Cava in Penedes
A short train ride from Barcelona and you are in the Penedes area of Catalonia. 95% of all cava (sparking wine) is produced in this region of Spain. Regardless of whether you like the stuff, it´s a beautiful place to visit and take a tour or two.
We chose Cava Rovellats, partly because it´s smaller and partly because they give tours in English. We both speak a tad of Spanish but the in-laws, who hooked up with us from a cruise don´t.
Entering the main bodega building is stepping back in time. It´s a small museum with origins dating back to the 15th century and houses old advertising posters, antique bottles and other items all above the 12 meter deep caves where wine is aged. Interestingly, Rovellats was the first bodega to base it´s caves on a radial design. The bodega includes a chapel of the Virgin of Montserrat with a reproduction identical in size, although our tour guides shared they believe the face is slimmer.
I happened upon the winemaker passing by stainless fermentation tanks. Being inquisitive I marched up to him. He was measuring density of the wine, a way of assessing sugar in the juice. I couldn´t turn down an offer to taste it! A sweet white grape juice with a tad of effervescence, it was tangy like grapefruit reminding me of the German neuwein– young wine that is partially fermented and immediately drank. He then took me for a gaze into to the top of the tank. Fermentation was starting. The juice looked like busy bees humming in a hive.
We tasted two cavas; Brut Rose and 2006 Gran Reserva Brut Nature. The Gran Reserva is made with 60% Xarel·lo and blended with Macabeu and Parellada grapes. The aroma was one of granny smith apples joining the palate with dry toasted almonds. This was a clean sparkler with a refined taste and small glorious bubbles. It´s hint of yeast smelled like yeast melting in warm water when making bread. It was aged sur lie (the spent yeast, or yeast that dies off falls to and remains at the bottom of the aging vessel).
The rose, made primarily with granacha (grenache) and a hint of Monastrell smelled and tasted of raspberries and blackberries. It was bright on the palate like taking a drink of cold mineral water when expecting still water. Quite worthy.
Our tour and tasting lasted three hours. We ended up socializing, finding out the regular English guide was on vacation. The bodega manager didn´t speak English so she invited her two English speaking daughters and a boyfriend of one.
This was one of those great traveling experiences; our hosts kind, funny and generous (they opened a second bottle of Brut Grand Reserva we all enjoyed while talking). We left with bottles and memories.