advanced jumps and tricks.

On the way home, we popped in to the small family producer Nadal, where the owner was kind enough to open up for us, and allowed us to try his portfolio of caves. And from here we also bought his botrytisized dessert wine made ​​from one hundred percent macaque rapes, which we had never tried before. Different, but amazingly good.

After a fantastic dinner and review of the photos from the day, I am now so tired after all the impressions that I wonder how I will make room for more information. How nice, informative, exciting and fun it is to visit the producers, it is also incredibly intense and leaves me with a weariness that you just get when you have stuffed your brain full of information that the brain has not really had time to sort through and assimilate. But a few hours of sleep does the trick, and then we will be ready for a new day of cava!

 

 

The afternoon with Pere Ventura

Pere Ventura is a very young house that has been about twenty years in the market. But in this short time they have developed into an export success and is now available in 35 countries.

We were welcomed and taken care of Christian, who surprised us very much by greeting us in Swedish! After working in sweden for some years he had now returned to Spain.


After a tour of the vineyards we went down into the great wine cellars, where 3.5 million bottles can be stored at the same time. Not only are the cellars beautiful, but they also  have a very large  vinotek where they store all their vintages for reference. The vinotek has the design of a church, and with its lighted candles it is like a temple dedicated cava. Here, we also took be a part of their tradition to drink their oldest cava from all new glasses, after which we smashed them against the stone floor while at the same time wishing for something for ourselves and everything sounding us. I think we did everything correctly so now we’ll see what happens …

It has been a very interesting and busy day and when we finally came to our small family hotel in the countryside with their two beagles and fantastic home-grown vegetables , we felt calm again. Tomorrow awaits Segura Viuda, Freixenet and Vilarnau, so now it’s just to crawl into bed!