Working for a big wine merchant does have it’s advantages. Tuesday night the company invited the winemakers from Grupo Codorniu to come down and have a chat and informal tasting with us. There were about 25 of us from various London based shops.
Grupo Codorniu is a Spanish owned and operated winery group based in northeast Spain, although they do have holdings in Argentina and Napa Valley as well. Codorniu is one of the big boys in cava production. Cava (Catalan for “cellar”)is produced the same way as champagne but can’t be called champagne because you know how those Champenois are, they’d start howling bloody murder about copyright infringement and the lawsuits would be flying thick and fast.
Codorniu have been in the wine biz since the 1500’s but have “only” been making cava since the 1870’s. They were one of the pioneers in the commercialization of Spanish sparkling wine and have recently brought in a whole new winemaking team to improve their products. One of the changes they’ve made is an overhaul of their bottle design. Very sexy now. There’s something almost primal about the design of the bottle that compels you to pick it up, the slender neck, the way it flares out at the bottom and the sleek feel beneath your fingers. I’m not the only one who’s had this reaction to the bottle design. I’ve heard quite a few comments in the shop regarding that. Kudos to the bottle designer on that one.
Back to what’s INSIDE the bottle. In Spain, the main varieties used are indigenous – xarello, macabo and parellada. Recently, they’ve started using chardonnay and pinot noir although they are again prevented by EU law from putting pinot noir on the label except for pinot rose. The Tasting: Condesa Blanca Cava is their entry level sparkling. Light and fruity, big bubbles that disappeared fairly quickly, lots of green apple and pears with a hint of nuts and toast on the finish. I was pleasantly surprised at how good this was, esp. since it retails for about £5.
The next one up is their most popular cava in Spain – the Codorniu Reserva Raventos Brut. Reserva does have a legal definition in Spain, it must be aged on the lees for 15 months. Gran Reserva has to be aged on the lees for 30 months. The Reserva is 60% chardonnay and from a single vintage. It was richer and fuller with more of a toasty, briochy nose. On the palate, aggressive bubbles, a bit earthy with lots of lovely green apple and citrus. This one retails for about £9.
A sparkling rose, Codorniu Pinot Noir Rosado Brut, was next up and it was fab. 100% pinot noir. A very light, refreshing sparkler. It was redolent of strawberries and raspberries, like walking thru a raspberry patch. And the taste was more of the same but not sweet, as a matter of fact it was quite dry, just what you want in a sparkling rose. Small perpetual bubbles on this one. Another excellent value at £6 for a bottle.
The last two were fantastic! First up, the Codorniu Reina Maria Cristina Brut Reserva Vintage. 50% chardonnay, remainder local varieties, single vintage, 18-24 months in bottle before release. A very soft, delicate, rounded sparkler. The bubbles weren’t aggressive, rather petite and dainty. They seemed to loll about in my mouth taking their time before slipping down. On the palate it was a lovely blend of apples and pears with a touch of lemon on the finish. Delicious! Unfortunately, it’s not available in the UK – natch!
The last one was their limited production Jaume de Codorniu Brut. Again 50% chard, 50% native. This wine was all about fruit selection and is always made from a single vintage. Bruno, the winemaker, told us that each bunch was hand selected to go into this blend and fermented to very exact specifications. He said some other stuff but I was too busy drinking it to really
pay attention. Needless to say, this is their pride and joy. Named after the founder of the company, Jaume Codorniu. The wine’s aged for 18-24 months in bottle before release. This one had a very distinctive nose of spice, brioche, and biscuits with hints of apple and green fruits coming thru at the end. Quite a complex nose compared to the previous offerings. On the palate, very fine persistent bubbles with toast, baked green apple and a slight nuttiness all rolling around my mouth. It ended with a slightly honeyed finish that seemed to go on for a very long time. A great sparkling wine and one that I would buy for a special occasion, still cheaper then branded champagne, retailing for about £20 a bottle.
After the sparklers we had the still red and white wines to taste but I’ll blog that later. Right now I think I’ll open that Codorniu rose I have in the fridge.