Cava and Beyond: Sensational Champagne Method Sparkling Wines from Catalonia (Raventos, Recaredo, Can Suriol, Clos Lentiscus)

Share

Over the last two centuries, key advancements in the history of Cava were introduced by a series of innovative heirs to the Raventós name and land. Josep Raventós Fatjó was among the first to produce Método Tradicional (Champagne method) sparkling wines; Manuel Raventós Domènech spearheaded the post-phylloxera (1890s) planting of white grapes suited to top-quality sparkling wine in the calcareous and clay vineyards of Penedès (the Catalonian winegrowing region that would soon become the heart of Cava production); Josep Maria Raventós i Blanc was born at Can Cordoníu in 1922, led the Cava kingpin through massive expansion in the 1970s, and was instrumental in the creation of the Cava Denominación de Origen (DO) before parting ways with Cordoníu to found Raventós i Blanc winery.

Today, the charismatic father-and-son team of Manuel and Pepe Raventós are at the helm of Raventós i Blanc. The family's history and legacy have long been defined by deep care for the land and commitment to the process of making wine sparkle, as well as unceasing innovation against economic and political odds. The quest for quality intensified in 2012, when Pepe Raventós made the controversial decision to part ways with the Cava D.O. in pursuit of the new designation Conca del Riu Anoia, designed to prioritize organic and biodynamic agriculture, native grape varieties, vintage and terroir expression, and a minimum of 18 months aging.

The latter requirement is, perhaps, one of the most interesting with respect to creating true Champagne-caliber wines. The practice of extended aging on the lees, following the second fermentation that fills the bottle of wine with bubbles, is key to the emergent yeasty and savory umami flavors and creamy textures that we seek in Champagnes with some age. (See The Umami of Champagne for more on autolysis and umami flavors: http://bit.ly/1LUWn2o.)

Spanish versions are frequently made in the Brut Nature style, which means that there is no dosage/sweetening agent added after disgorgement. In Champagne, this practice is used to calibrate perfect balance between acidity and other flavors in the wine. A Mediterranean climate creates riper fruit and gentler acidity than in Champagne; consequently, the acidity in the final wine is more likely to be naturally balanced at zero dosage. The best Brut Nature sparklers with age from Spain (whether Conca, Cava, or other) are deeply dry and savory, marked by salty minerality, the aforementioned umami, and broad golden fruit flecked with citrus oils and exotic Mediterranean garrigue and spice. Naturally, they pair seamlessly with the range of delicious savory flavors and ingredients found in Catalan cooking, but are also inspiring matches for a wide range of everday meals -- fried chicken, Asian cuisine, raw foods, and cheeses.

In listing the virtues of these wines, it is crucial to recognize value: organically and biodynamically farmed and released after years of lees-aging, the wines offered today can be enjoyed immediately at prices rivaling or lower than those of many younger, less distinctive Champagnes. In addition to the 2011 de la Finca and 2013 de Nit Rose Concas from Raventos,* we are pleased to offer the following: an excellent pair of Brut Nature Cavas from Recaredo, pioneers in extended lees aging and biodynamic farming; the 2007 Castanyer Brut Nature Cava from another deeply creative, historic, and devoted biodynamic family estate, Can Suriol (one of the finest bargains in Cava); and the flagship wine from two wildly talented and experimental brothers, Manel and Joan Aviñó of Clos Lentiscus. Tasting notes and producer details are below. Enjoy! Ariana Rolich

*Pepe Raventos will join us on Thursday, December 10th, from 5:30 to 7:30 pm for a tsting of 2011 de la Finca and 2013 de Nit (from magnum!), as well as the exceptional 2007 Cuvee Manuel Raventos. We hope to see you then!

Raventós I Blanc 2011 Conca del Riu Anoia Brut "De La Finca"

From 8 plots on the terraces of the Anoia River planted in the '70s and '80s, de la Finca is a thought-provoking and pleasurable blend of the three native white grapes of Penedès: Xarello, Macabeu, and a small amount of Parellada. de la Finca was Brut Nature in 2011, displaying intriguing, developed aromas and flavors commensurate with its 36 months on the lees, alongside youthful energy and bold acidity that indicate many great years ahead in bottle. Aromas of lemon balm, tangy peach skins, golden apple, floral orange water, and savory chicken broth; acid and herbs drive the palate of orange rind, lemon oil, dried apricots, sea brine, salted butter, and metal-tinged minerality. An elegant, powerful, and mouthwatering match for clams with pork sausage or roasted chicken with dark leafy greens, it is positively off the charts with aged hard cheeses. Make sure to stop by on Thursday, December 10th, from 5:30 to 7:30pm to taste this wine with Pepe Raventós himself! Ariana Rolich

  • Out of Stock
  • white sparkling
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $29.99

Raventós I Blanc 2013 Conca del Riu Anoia de Nit Reserva Rosé

Pepe Raventos stepped outside of the Cava appellation in 2012 to create the Conca del Riu Anoia designation, which is committed to prioritizing the area's indigenous varieties, estate fruit, longer elevage, and biodynamic methods. The de Nit rosé was the first Conca wine and continues to sate and impress us with its lively aromas of pert pink lemonade, tart cranberry, and a hint of pepper; the palate is dry and elegant, with refreshing, bright acidity, flavors of strawberry seeds, musky ripe raspberries, and orange zests, flanking the complex saline and mineral core, stemming from Raventos' calcareous soils, rich with marine fossils. This is an incredibly versatile rose sparkling wine for apéritifs, snacks, richer seafood, and spicy fare. Ariana Rolich

  • Out of Stock
  • rosé sparkling
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $22.99

Recaredo 2008 Penedès Brut Nature Cava Gran Reserva

Certified organic in 2004 and biodynamic in 2010, Recaredo’s unparalleled rigor in the vines and cellar alike result in the most elegant, detailed, and expressive Cavas available. Bone dry and languorous, with bubbles as fine as mineral water and deep, stony minerality to match. Chiseled on the nose and palate, with aromas of lime rind, crunchy green apple, rock salt, and orange blossom; crisp peach, icy lime, green almonds, ginger spice, and the longest possible mineral finish with the faintest hint of marzipan. Try this if you love mineral-driven Champagne like Laherte Blanc de Blancs. 50% Xarello, 38% Macabeu, 12% Parellada, biodynamically farmed. Nostalgia for Spanish oysters and delicate young cheeses is activated! Ariana Rolich

  • Out of Stock
  • white sparkling
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $31.99

Recaredo 2010 Penedès Rosat Brut Nature Rosat Brut Nature

It is a genuine treat whenever we have occasion to open a bottle of this alluring rose from Recaredo, hometown heroes in Sant Sadurní d'Anoia for their unflinching rigor in their vines and cellar alike. A deep shimmering garnet in the glass, the 2010 Rosat Intens Brut Nature is a blend of biodynamically farmed Monastrell and Pinot Noir, aged 36 months on the lees under natural cork, hand-riddled and disgorged manually in May 2015. Savory, dark, dry, and earthy enough to stand up to meat dishes, but delicate and playful at the same time, with fresh, fluttery aromas of cherry blossom, sweet cream, soft lavender and wild black raspberry that intensify over glass or two to express rich cassis, sweet smoke and agave; wild and earthy on the palate with wild Mediterranean spice, potent lavender, briary purple fruit, sappy blackberry, coffee, yeasts, and smoky mineral salt. A fascinating study in aged Brut Nature rose. Ariana Rolich

  • Out of Stock
  • rosé sparkling
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $39.99

Clos Lentiscus NV Penedes Xarello Xpressio Brut Nature

A most unusual and ravishing sparkling wine from one of the most special places in the world. Equal parts Xarello and Xarello Vermell from 75-year-old vineyards of in the wild and rocky Garraf national park, farmed organically and biodynamically and made to sparkle via the Champagne method -- with a twist. After fermentation in mini amphorae (26.2 liters) made from clay on the estate, along with larger 300L amphorae and neutral barrels the second fermentation in bottle is spurred by the addition of rosemary honey from the Clos Lentiscus bee hives and reserved native yeasts that were frozen at harvest then thawed. As with the rest of their wines, no SO2 is added at any time. Nutty, salty, creamy, and fresh, with elegant aromas of orange blossom, ginger ale, pistachio-almond paste, and beeswax flowing onto the rich but bone-dry, fruit-driven yet angular palate of golden plum, bitter orange, hazelnut, and sweet cream butter, infused with resinous rosemary honey and the deep, yeasty, salty umami and earth from over 60 months on the lees. (It is vintage 2008, disgorged in February 2014.) Like inhaling a savory, spicy, Xarello cloud, each breath and sip is proof that free and creative minds are at work in this winery. Ariana Rolich

  • Out of Stock
  • white sparkling
  • 0 in stock
  • no discount
  • $59.99