It is amazing to listen to all the producers we meet. They know their vineyards inside out and know exactly how they want their cava to taste in the end. The vast majority are of the opinion that their cava is best young and fresh, since they are of the opinion that the traditional grapes are not suitable for any longer storage. But there are exceptions. Agusti Torello Mata (who we visited on Monday), with their cult cava Kripta. Also the houses Recaredo and Gramona have a tradition and unwavering philosophy that the fruit from their vineyards expresses itself best after a long time in the cellars, and here we are talking about six to ten years and sometimes longer. And the result is fantastically tasty, healthy and fresh cavas, which from the storage get a complexity and character, which is something very special.
At Recaredo we met Ton Mata Moliner, grandson of the man who in 1924 started to make cava under his own house name. Ton is now the person responsible for the business, and with the rest of the family he continues to work according to the tradition his grandfather started.
It's no big house, with approximately 50 hectares of vineyards. But they are comfortable with their size, since this allows them to focus one hundred percent on doing everything by hand, and to give the vineyard as much time as they feel they need. And really, I have never seen so beautiful and well kept vineyards.
Ton says that they grow all their grapes organically, but adds that they focus on the earth and not quite as much on the moon's movements, although it also comes into play. He adds happily that although he was skeptical at first, but has now changed his mind since they need no longer use treatments on the vineyards, since diseases and insect pests do not seem to take hold any longer.
One of the most beautiful vineyards we visit, is consisting of one hectare of seventy year old Xarel.lo vines.
This single acre with its incredibly individual personal vines, are annually give about 3000-4000 kg of grapes, from which it is then made about 3000 bottles of cava. This is also the cava that the house treasure most, precisely because it comes from this particular vineyard. In addition, Recaredo is storing this cava, which they call Turó d'en Mota, for at least 100 months! And the bottle we had the great honor to taste had been stored for 125 months, and was certainly one of the most concentrated and flavorful cavas I have ever tasted.
I asked Ton about his opinion as to whether it is appropriate that consumers store cava in their own homes. Yes, it is no problem, he said, as long as it is the right conditions, that is, an colder temperature, dark, and vibration-free.
In 2003 they had tested one of their cavas of the 1979 vintage, it had been disgorged in 1986, ie 17 years after the disgorgement and it was fantastic, still fresh and balanced, and not at all flat and boring. So our customers are welcome to save our cavas for a long time if they so wish, says Ton.
After our meeting with at Recaredo I am more convinced than ever that all cava producers have their own philosophy and experience. Every single one is right when it comes to their own products and vines, because no one knows their vineyards and the products better then themselves. One single rule or philosophy does not apply to everyone.
It is the last day of the Gramona harvest in 2011 and the company's head of house, Jaume, has a full schedule. Despite this, he takes the time to meet us before he is off to the traditional lunch he arranges for all of their harvest workers, who he also promised a subsequent water fight, which had obviously been long awaited.
Gramona like Recaredo is a house that stores its cavas long, and has never seen any problems with this. In addition, Gramona has a dulce (a sweet cava) in its standard portfolio, making them the only house I've ever met who has this and is proud of it. Jaume also tells a funny story about this very special cava. When Jaume's father was head of the house he thought that the times had change and the tastes on the market was leaning towards the drier cavas, so he planned to remove the sweet dulce from production. When he talked about his plans to his mother, who had this cava as her favorite she threatened to disinherited him, which had not been good as it was the great vineyards that were in question. He continued to produce the sweet cava, and when he got older he developed the same tastes as his mother, and is now himself drinking the Gran cuvée de Postre. Yes says Jaume, I will surely be like them because I already have a preference for sweet wines.
He also tells excitedly about the very satisfactory harvest of 2011, and on their projects with their "ice-wine", and late harvest wines that he makes on chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and gewurstraminer.
When Jaume then hurries off to lunch, we continue our tour with Ana Lopes Lidon showing us around the winery and telling us about the philosophy of the long-stored cavoras and says that it is the houses of Gramona, Recaredo and Agusti Torello Mata which accounts for the long-stored cavas but that only Recaredo and Gramona still do all the handling by hand.
Down in the tank room, we get to taste the base wines that are truly fantastically fruity and fresh. Especially the Macabeu and xarel.lo are grapes that are easy to recognize now, after a while when we have had time to familiarize ourselves with them a bit from scratch.
Ana says that Gramona always have more or less of a wine stored in a solerasystem (in the below picture) in their dosage, which gives a little extra character to their cavas.
We are walking up the hill from Gramona, and with three bottles of cava under her arm brought from the basement, Ana steps into the restaurant and happily greet the staff. There are tapas for lunch that we will try with the cavas. We eat carpaccio on cod, coconut ice cream, steak with olive oil and zuchini and some other things, all lovely.
Satisfied and happy we drive after Ana who takes us all the way to Barcelona Airport, where she brakes in the middle of the road turns on the hazard lights to come over to us for the a goodbye hug. Then she jumps into her car again, waving cheerfully and with her dark hair fluttering, steering towards the beach house and friends waiting outside of Barcelona.
We rejoice in a FANTASTIC week, concerned about our over weight bags and are still blissfully unaware that our plane will be three hours late ...