Part 2 of my visit to Vilarnau – Amphoras, chestnut barrels and tasting the cavas

Dec 11, 14 Part 2 of my visit to Vilarnau – Amphoras, chestnut barrels and tasting the cavas

Posted by in All, Spain, Sparkling Wine

Yesterday I visited cava producer Vilarnau in Penedes, Spain (post here).   After my tour of the grounds and winery, it was time for a tasting of their cavas. As we were walking through the cellar to the tasting room, we passed by a collection of clay vases that were sitting under a set of spotlights. Curious, I asked my guide, Vilarnau winemaker Eva Plazas Torné, if they were some sort of archeology display. With a laugh, she explained that they were actually an experiment that they was currently conducting with the xarello grape. Eva explained to me that she was experimenting with fermentation in amphora made from the various soils of Penedes. I asked her if it she had gotten the idea from the Georgians but she told me that she had gotten the idea from a local potter that she knew, she liked his work and asked him if he could make amphora for her. Her idea is to make amphora from the  different soils of Penedes and ferment the xarello in a distinct amphora to see how the fermentation goes. Already, Eva says that one of the xarello’s (the one in the amphora mostly composed of clay) has almost finished malo while the others have changed to different degrees but not gone through malo. Eva hopes to find the best soil for the amphora and ferment the xarello in it. If things go to plan, she’s hopes to use 300 litre amphora next year. The experimental amphora this year are only 15 litres.  After fermentation in the amphora, she would than do the second ferment in bottle. It will be interesting to see how/if this experiment is successful. As for Eva, she admitted that she’s just as curious as me to see how it will turn out. Almost directly in front of the amphora was another experiment of Vilarnau, chestnut barrels. Eva explained that in the region a hundred years ago,they used to use chestnut instead of oak for barrel aging when...

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What’s the difference between cava and champagne? I found out during a visit to Vilarnau Cavas

Dec 10, 14 What’s the difference between cava and champagne? I found out during a visit to Vilarnau Cavas

Posted by in All, Spain

The world of sparkling wine is many and varied and although I have largely confined myself to the pleasures of champagne, sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone. So I was game to visit the cava producer Vilarnau whilst I am spending time here in Barcelona. Cava has recently overtaken both champagne and prosecco in the UK marketplace so they must be doing something right. And so, Vilarnau was my first stop in discovering the world of cava. The Vilarnau winery is situated in the heart of Penedes, right outside the town of Sant Sadurni, a short 40 minute train ride from central Barcelona. The winery sits on rolling hills with the mountains of Montserrat as a backdrop to the vines. The day I visited it was a blustery day so we had a clear view of the mountains. Vilarnau was bought by Gonzalez Byass in 1982 and with the considerable resources that GB has, they have completely modernized Vilarnau. The new winery was inaugurated in 2005 and with the help of automation and a robotic ‘helper’ by the name of Manuelito (more on him later) they are able to produce 1.2 million bottles of cava a year with only a staff of 13 and they are considered a medium sized producer. Pretty impressive. One of the two enologists of the winery, Eva Plazas Torné was my guide for the afternoon. Eva first started by telling me about the differences and similarities between cava and champagen. I was keen to know as cava is made in  the traditional methode. Firstly, there are 3 main varieties in cava – xarello, macabeo and parellada. However, they are also allowed to use subirat parent (an old variety that was used in the past and similar to malvasia) chardonnay and pinot noir and for the rosés, they can use indigenous grapes – trapat, monestrell and garnatxa as well as pinot noir. Like champagne,the wine goes through 2 fermentations, the first usually in tank, the second in the...

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Loving this cava – Reina Maria Cristina 2008 blanc de noir

Dec 28, 11 Loving this cava – Reina Maria Cristina 2008 blanc de noir

Posted by in Spain, Sparkling Wine

I usually stick to champagne but I did have this fabulous cava on Christmas Day. Codorniu is probably better known for it’s everyday cavas but the Reina Maria Cristina 2008 blanc de noirs cuvee is a contender for best sparkling wine (non-champagne) of the year in my book. The Reina is named after a queen (reina means queen in Spanish) and is worthy of such a moniker. Spain’s first 100% blanc de noir and produced in the traditional method, the 2008 vintage is Codorniu’s premium cava. The grapes used in the blend all come from family owned vineyards and the wine is aged 18-24 months before being released onto the market. A deliciously elegant wine, tiny bubbles shooting up from the bottom of the glass and into my mouth. Soft and silky  (if it’s possible to say that about bubbles) swooshing past my tongue on the way down. A decadent cava if ever there was one, full of subtle red fruit and floral aromas on the nose with a crisp finish. The Maria Cristina is probably one of the best cavas I’ve had in a long time. It also helps that the cava is packaged in a very distinctive, sexy bottle. It’s very pleasing to my aesthetic sense with it’s squarish bottom half tapering up to a heavy rim. I’d be very happy to drink this on New Year’s Eve and at £14.99 you could have it more often than once a year. Much more often! Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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Freixenet Elyssia Gran Cuvee for the holidays

Dec 19, 11 Freixenet Elyssia Gran Cuvee for the holidays

Posted by in Spain, Sparkling Wine

Although I do tend to go on about champagne, I occasionally drink other sparkling wines. Freixenet sent me the Elyssia Gran Cuvee and the Elyssia Pinot noir, their premium cavas as an economical alternative to champange. I have tried the Elyssia pinot noir in the past and was left a bit wanting but I think they may have tweaked it a bit and this time around, it was definitely much fruitier then before. It’s made from 100% pinot noir and there was plenty of strawberry and raspberry on the nose and palate. It would make a good party aperitif, rosy sparkles around this time of year are always appreciated. The Gran Cuvee was a bit different. I hadn’t tried it before although I have had the Freixenet Cordon Negro in the past and I do enjoy cava. The Gran Cuvee is an interesting blend of macabeo, parelleda, chardonnay and pinot noir. A charming cava, sparkly, gently bubbles, with orange blossom and elderflower on the nose and palate, it was very easy to drink and great with dinner. I could however, have drunk this on it’s own. Both are good economical alternatives to champagne this holiday season. If you can only afford champagne for Christmas or New Years, at least you have a very good Spanish alternative for the rest of the holiday season in the Elyssia cavas. Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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Catalan Cooking with Codorniu

Tapas are extremely popular here in London but Spanish cuisine has a lot more to offer then jamon y queso. Rachel McCormack feels it’s her mission to bring the “other” cuisines of Spain to London. To that end, she has set up her own small cooking classes, called Catalan Cooking. Roughly twice a month, Rachel takes over the normally sweet tooth haven of Bea’s of Bloomsbury’s and transforms it into a Catalan cuisine inspired cafe. Rachel is of Scottish origin but spent her formative years (read: her 20’s) kicking around Catalonia, mostly in Barcelona where she “…caught the Catalonian obsession with food…” as she says.  There she took every opportunity to hang out with the mama’s in their kitchens, learning their secrets, visiting markets and restaurants and generally soaking up as much as she could about the Catalan cuisine. She’s teamed up with former executive chef of Asia de Cuba, Franz Schinagl, who also runs his own supper club out of Bea’s,  to not only bring a taste of Catalan to us Londoners but also show us how to do it.   Our menu was expertly matched by the Spanish cava makers Codorniu and featured some of their very best cava. My favourite of the evening has to be the 2008 Reina Cristina Blanc de Noirs. It is their top of the line and was created in 1997 to honour the Queen Regent Maria Cristina who gave Codorniu their royal warrant in 1897. The 2008 Blanc de noir is the first Spanish blanc de noir and comes from some of the oldest pinot noir vineyards in Spain. An elegant sparkler, it has plenty of subtle fruity notes and bouncy bubbles while at the same time not being too aggressive on the tongue. It was served with our main course(s) and was delicious with our samples of all 7 dishes. Through out the evening we were able to sample Codorniu’s range of cavas and Rachel will be serving this menu up again along with the...

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