One of the great things about Spanish wines is that there is almost always an interesting story – behind a particular wine, or portfolio of wines, the winemaker or the bodega itself. Sometimes, the story is about all of the above, and on many occasions the story starts in the past.

So, it was a multifaceted pleasure to visit the Gramona Sparkling Wine stand at the very recent, in fact, inaugural Barcelona Wine Week. Gramona is now part of the Corpinnat organisation but, having been founded in the 1850s, it has a long standing tradition of making fizz, mostly under the auspices of DO Cava.

I was lucky to visit at a time when family member, Leonard Gramona, was available to chat – an honour, and particularly interesting too, as he told me the story behind Gramona’s reputation for making top quality, long aged Sparkling Wine. And, although nothing like old enough to have been around then, it’s clear that the story has passed from one generation to the next!

1936 was, of course, a dreadful year for Spain. The Civil War was an awful time in so many ways and was then followed, of course, by the privations of the World War Two. A truly catastrophic period in history and a human tragedy, of course.

It was also an extremely worrying time for business generally, including the wine business. With no way of knowing what was going to happen, given the  number of players in the Spanish Civil War, but fearing the worst, the Gramona wine family took the courageous step of deciding to hide most of their production of Cava, from all of the factions which were likely to steal/destroy it. Readers perhaps know that a similar story took place, a few years later in the famous wine producing areas of France when Nazi Germany invaded.

It must have been an extremely stressful time for those who took this step – invaders don’t take kindly to being made a fool of, so who knows what punishments would have been  handed out if the Gramonas’ deception had been discovered! Fortunately for them (and nowadays, for us too!) it wasn’t and when they felt it safe to return to the hidden cellars they discovered that the fizz that had aged, untouched for at least four years, was of an outstanding quality! A concept was born!

Considering the above, it’s no surprise to learn that Gramona’s entry level sparkling wine, their best seller, has been aged for a grand 56 months (ok, I’ll do the maths for you – that’s over four and half years, biding its time in the now free to access cellars!). Made with Xarel.lo, Macabeo, Chardonnay and a tiny amount of Parellada, Gramona Brut Imperial retains that essential freshness that we all expect from fizz, but also has extra body and complexity, with more than just the beginnings of mature aroma and flavour profiles. An excellent start to the whole portfolio!

There’s another historical reference to the next wine I tasted, though it’s only the name that is taken from Roman times! III Lustros is a wine that has been aged for seven years – so long I can hardly work out the number of months, which is how fizz aging is usually noted! (Lustros means a period of five in Latin, and means that within this range there may be wines yet to come that have aged for 15 years!).

III Lustros is made with Xarel.lo and Macabeo, but is a Brut Nature, in fact the style of Spanish fizz that I like most. Again, it’s fresh, this time with a little more acidity, making it such a perfect match for canapés, seafood and check out oysters too!

This superb sparkling wine is made using not just organic farming, but also biodynamic principles – which, of course, take into consideration the sustainability of the soil, and the welfare of the creatures that live in it, for future generations. The bubbles are the finest, the elegance on the palate, in some ways defies its weight, though its presence in the mouth means it will be happy to be paired with light meats as well as fish, and shellfish, plus, it’s as long as you like on the finish. Superb!

Celler Batlle 2010 Brut, though at the lowest end of the residual sugar spectrum, has had more than 8 years resting on its lees, gaining maturity, complexity and different flavours and aromas. It’s at a venerable age and yet still speaks of its youth in its delightful freshness – a common trait with all Gramona wines, and a crucial element of all quality fizz.

You’ll find herbs on the nose, some mineral notes too along with ripe orchard fruits and a blanched nutty note, with some sprightly citrus whispers as well. It’s a taste and aroma sensation, allowing the taster to drift away on a magic carpet of pure pleasure. Yes, it will pair brilliantly with fish, shellfish, oysters again and whiter meats – chicken and turkey (if you feel like splashing out next Christmas . . . !), as well as pork, all with and without sauces.

But this stunning sparkling wine is just wonderful to drink on its own, with your best friends and family.

NB this article first appears in the morning of 14th February (you know where I’m going here!), there is time to nip out to a fine wine shop now, buy one of the Gramona range, chill it down during the day – and start your romantic Valentine’s night in real style! Twitter @colinonwine  Facebook Colin Harkness

Llopart Sparkles!


When I first wrote about this winery, nearly four years ago, I titled it Cavas Llopart. My guess is that many readers will know why I give it a different title for this later article – yes, Llopart is one of the wineries which last year left DO Cava, to join the new enterprise, Corpinnat.

You’ll also know that I’ve written about the why and wherefore of the parting of the ways of another eight prestigious bodegas, so I don’t intend to do similarly here. Instead, I’m going to write about another of the impressive wineries to sign up for the Corpinnat logo. My first experience of Llopart in 2016 was a very positive one, so I was certain that when I was sent, before Christmas, a sample of their fizz, now termed simply ‘Spanish Sparkling Wine’, I wasn’t going to be disappointed.

Two reasons – it’s the same winery, making excellent products; plus it has passed all the stringent quality control tests set by the Corpinnat company. Easy!

Grapes have been grown on Llopart land since at least 1385 – a document has been discovered which proves this, but it wasn’t until 1857 that the Llopart family wine business actually started. Llopart was one of the first to produce Cava in the area and the 4th and 5th generation of the family are doing the same today, albeit by another name!

Llopart sparkling wines are very well known in the area of Cataluña but, as production is limited from this relatively small winery, they are not so well known in the rest of Spain, or indeed in the world. Only 15% of their production is exported, most of the rest is sold in Cataluña, often to the discerning restaurant trade. However, the quality of their products is such that they should be extremely well known – it’s outstanding fizz!

As part of my mission to find out more about Corpinnat and their portfolio of wineries and, of course, their products, I asked if any of the members would be prepared to send me a sample, so I could taste and write about it for readers. You’ve already read of others, so here is my opinion of Llopart’s offering.

Firstly – they didn’t mess about, wading in with a biggie, and without any fuss. Llopart Leopardi Brut Nature is one of their flagship sparklers. Like their whole range, it’s a limited production wine – there simply aren’t enough of the old vines that give of their best for this splendid fizz!

The Corpinnat group prefer to talk of their bare minimum ageing time of 18 months (twice as long as that of Cava, incidentally); and then of their sparkling wines of a minimum of 30 months; and then of 60 months plus! In ‘old money’, i.e. according to Cava rules, a Reserva must have had a minimum of 15 months ‘en rima’, ageing, and for Gran Reserva that is extended to 30, minimum.

In fact Lleopardi exceeds that minimum by another 18 months, meaning that this fine wine has been ageing in the caves beneath the winery for a minimum of four years! Effectively it’s therefore, to coin a phrase, Gran Gran Reserva! However, like all of the best fizzes, it retains that freshness and vitality of youth, despite its great age.

Made with 40% each of Macabeo and Xarel.lo, with a further 10% each of Parellada and Chardonnay, the wine enjoys the benefits that each variety brings to the blend. There’s a racing acidity, provided by the fresh green apple notes of the Macabeo; the Xarel.lo and Chardonnay combined give body and depth to the wine, a flavoursome fullness; and the Parellada adds, for me at least, some of the ripe pear notes that are often a part of Spanish sparkling wine character, with elegance and an understated floral note too.

The colour is a pale gold and the bubbles are fine, rising quickly to the top of the glass, breaking the surface just where your nose is waiting to take in the aromas of the above and, of course, the mature aromas associated with its age. I would simply love to enjoy this Llopart sparkling wine with oysters, with the salty spray of the seafood being calmed by the volume and complexity of the wine. Lovely, and no surprise!

Well done Llopart, please keep up the good work!

NB My next radio programme is Tuesday 4th Feb, 5pm – 6pm, talking Wines for Valentine’s!

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The Top Ten!


So, without further ado, here, in reverse order, are my Top Ten wines of the year!

10. Rós, Rosé wine from Bodegas Tandem (in collaboration with Lynn Coyle MW) – an immediate, though slight aroma of ripe red, slightly fluffy apples, as I brought the glass to my nose. An interesting start! This fleeting first note was joined by a floral presence – you can guess which flower, the rose of course, though a red rose rather than pink. Some fruit notes joined the party – a little rhubarb, whose un-sugared acidity followed through to refresh the palate, though soon to be replaced by the overriding blend of pink grapefruit with some slightly under ripe raspberries!

9. Gamonal 2016, Viñedos y Bodegas Pardevalles, single estate wine made from the variety, Prieto Picudo, harvested by hand. Fermentation and macerations occur over a 14 -18 day period, allowing the skins to give off some of their dark colour to the finished wine, as well as tannin, aroma and flavour, with a certain brightness in the glass too. French and American oak aged and stored in the 300 year old cellars, each imparting a touch of vanilla and a toasty note too. After time blackberry fruit is firstly noticed, with some timid blackcurrant, stony minerality, again understated, with a little mountain herb. There are floral whiffs going on and an undercurrent of liquorice too.

8. *‘Vino Flor’, white wine from Pepe Mendoza Casa Agricóla, made in a way similar to Sherry, it’s no wonder I found an aroma, and to an extent, the taste, of ‘en rama’ sherry, as well as some lemony citrus notes, with a brief, but reoccurring ripe apple aroma and it’s got plenty of presence on the palate, with an engagingly long finish. *This was an experimental wine which has, I think, morphed into Pepe’s Macabeo/Merseguera!

7. Pigar El Ardachero Orange Wine, Bodegas Pigar – yep, you read that correctly, another Orange Wine! Captivating – this wine, made with Chardonnay, is another fine Spanish example of this style of wine. Unlike their other Orange wine, featured in last year’s Top Ten, this is fermented and aged on its lees in stainless steel. Mineral notes, a little cider on the nose with a touch of patisserie, minus the sugar, this dry wine will stay with you, beacon-like!

6. Velvet & Stone Rosado, La Niña de Cuenca – yes, that’s two rosé wines this year! Charming, elegant, aromatic and fruit filled, this Prestige Rosé has pink and white rose petal fragrance with soft red fruits, loganberry and a little pomegranate on the nose and palate. So pretty in the glass, it’s simultaneously soft and powerful (Velvet and Stone!) and has a long finish. We absolutely loved it as an aperitif as well as serving it with salmon and red, orange and yellow capsicum, red lentil based dishes. I imagine it would also be super with seafood/fish paella!

5. Les Freses Blanc, Bodegas Les Freses – truly exemplary dry Moscatel wine made from vines planted in white coloured limestone based soil. Fresh scidity, with some exotic fruit, white peach and a little apricot – reminiscent of Albariño and Viognier wines, and that’s certainly not a bad thing! Floral, delicate jasmine, but weight on the palate too. Certainly good with above fish, also where sauces are used, and lovely, no doubt with shellfish!

4. Bobal La Serratilla, Bodegas Pigar – yes, them again! A whopping 16% abv – though you wouldn’t know it to be so high. It’s full, yes, completely taking over the palate with some wonderful black (and lighter) cherry notes, with an air of elegance to accompany its richness. Fermentation of the juice from grapes of the oldest vineyard on the property was provoked by its own wild yeasts. A glorious very dark colour, it invites the drinker in, and won’t let go! Just seven months in oak – super stuff!

3. Torelló Brut Nature, Corpinnat Spanish Sparkling Wine is perfectly dry at only 0–3grms of sugar per litre and a superb partner to canapés! It has crucial freshness, quite an achievement following its four and a half years en rima! Obviously, there’s an extra maturity to the aromas and flavours in this fizz. Citric fruit aromas and flavours mingle with white flowers and more of a baked apple flavour, with a citrus, apple and pear pastry, without the sugar! Earthiness is in there too making it a fizz for more than just first course!

2. Ví de Sal (magnum); Finca Collado – what a discovery from DO Alicante! A minimal intervention wine, rich on the palate but with alluring fresh acidity. The wine is fermented in large 600litre French oak barrels, with regular stirring to extract colour and flavour from the skins. It’s then aged in the same barrels for 12 months, adding depth and complexity, though the wine is so well made you can hardly detect the oak. Rich plum/damson fruit, a reference to figs and liquorice with some dark chocolate on the finish. There’s thyme and eucalyptus on the nose and big though it is, there is also an elegance to this wine.

  1. La Niña de Cuenca’s, Ildania, is my Number One 2019 – 100%  low yielding average 70 yrs old Bobal, fermented and aged 18 months in clay tinajas (amphorae), varying in size, 500 and 1000 litres capacity. Very dark, initially less than forthcoming with its aromas, though eventually opening up (decant this wine). And what aromas – black cherry, typical of the variety, but with some black plum and lighter cherries too, a little black pepper spice as well. Minerality, certainly mouth-feel, presence, as well as some earthy mountain herbs. Wow!

Happy New Year!   Facebook Colin Harkness

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Regular readers (thank you, you are much appreciated!) will know of my penchant for, and great interest in, the Sparkling Wines of Spain. Over the years Cork Talk has shared lots of bubbly bonhomie! Of course, when most of the sparkling wine consumers of the world think Spanish fizz, they think Cava. But nowadays, in fact over a few years now, it seems that particular bubble is bursting. It’s not at haemorrhaging level, yet, but I suspect it will be, and quite soon too!

You may remember an article I wrote a few years ago (archived here‘) about Pepe Raventos, a name synonymous with Cava since its inception, approaching 150 years ago, abandoning DO Cava! Pepe had apparently been discussing quality control with the Consejo Regulador, the ruling council, of the DO for some time, but getting nowhere. Drastic though it was, he decided to jump ship, with several commentators warning that it would be business suicide!

It wasn’t. His business is thriving, and neither was he the first to leave the DO, essentially for the same reason. Their common complaint was that there wasn’t a system in place where the cheap and nasty cava, priced at under 2€ and wholly unrepresentative of what cava is really all about, can be differentiated from the classy cava at approximately the 10€ and upwards price.

DO Cava at last took some notice (‘), but essentially, and in reality, when their plan came to fruition, they got it wrong. What they did was add an extra designation, the supposed pinnacle of the quality pyramid, where bodegas which satisfied their more stringent rules could be elevated to this top level. However some of the regulations failed to take into account those wineries that had always made excellent cava, but just not, for example, from one particular vineyard, as one of the new rules demanded. These bodegas were left therefore in the same position, in fact it could be argued that they were now in a worse situation!

There continued to be unrest, further representations to the Consejo Regulador were made, resulting in no concessions. Something had to be done – and it was. Corpinnat came into existence!

In 2018 news came of a new group, Corpinnat, which vowed to up the ante re the standard of Spanish Sparkling Wine, upholding the principles of fine wine making. Another set of rules was drawn up, agreed to by the six founding bodegas, which is now a 9 winery strong group, with famous, well respected names too: Gramona, Recaredo Llopart, Nadal, Sabaté I Coca, Torello, Can Feixes, Julia Bernet and Mas Candi.

There is a lengthy list of rules, which have to be satisfied should other bodegas think of joining – and there are ongoing discussions with wineries who are interested. Indeed, there is currently some discussion going on between DO Penedès and Corpinnat about the possibility of creating a whole new DO just for the Sparkling Wines of the Penedés area.

Note the date of disgorgement clearly displayed on the back label!

Perhaps the most important of the rules are: the minimum 18 months ‘en rima’, aging before disgorgement (this minimum in DO Cava is just 9 months), with further provision for sparkling wines to have been aged for over 30 months and for over 60 months; all members must be in the Penedès zone, thereby promoting the notion of a specific terroir; vineyards must be organic; all wines must be made on the premises of the bodega; the minimum price paid for grapes is set at 70cents/kilo, which is nearly double that in DO Cava; the date of disgorgement will be displayed on the back labels; manual harvesting; minimum of 75% of grapes harvested must be from land owned by the winery (or on long term lease); 90% of grapes must be indigenous varieties.

The above, compared with rules in cava production, are far more stringent, striving to ensure the best expression of Spanish Sparkling wine, to put it in its rightful place amongst the finest fizz of the world! The bodegas concerned are all highly respected with an enviable history of fine sparkling wine making. Great, so how does it all translate to the sparkling wine in your glass? Extremely well, is my view, having tasted three examples from two of the Corpinnat member bodegas, Torelló and Sabaté i Coca!

Please read next week’s Cork Talk for my thoughts on the Corpinnat Spanish Sparkling Wines I’ve tasted thus far. In short, they’re excellent, and if representative of what we can expect from this new Group, then I’ll certainly be looking for them in wine shops and in restaurants! Restaurateurs please note!

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