CORPINNAT – SPANISH SPARKLING WINES!

SPANISH SPARKLING WINE FROM CATALUÑA – BUT WE AIN’T TALKING CAVA!

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 https://www.colinharknessonwine.com/first-published-costa-news-group-december-2012-2/#more-‘) 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 (https://www.colinharknessonwine.com/cava-empire-strikes-back/#more-‘), 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!

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GOING DUTCH

Private Wine Tasting with a group of visitors from Holland

I haven’t checked, I admit, but I’m pretty sure that my Private Wine Tastings, held in the comfort of clients’ own homes, aren’t listed in the lexicon of Dangerous Sports! So it was good to see the relief on Renata’s face when she realised that her birthday surprise wasn’t going to be a bungee jump, or paragliding, or indeed any of the other scary events that she’d been teased mercilessly about by her Dutch family, all on holiday over here in Moraira.

I’d been contacted by son-in-lay, Ben, about presenting a surprise tasting, we chatted about their budget requirements, styles of wine, and how many bottles! All was set – and we had a great time.

I recently wrote about another such wine tasting where, to start the corks popping, I presented first a sparkling wine. I often do this, it’s a great ice-breaker, it’s celebratory, and if you choose the right one it’s so tasty! Therefore I did it again, and if you looked quickly at the labels you’d see that last week’s and Renata’s fizz was made by the same winery, CastellRoig in Cataluña.

However, on closer inspection you’d see that last week we were using a Corpinnat Sparkling Wine (an article on Corpinnat here soon), this week, a Cava, Gran Reserva in fact. It’s a long, long story, but essentially CastellRoig has recently left the DO Cava, preferring to make their fizz under the Corpinnat banner. The Gran Reserva Cava was from the 2012 vintage, before the existence of the new company, Corpinnat.

Cava Josep Coca Gran Reserva, CastellRoig, is made with indigenous old vine Xarel.lo and Macabeo grapes, it has clearly enjoyed its four years ‘en rima’ where it has developed into an exquisite mouthful. The Brut Nature style might suggest to some that it could be a little too dry – not a bit of it! It’s so fresh on the palate despite its age. It’s rounded, complex, with some toasted almond notes and a pleasing herby floral fragrance. It fills the mouth and lasts for ever!

1583 Albariño de Fefiñanes (recently selected as the Wine of the Week by Tim Atkin MW) has peachy aromas and flavours, yellow peach for me. Bottled in May this year, this 2018 is 100% Albariño, fermented in French and aged for 3 months in barrel, where it is regularly stirred with its lees, and then a further 3 months in stainless steel temperature controlled vessels, waiting for bottling and release. Citrus notes, peach, very subtle oak. Drinking well now it’s a wine that, although white and Spanish, will age for another three years, to give even more.

Ben wanted a second white – what a choice I had to make. These days there are so many top class white wines made in Spain! I opted for a Verdejo from DO Rueda, and I’m pleased I did, as I was surprised to learn from all of my Dutch friends that nowadays this Spanish grape variety is well known and loved in Holland.

El Transistor 2018 is made by superstar winemaker, Telmo Rodriguez and attempts to give the perfect expression of the variety. Well, he doesn’t do a bad job! Grapes from 60 yrs old vines are fermented in different barrel sizes and aged in same for about 6 months, as well as cement deposits, to maintain freshness. Lime green shades in the glass, stone/slate mineral elements, gooseberry fruit and the inside of kiwi skin where it meets the flesh, with acidity, rounded, full on mouth, a real mouthful, fresh.

Our first red wine was a cracker – one of the most famous Ribera del Duero producers, Arzuaga wines have really made a name for themselves. Their PR/Publicity dept has done an exemplary job (I’m sure hugely expensive too), however, this is only going to work if the wine is of a top standard too! It is!

I chose, working on advice from Jose. Owner of Teulada’s excellent wine merchants, A Catarlo Todo, the 2016 Crianza, made with 95% Tempranillo (aka Tinto del País in Ribera del Duero) and just 5% Cabernet Sauvignon for some extra longevity, depth of flavour and complexity.

Most of the Tempranillo comes from the oldest on-site vineyards that Arzuaga controls, located at 920 metres above sea level, with a telling addition of some Tempranillo bought in from near Burgos where the vines are 100+ years old! It’s a super red wine, redolent of all we’d expect from an oak aged (16 months in American and French barricas) Spanish red. Gasps of admiration followed first sips!

Finally, as requested, we tasted another red wine, but oh so different – Dolç Mendoza is a dessert wine par excellence! Only made in exceptional years when the fruit on the vines is in perfect condition so that it can stay put until, perhaps 6 weeks after the rest of the Enrique Mendoza vineyards up near Villena, have been harvested.

Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Pinot Noir and Merlot make up the blend – after fermentation, this 15·5 abv sweet red wine is aged for ten months in oak. The result is a luscious wine, wonderful with chocolate desserts and summer pudding, but also with mature cheeses, including strong blue cheese! Splendid!

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For more info about Private Wine Tastings: https://youtu.be/8qYhmj4hNQU

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!!

Paso Primero

A LITTLE BIRD TOLD ME!

A wren, as a matter of fact! The rather cute emblem of Bodegas Paso-Primero which features on their labels giving a visual clue as to how the name was derived, as well as a sizable hint as the laudable philosophy of this new winery DO Somontano, in the foothills of the Pyrenees.

Let’s deal with the name first. Paso Primero translates to First Step, indeed the label of their first wines makes this clear as our friend the wren is on the bottom rung of a ladder, looking upwards. Why? Read on!

For me it’s refreshing to hear a British twist on a Spanish winemaking story that I’ve mentioned several times in Cork Talk. I’m not alone in saying that the Spanish wine scene is one of the most dynamic in the  world – Sara Jane Evans MW writes the same thing in her book, ‘The Wines of Northern Spain’, my review archived here (https://www.colinharknessonwine.com/?s=sarah+jane+evans).

There are many young Spanish winemakers, who, with one foot in the traditional winemaking of generations of their family, have stepped with the other, firstly though the doors of higher education at dedicated wine making colleges and/or have taken university degrees in Oenology; and thence into the winemaking of other countries, sometimes including journeying to the southern hemisphere too.

The result is a really comprehensive knowledge of how wine is made, from so many different perspectives, including that of their father, and, in true Monty Python style, that of their Father’s Fathers and so on! Well, our British winemakers, Tom and Emma Holt, once co-workers in Tanners famous wine merchants in Shrewsbury, UK, have, sort of, done the same! Their passion for wine started whilst in the retail trade, took them to Plumpton College, the UK seat of higher wine education which is developing an enviable reputation in the wine world, and then on their travels to New Zealand and Canada to make wine, of course.

Keen on making wine in what was once invariably referred to as ‘the Old World’, in wine terms at least, they finally settled on the idea of making wine here in Spain. To be specific in DO Somontano, where they joined forces in a collaborative project with *Batan de Salas. Paso-Primero was born (www.paso-primero.com). It’s good to hear of such Spanish/British entente cordial (the more so in these difficult times!) – each winery, working within the same buildings, using the same vineyards and equipment, has its own identity, yet each ‘partner’ contributes to the other’s winemaking.   

Their artistically labelled (www.lynevansdesigns.co.uk), Paso-Prima Chardonnay, the first of three wines sent for me to taste on behalf of Cork Talk readers, gives us a heads-up re the philosophy of Paso-Primero. 25% of the profit from the sale of this wine will be donated to the British Trust for Ornithology (www.bto.org), which is wholly compatible with Tom and Emma’s insistence on their project being sustainable, Responsible winemaking, and some!

I spent time thinking about the title of this week’s column – toying with, ‘It’s Chardonnay, Jim, but not as we know it!’ inspired, claro, by my impressions of this, the first wine of the triumvirate, and hoping to add some Trekkies to my weekly readers!

I’m not sure I would have picked this out as a Chardonnay at a blind tasting, and that’s a compliment, not the reverse! I guess a lot of one’s perception of Chardonnay depends upon which generation one belongs to? Baby Boomers like myself (yes, I know, I look a lot younger!) may remember, with splinters, the over oaked, well, disasters, of the 80s, floating on a log raft from Australia and California. Generation X may remember some occasionally too austere examples, made in an effort to redress the balance. And Millennials will hopefully remember Chardonnays where the majority of winemakers got it right!

Perhaps Tom and Emma’s Spanish Chardonnay will be quoted as exemplary by the current Generation Z (who invents this stuff?) in future such discussions? Too high a praise? Well, probably, but it’s certainly a lovely wine, with some fresh citrus notes, a combination of browning and already brown Autumn leaves on the nose and subtle tropical fruit, mango for me, on the palate.

30ºC temperatures are not conducive to tasting red wines with a 15% and 15·5% abv, respectively! However if you chill down Paso-Primero 2018 and its older sister, Paso-Prima 2017 during such hot weather you’ll be surprised how effective it can be! I really enjoyed them both!

Made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Tempranillo, this wine reflects the best that was possible for the 2018 vintage – again wholly in line with the bodega’s philosophy. Their website explains all – ‘ . . . each vintage being a completely unique snapshot of history. Wine should be a wonderful combination of a sense of place and sense of time . .’ They don’t promise that the following vintage will have the same blend, there won’t be a constant style for this wine, it will depend on the grapes harvested following the year’s growing conditions, which is just right in my book!

A touch of vanilla on the nose, combines with good fruit, though difficult to determine exactly which are the dark berries that come through, plus a pleasing autumnal aroma of browning leaves and already fallen leaves. On the palate the fruit finishes nicely with a little liquorice at the end. UK price under 9 pounds, Spain under 10€ – very good value!  

The Paso-Prima 2017 Vino Artístico is made with Garnacha and Cabernet Sauvignon and has an aroma of well done wholemeal toast with a touch of black pepper, blending perfectly with brambly blackberry fruit (I’ve just tasted a large juicy blackberry then the wine!). It’s a 6€ or so step up in price, though certainly worth it. Ripe sweet tannins and some acidity will ensure a few more years of fine drinking.

*www.batandesalas.com – watch this space!

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