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

Wine Pairing Dinner @ Restaurante Ca Pepe, Moraira, Costa Blanca

Hi Col,   Wow! Very many thanks for a wonderful evening at Ca Pepe yesterday. A special evening well up to your usual standard with a superb location, fantastic food with superlative service and of course, exceptional wine to complement the food (as you’d expect from you).   Ros and I enjoyed ourselves enormously as did all the others on our table. We really must return to Ca Pepe soon. Incidentally, are those wines available on their wine list?   Please keep me informed about any other similar events that you are planning. We’d love to come along.  

Cheers, Mick (and Ros, of course)



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!

Spot the error here! Is this indicative of the possible consumer confusion that might now occur? Your comments most welcome!  Twitter  @colinonwine

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Following a recent Private Wine Tasting with a Group of Swedish Visitors

Photo lighting not so good, but the company and the wines were first class!

Elisabeth Holmström Thank you Colin!!! Really interesting wines last evening and you are the best to tell us all about it!!