CANALS & MUNNÉ – STILL/SPARKLING
Probably most readers will have heard of the excellent, at time sensational, Cavas crafted by Canals & Munné in the Alt Penedés area of Cataluña. I believe it was my visit to Barcelona’s huge biennial wine and food fair, Alimentaria, perhaps 16 years ago, when I fiRst tasted their excellent sparkling wines. I was, and I remain, very impressed.
However the title of this article alludes also to a fairly well-kept secret – Canals & Munné make top quality still wines as well.
Five generations ago the family (which remains in control to this day) planted their first vineyards in Can Canals – the vines took root, and so did the legend. Year on year the winery has been producing first class cavas, originally using a combination of traditional varieties – Macabeo, Parelleda and Xarel.lo; and then introducing the Champagne varieties, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
There’s a very impressive portfolio of cavas, from an entry level price of just under 10€ right up to their top Gran Reserva Gran Duc, whose superb quality and delightful tear-drop shaped bottle suggests a price tag in excess of it’s actual cost – just over 25€. Over the years I’ve tasted most of the fizz and loved them, so I didn’t think twice about the offer of a sample of their Gran Reserva 2010 recently, and when it came, as it did, with several of their still wines, well – it would have been churlish to refuse!
The Gran Reserva 2010 is made with 40% Macabeo, 30% Chardonnay and 30% Parellada. It has clearly benefited from its four years in bottle resting on its lees as the depth of flavour is phenomenal. There are some cavas of this sort of age that have become a little tired, with an off-putting musty granny’s attic aroma. Canals & Munné’s Gran Reserva is the antithesis of this sort of cava. It’s as fresh as if it were years younger, so therefore superb for celebrations and of course aperitifs.
However the time in bottle with its lees, plus the addition of a sizeable proportion of Chardonnay, which was clearly harvested at optimum ripeness, have added an enviable depth and complexity. The wine has typical aromas of sparkling wine, patisserie notes, fresh bread and, from the Macabeo, some reference to an unsweetened apple pastry with a lick of dry cider too. The Chardonnay then comes to the fore, with a buttery, slightly smoky, faintly vanilla aroma and flavour.
A long, long finish just adds to the finished product and makes it a wine to enjoy with food too – a smoked salmon fillet, for example, would really be excellent with this sparkler.
Canals & Munne’s Vi Blanc Princeps is an organic white wine made from Xarel.lo, Chardonnay and Sauvignon – an eclectic mix which makes the wine hugely aromatic with gooseberry, citrus, white flowers, blanched almonds and a touch of under-ripe pineapple, whose job it is to remind us that this is a dry wine. Perfect with salads, fish and shell-fish of course, but also with light meats that have a citric element too.
Blanc Princeps Blanc de Blanc Seco Muscat is a wine style that, although fairly novel in the Cataluña area, is quite prevalent in the Valencia region. Moscatel, which we all know makes super rich, sultana/grape fragranced dessert wines has a clone, Moscat de Frontignan, which lends itself more to dry wine styles, yet with the same aroma.
This wine is a must to try with SE Asian Cuisine as well as Indian/Pakistani/Nepali dishes. It’s pleasant, pungent aromas will rise above those of the dish and it’s fruit content will mix perfectly with any sweetness found in the cuisine and it will slightly tame the chilli-hot nature of such wonderful food.
Rosé Princeps is new to the fold. Made with Merlot, the maceration was long enough for considerable colour to be extracted, along with flavour and some tannin. The result is a rosé wine with attitude! Yes it wants to be delicately perfumed, with raspberries and strawberries noted, but it also wants to have little of the Merlot’s cherry and plum depth of flavour too. Try it with pink fish and pork dishes!
My favourite of the still wines (though it was very close, with both this wine and the final one, achieving the same scores) was their Gran Blanc Princeps Xarel.lo Fermentado en Barrica 2013.
I like to think that Xarel.lo is the Chardonnay of Cataluña. Xarel.lo is everyone’s friend – it can be fresh and fruity, more citrus than Chardonnay-esque exotic, with white floral and nutty notes too, plus it can take on very different flavours and aromas when oak is used in its elaboration, as with this wine. Either way, you’ll have a wine that is aromatic, quite deeply, to deeply flavoured, rounded and rich, with elegance too.
It’s the depth of flavour and the elegance of this FB wine that I find most enchanting – a style that I can just go on drinking until the bottle is finished! I urge you to try it!
The final wine was Noir Princeps 2008, a red crianza wine which again scored well in my notes. It’s rich in fruit with a slight, endearing bronzed, medium toasted wood aroma. The Cabernet Sauvignon which has been grown at mid-altitude, along with Tempranillo and Merlot, has obviously ripened well under the Spanish sun. Here you get the blackcurrant fruit with sturdiness, but nothing harsh. Dark fruits like damson and blackberry play supporting roles and its six months in oak add a lovely liquorice note with faint whispers of vanilla and a little cinnamon.
So, when thinking Cava, think also still wines from Canals & Munné – you won’t be disappointed, and your wallet won’t feel much lighter either!