Gramona: Cava and Still Wines in Penedès

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The last winery we visit in Spain is Gramona in Sant’ Sadurni d’Anoia, the capital of cava in which 93% of all cava is produced. DO Cava is allowed to be produced in many regions all over Spain, but most of the cava comes from Penedès. Gramona is a family business that has made cava for five generations since 1881 in a winery that used to be on the edge of the town but is now surrounded. The artisan cava is still made here. The current generation has built a new winery near the vineyards in 2001, and now Gramona also produces still wines as DO Penedès. Gramona has 50 hectares (120 acres) of own vineyards that are all organic and they are working towards bio-dynamic.

The history of cava is, like that of oak aging in Rioja, linked to phylloxera. When the vineyards in the Champagne region were destroyed by phylloxera, the French found an alternative location to grow grapes for sparkling wines in Penedès. By the time the French had replanted their vineyards grafted on American rootstock, the wineries in Penedès had realized that they could also make very good sparkling wines from the local grape varieties xarel.lo, macabeu (called viura in Rioja) and parellada. Good acidity is important for sparkling wines, and xarel.lo can certainly provide that. And so cava was born, which is made sparkling in the same way as Champagne with a second fermentation in the bottle. The minimum aging on the lees of cava is 9 months compared to a minimum of 15 months for champagne, but Gramona specializes in gran reserva cavas, that are aged for at least five years on the lees. The longest they have managed so far is 14 years!

The cava bottles aged for up to five years are closed with a metal crown cap, but for longer aging a natural cork is used for a better closure of the bottle. This cork will give off some aromas to the wine as well from the tannins present in the cork. A difference with champagne is that gran reserva cavas always have to be from a single year, so unlike champagne it is not possible to blend (in champagne this restriction only applies to millesime champagne).

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Each employee of Gramona has one line of vines in the vineyard that they have to maintain (prune, weed, etc.) themselves, so that every employee is connected to the core business of the winery (also if you work in Finance or Marketing). The name of the employee is written on the bottle-shaped sign.

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Because we visited Gramona briefly after the harvest, we had the unique opportunity to taste some must that was still fermenting in tanks. We tasted xarel.lo (which reminded me of apple cider), the blend for Gessami (35% sauvignon blanc, 25% gewurztraminer, 40% muscat de frontignan), and cryo-extracted gewurztraminer. At Gramona some wines are fermented together instead of blended afterwards, to get a better integration of the varieties.

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Most wines at Gramona are made in stainless steel, but for blending the cava the best older wines are kept in wood just like in Champagne. There are also some still wines that are barrel-fermented.

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The aging on the lees of cava is done in the bottle. The high stacks of bottles were very impressive. Just imagine the weight that the bottles on the bottom are carrying!

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In the new winery the mass-produced cava is made using modern technology, like gyropalettes for the riddling (the procees needed to move the yeast to the top of the bottle) and freezing the top of the bottle to get the yeast out (disgorgement).

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In the old winery, the artisan cava is made completely by hand. The bottles are turned manually, even the disgorgement is manual!

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The cavas are packed in cellophane, manually to insulate the bottles from temperature changes and so the customer can tell in the shop whether the bottle is fresh (because cellophane will change color in sunlight).

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We tasted two cavas, six still wines, and two sweet wines. Here are my tasting notes.

Cava Imperial Gran Reserva 2011, price at the winery 16.50 euros

  • 50% xarel.lo, 40% macabeu, 10% chardonnay, organic viticulture, aged 5 years on the lees, brut with 8 grams of residual sugar per litre, 12% ABV
  • Color: golden
  • Nose: complex, minerals, citrus
  • Taste: fresh with creamy bubbles and balance
  • Conclusion: very good, ****

Cava III Lustros Gran Reserva 2007, price at the winery 25 euros

  • 75% xarel.lo, 25% macabeu, organic viticulture, 100% artisanal process, aged 8 years on the lees, brut nature with 3 grams of residual sugar per litre, 12% ABV
  • Color: golden
  • Nose: very complex, you keep discovering new nuances, smoky
  • Taste: complex, creamy bubbles, balanced, tiny bitter note
  • Conclusion: outstanding, *****

Gramona produces three xarel.lo varietals produced using different vinification techniques (small barrels, cement eggs, cold skin contact and large barrel). All three clearly show the varietal character of xarel.lo with structure and acidity. My favorite one was Font Jui because for me it has the best balance between structure and aromas, probably because the micro-oxygenation from the small oak barrels has softened the wine.

Font Jui Xarel.lo 2014, price at the winery 12.50 euros

  • 100% xarel.lo, biodynamic viticulture, fermented in oak barrels (1/3 new), aged on the lees for 3 months, 12% ABV
  • Color: straw yellow
  • Nose: powerful apple (think of apple that you sliced and left for half an hour) and some herbal notes; surprisingly no oak aromas
  • Taste: fresh and light, balanced
  • Conclusion: very good, ****

Ovum Xarel.lo 2014, price at the winery 12.50 euros

  • 100% xarel.lo, organic viticulture, fermented and aged on its lees in cement (part in cement eggs), 12% ABV
  • Color: straw yellow
  • Nose: fruity apple, less powerful than Font Jui
  • Taste: slightly more complexity and structure than Font Jui
  • Conclusion: good, ***1/2

Roent Xarel.lo 2014, price at the winery 12.50 euros

  • 100% xarel.lo, organic viticulture, cold skin contact for 14 hours, fermented in a large oak vat, 11.5% ABV
  • Color: pale onion skin (more color extraction from the skin contact)
  • Nose: restrained apple
  • Taste: very structured from the long skin contact
  • Conclusion: good, ***1/2

Sauvignon Blanc 2014, price at the winery 15.25 euros

  • 100% sauvignon blanc, organic viticulture, temperature controlled fermentation in small oak barrels (1/3 new), stirring of the lees, 12.5% ABV
  • Color: pale straw yellow
  • Nose: mature sauvignon blanc
  • Taste: structured, fresh, light-bodied, bitter note
  • Conclusion: good, ***1/2

Pino Te Amo 2015, price at the winery 16.50 euros

  • Blend of pinot noir (oak fermented without the skins), pinot gris, and pinot blanc, 12.5% ABV
  • Color: pale onion skin
  • Nose: strawberries and dairy (like rosé)
  • Taste: fresh, structured, light-bodied
  • Conclusion: good, ***

Gessami 2015, price at the winery 9.25 euros

  • Blend of35% sauvignon blanc, 25% gewurztraminer, 40% muscat de frontignan, fermented together after skin contact at low temperatures, 11% ABV
  • Color: straw yellow
  • Nose: aromatic
  • Taste: dry, fresh, structured, balanced, complex
  • Conclusion: very good, ****

Gramona is the first in Penedès to make an ice wine-equivalent by freezing the grapes using liquid nitrogen (“vi de glass” is catalan for ice wine, the DO calls it “vino dulce de frio”).

Vi de Glass Riesling 2011, price at the winery 14.70 euros (0.375 litre)

  • 100% riesling, juice from frozen grapes fermented slowly (2.5 months) in stainless steel tanks because of the high sugar content, 9.5% ABV
  • Color: golden
  • Nose: minerals
  • Taste: fresh, light sweetness balanced by good acidity
  • Conclusion: very good, ****

Vi de Glass Gewurztraminer 2010, price at the winery 14.70 euros (0.375 litre)

  • 100% gewurztraminer, juice from frozen grapes fermented slowly (2.5 months) in stainless steel tanks because of the high sugar content, 9.5% ABV
  • Color: golden
  • Nose: complex, honey
  • Taste: creamy, balanced between sugar and acidity, complex
  • Conclusion: very good, ****1/2

2 thoughts on “Gramona: Cava and Still Wines in Penedès

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