Bodegas Castell d’Encus




I first heard about Bodegas Castell D’Encus, DO Costers del Segre, via a Tweet from Pancho Campo. Señor Campo was Spain’s first ever Master of Wine and his comment that this young bodega (founded 2001) made ‘the best Pinot Noir in Spain’ was the starting point of a fascinating and extremely tasty metaphoric journey into the Catalan Pyrenees.


Never was a truer wine word spoken than those uttered by critics like myself when the Castell D’Encus wines are described as having a certain mineral quality. This wholly beneficial attribute comes of course from the soils that adorn the huge granite boulders in this remote place. The vines grow in precipitous vineyards hanging onto the side of the mountains which, when scaled, bring the intrepid climber into France. But that’s not all!


A percentage of each of the whole range of wines made by this bodega ( is fermented in 12th Century stone vats hewn by Monks, who knows how, into the hills and valleys of the mountains! This wine is then blended with the rest of the wine which has been fermented in more contemporary vessels made of oak or stainless steel. The result is perfectly balanced wines that have subtlety, elegance, power and depth of flavour in equal measures. (One of their wines, Quest [see below], is in fact wholly fermented in stone!).

 ENCUS quest

The enterprise was started by Raul Bobet who, conscious of the impact of Climate Change, was looking to make wines that would be less impacted by the increasing temperatures and sunshine hours; and by possible decreasing rainfall. Altitude is a major player here, of which regular Cork Talk readers are of course fully aware! At 850m – 1,000m altitude the Castell D’Encus vineyards enjoy a dramatic drop in temperature overnight, giving the vines respite from the searing temperatures of the day.


However, there’s more! In 2004 Joaquim Molins Gil joined the project which really is a work in progress where the whole winemaking process is constantly being examined for ways to make it better, given changing weather patterns. Planting density, canopy management, cover crop, pruning and differing harvesting times are all being considered with various different plots experiencing various different methods.


Perhaps it’s the bodega’s close proximity to France that is a part of the choice of varieties used to make these fine wines, but it’s clear from the resulting wines that the soils and the climate are perfect for the mainly ‘French varieties’ that are used at Bodegas Castell D’Encus.


There are only 23 hectares of the property which are planted to vine – the rest of the 95 hectares of land owned by the bodega are left as forest. The vines are not sprayed with chemicals, the vineyards are farmed organically. The aim is to enhance the environment, not to detract from it. Wildlife is left untouched and the natural beauty of the area is unchanged.


So what of the wines?


I’m not at all surprised that Sara Jane Evans MW included Ekam 2013 in her recent Decanter Magazine article about top white wines from Spain (imagine that – such an article wouldn’t have been written 20 years ago, there were none!). Made with Riesling and a touch of Albariño, the wine is superb!


I don’t know about you, but I’ve not tasted a quality Riesling from Spain. I believe it’s Jancis Robinson’s (oh, no I’m turning into a dreadful name-dropper!) favourite white wine variety and it’s not just me who loves Albariño. Jilly Goulden (he’s done it again!) and many others do as well.


But it’s Alsace that is Riesling’s natural home and of course, Albariño is from Spain’s wet North West. Yet, grown here in high density vineyards where the foothills of the Pyrenees start to climb into mountains proper it’s as if they’ve been here as long as the stone vats in which they are partially fermented! Crisp lime peel acidity with some floral and granite mineral notes.

 ENCUS ekam

Taleia 2013 is made with Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, both considered French varieties, but with this wine, for me, it’s the typical rich and full Australian Semillon that comes to the fore, no doubt from it’s partial fermentation in oak barrels, to meld perfectly with the directed gooseberry acidity of the Sauvignon. The judicial use of oak allied to the 9 months aging in cellar add a depth of flavour to the wine and a greater complexity. Lovely!


Acusp 2012 is the Pinot Noir so admired by Pancho Campo (I’m a hopeless case!) – he’s not alone! Unfortunately one doesn’t have much of a chance to taste good, and above, Pinot Noir in Spain. In Burgundy, it’s wonderful – rich but always with great elegance. It needs a cold climate really. But, with the average 1,000 metres altitude and the high density planting of Bodegas Castell D’Encus’ Pinot vineyard the properties required by this demanding variety can be emulated.

 ENCUS acusp

It has a lovely silk negligee feel to the wine with ripe, but not over-ripe, strawberries on the palate slowly overcoming the earthy forest leaves aroma. It’s juicy in the mouth and the fruit makes a presence throughout, but there are layers of flavour and a depth of pleasure. The personification of elegance, this wine has everything.


Thalarn 2012 is made exclusively from Syrah grapes and is one of those Spanish Syrah wines that so often outshine their French counterparts. The guaranteed sunshine hours of Spain ensure that Syrah here ripens perfectly (there are some Spanish Syrah wines that have been made from over-ripe grapes that should have been harvested earlier) add this fact to the altitude of the vineyards and you have the best of both worlds!


There’s dark cherry fruit straight away, with a spicy black pepper note to pep up the palate. You’ll find the minerality of course, again with a little undergrowth on the nose, as well as the tiny flowers of mountain herbs. The picota cherry flavours are maintained throughout and the finish is long and lovely!


The final wine I tasted was another excellent example. Quest is made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Merlot. The 2012 is still young, vibrant in its blackcurrant, blackberry and dark plum fruit, a delight on the palate with no slightly unripe harshness as can be the case with some wines from the two Cabernets’ home, Bordeaux.


You’ll find some vanilla and a touch of cloves on the nose which is wholly integrated with the succulent fruit when the wine hits the palate. It’s a lovely juicy wine but with a backbone of mature tannin, acidity and mineral notes that will ensure that it ages for probably five years and maybe more.

So good they showed it twice!
So good they showed it twice!

But that’s if you can resist it when you see it in your cellar/wine store, as will be the case with all the wines from Bodegas castell D’Ancus, none of which is given less that 90 points in the Peñin Guide, with the highest pointer earning a whopping 96, making it one of the best wines in Spain! Outstanding!


Contact Colin: and through his unique wine services website and via Twitter @colinonwine

Bodegas Segura Viudas





I was so impressed by my recent visit to Cataluña, Land of Cava, that I’m taking some time to come back down to Earth! Cava rocks and those made by Bodegas Segura Viudas (, part of the huge Freixenet business, are wonderfully flavoursome, elegant Cavas! They also make super still wines, so it’s a one-stop shop really!

Bodegas Segura Viudas, a far better backdrop than the foreground!
Bodegas Segura Viudas, a far better backdrop than the foreground!

But that’s not all – they also have an excellent Wine Tourism Programme and it was their Public Relations Director, Jordi Guilera, who escorted us around the property, taking the same route that he will with tourists who come to tour and taste!


Quality control is at the forefront of everybody’s mind at Bodegas Segura Viudas. For example, the screening system used on all grapes that come into the bodega to be pressed, whether they are from their own vineyards or those of the growers they have used for generations, is indicative of just how much care is taken by Segura Viudas to ensure that the consumer gets the best Cava that it’s possible to obtain!


The grapes are harvested in small plastic crates, which have been cleaned and sterilised immediately after last year’s harvest and again just before this year’s. No grapes are split so there’s no uncontrolled fermentation. A special mechanical arm reaches into random crates, extracts some grapes and presses them into juice, which then goes immediately into a small lab where more machines await.


The results of the analysis are then posted on the grower’s special card (like a credit card) as well as onto a tablet, supplied to the bodega by the Consejo Regulador, which then relays the information to the DO offices. A coded sticker is placed on one of the crates on the tractor that identifies the lot and all the results. The tractor moves swiftly on to various cold storage areas – the whole process takes less than ten minutes, so no grapes are left in the sunshine.


Our next visit was the lab proper! A large room full of samples, test tubes, demijohns  and all the scientific paraphernalia that is needed to ensure quality.


The Head Winemaker was in attendance and the Laboratory Head and he took me to a small room where the wild natural yeasts gathered from the skins on the grapes were being cultivated. Stringent testing has occurred over the years to identify which are the best of the natural yeasts to work with, and it’s these that are cultivated from test tube size and ultimately to tanks that hold 100,000 litres. Yes, it’s production on a huge scale, but each small stage is perfected before moving on. Very impressive.

 DO CAVA SEPT 2014 033

Bodegas Segura Viuda uses mostly the traditional Cava grapes: Parellada, Xarel-lo and Macabeo for white wines; and Garnacha and Trepat for rosados. This year will be the first that they will also make a rather special Cava, one that embraces the traditional Cava grape varieties, but also includes small proportions of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir – and I can’t wait to taste it!


In order to make the best Cava possible they only use the first 66% of the pressing which ensures the best must (juice) with their top Cavas only using about the first 40%, which is la crème de la crème!


The original cement fermentation tanks are now used for storing base wine and can hold a maximum of five million litres. Nowadays it’s stainless steel fermentation vessels, with a total capacity of 19 million litres, that get on with the job in hand. Once the base wine is ready it is bottled with the appropriate licor de tiraje (the yeast and sugar mixture that starts the second fermentation in bottle) according to the style of Cava to be made.


Then the bottles are transported underground to the cellars where a maximum of 20 million bottles lie, waiting for their time to impress. And do they impress!


The President of DO Cava, the General Secretary and their Cava Manager and I sat down to taste an array of the Cavas as well as two of Segura Viudas’ top still wines – and all of this over a sumptuous lunch (which again can be arranged for touring groups).


Bodegas Segura Vuidas Reserva Brut has had sixteen months en rima (in contact with its lees whilst in bottle in the depths of the old cellars). It’s made with Macabeo and Xarel.lo which are planted at about 250 metres above sea level and are usually the first varieties to be harvested, plus Parellada which is happier at a higher altitude.


The wine, as with all tasted, is delightfully elegant and yet it has the fresh vibrancy of youth still. Refreshing and perfect for celebrations but this wine also delivers more. There are typical bready, panaderia notes as well as focussed green apple acidity (from the Macabeo) and an endearing white flower fragrance (probably from the Parellada). It has body (coming largely from the Xarel.lo) and depth of flavour enough to accompany the Manchego cheese, Jamón Serrano and the Anchovy toasts served as amuse bouche!


Served alongside this white Cava was one of the best, fairly priced, Rosado Brut Cavas I’ve tasted. It’s made with the indigenous variety Trepat with the addition of Garnacha and Pinot Noir in varying proportions according to each year’s harvest – a good sign if ever there was one. I think the Pinot in this blend gave an ever so slight strawberry flavour to the wine – super!


Our delightful starters were served with the fine Brut Vintage Gran Reserva 2008! It’s a wonderful fresh wine with body and deep flavours as well as sheer elegance on the palate. Paired with baby broad beans cooked in a cava reduction as well as with seafood ravioli, truffle and shrimp bisque, it was a perfect match. It has the necessary acidity to retain freshness after six years in the cellar and also to cut through the relative richness of the starters. Excellent!


I’m prepared to bet that the first wine you think of to accompany Veal Tenderloin with mushrooms would not be a Cava! Well think again (and watch this space for information about a super tasting coming up, pairing Cavas with each course throughout dinner!) Another Gran Reserva, Torre Galimany 2010 was served with this perfectly cooked main course! Sensational wine and an excellent match.


Fuller in style than the previous fizz it still has elegance in abundance as well as an acidic lift to retain its freshness. There’s a light earthiness to the wine that contributes to the body and makes a good match with the mushrooms. Plus, of course there is the typical yeasty character derived from the second fermentation along with an understated floral element.


Our final course was served with one of the classic Segura Vuidas wines, Brut Reserva Heredad Gran Reserva 2009 – the one with the distinctive metal base and ‘label’, giving a slight Gothic look to the bottle! A wonderful wine – there’s a slight herbiness on the nose with patisserie notes a touch of citrus and a real depth of flavour, with a persistent finish. Again the Segura Viudas characteristic elegance in perfect harmony with rich fullness. Outstanding.


Fellow diner, Maria Eugenia Puig, Consejo Regulador Secretary General, suggested we also tasted one of her favourite dessert Cavas, in fact made by parent company Bodegas Freixenet. Cuvée de Prestige Malvasia 2001 Especial per Postre is a fantastic dessert wine, only a slight sweetness but body and depth and I am assured the perfect accompaniment to chocolate!


Contact Colin: and plus Twitter @colinonwine

La Gran Cata Chez Nous!

Oh dear, empty glasses - but soon to be filled with the below!
Oh dear, empty glasses – but soon to be filled with the below!
Hi Colin
Thank you so much for the rather special evening which we so enjoyed last Friday. Sorry we can’t make your next soirée, but we’ll be back next year to enjoy some more.
Once again thank you and Claire for such a marvelous evening.
Chris Taylor
The fabulous wines tasted at La Gran Cata Chez Nous!
The fabulous wines tasted at La Gran Cata Chez Nous!

La Gran Cata Chez Nous!

Our friends just about to enjoy the below
Our friends just about to enjoy the below!
Hi to you all,
What a great night presented by a great team, congratulations to you all. We loved the wines and the foods you complimented them with,especially the Thai curry and the kidneys.
If we ever win the lottery I shall only drink that last red wine. [Blecua, Bodegas Viñas del Vero, DO Somontano]
Thank you also for your hospitality after,rounded off a lovely evening,you are very good hosts. We would definitely like to come next year.
Will be in touch next time we are coming out.
Much love
Heather and Alan
The fabulous wines tasted at La Gran Cata Chez Nous!
The fabulous wines tasted at La Gran Cata Chez Nous!