Codorníu Raventós Spanish Masterclass

 

Codorníu Raventós Spanish Masterclass – “Exploring Spain’s native grapes and their preferred places

The Westbury Hotel, 37 Conduit Street, London, W1S 2YF.

 

This event was hosted by The Drinks Business and held at the beautiful Westbury Hotel on March 7, 2016.  Patrick Schmitt MW and Editor-in-Chief of The Drinks Business made the introductions and Arthur O’Connor, a native Australian, and Winemaking Director of Grupo Codorníu Raventós acted as host.  The masterclass also featured contributions from Bruno Colomer (Codorníu), Ricard Rofes (Scala Dei) and Diego Pinilla (Bodegas Bilbainas). 

 

Prior to the masterclass, we had the opportunity for an informal tasting of wines produced by Grupo Codorníu Raventós.

 

Arthur O’Connor

In 2006, Arthur O’Connor was appointed as Winemaking Director of Grupo Codorníu Raventós to oversee their wine production globally.  Arthur set out to raise the standards across the entire Codorníu range and, in 2007, recruited a new winemaking team and embarked upon a new project in Spain, Argentina and California to produce wines that express their true potential and reflect the terroir from where they are grown.  This project involved vinifying grapes from individual vineyards, and keeping them separate, sorting by hand and the use of natural fermentation in small vats, wherever possible, along with minimal intervention in the winemaking process.  In somewhere as large as the Rioja region, there are numerous individual terroirs but most of these have historically been lost in large blends of Crianza and Reserva wines. 

 

Celler Jaume - Codorníu

Bruno Colomer has been winemaker at Codorníu for 8 years.  Since his appointment, he has been responsible for the Cellar Jaume project, whereby he and his team have been experimenting with different grape varietals, the use of malolactic fermentation and defining individual wine styles destined to produce Cavas with long ageing potential.  Codorníu has been making wine since 1551 and produced its first bottle of Cava in 1872. Codorníu produces Cava from grapes grown in 3 separate areas, where the climates range from Mediterranean to Continental; Penedès, Conca de Barberà and Costers del Segre.  Bruno has found that Chardonnay performs best in Costers del Segre, Pinor Noir in Conca de Barberà and the traditional grapes for Cava; Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada prefer the soils and climate of the Penedès region.

 

Scala Dei

Ricard Rofes joined Grupo Codorníu Raventós as the winemaker at Scala Dei in Priorat in 2007.  Carthusian Monks are reputed to have introduced winemaking to Priorat in the 12th Century.  The 41 vineyards of Scala Dei cover approximately 72ha and are located in the northern part of Priorat.  The climate is warm and humid and altitude ranges between 400m-800m.  Cultivating Garnacha vines in this type of climate means you can harvest late when the grapes and skins are ripe, acidity is high and pH levels low, which all combine to produce fresh wines with long ageing potential.  Priorat is known for its llicorella soil; a form of slate.  Scala Dei has 50% of their vineyards planted in llicorella and the other 50% are in chalk or red clay. 

 

Bodegas Bilbainas

Diego Pinilla was appointed winemaker at Bodegas Bilbainas in 2007.  Bodegas Bilbainas was established in 1901 and is located in Haro, in the Rioja Alta.  It was acquired by Grupo Codorníu Raventós in 1997.  Diego and his team are focused on producing wines expressive of the local terroir and he has also been involved in the creation of Viña Pomal and Alto de la Caseta.  The Atlantic Ocean lies 80km north of the vineyards which are located at an altitude of 500m.  The mountain range north of the vineyard at around 1200m reduces the Atlantic influence and enables the region to produce black grapes.  The practices of micro terroir management, natural fermentations using indigenous yeasts, and ageing in small oak barrels let the varietals express themselves. 

 

Legaris

Legaris was created by Grupo Codorníu Raventós in 2003.  It is located in the Ribera del Duero and Jorge Bombin has been winemaker since 2008.  Since joining Legaris, Jorge has consolidated the Legaris range of wines and launched Legaris Calmo.  Vineyards lie at an altitude of 800m which provides a cooling influence on the vines.  Tempranillo is very expressive of its terroir, and wines produced in the Ribera are known for their fresh fruit flavours and high levels of acidity. 

 

Raimat

Elisabeth Figueras is winemaker at Raimat, which is located in Costers del Segre.  Elisabeth was born into a wine-producing family and has worked at various wineries in California, New Zealand and Penedès.  Since joining Raimat, she has been part of the team responsible for creating Anima de Raimat, a stunning white wine made from a blend of  Chardonnay, Xarel-lo and Albariño. 

 

The Tasting

 

Codorníu, Finca La Nansa, 2009

100% Xarel-lo

This was the first of the new premium range of single varietal, single vineyard Cavas developed by Codorníu.  Having been disgorged a year ago, this Cava was rich, floral and elegant.  It had a delicate mousse, fresh acidity, a hint of toast, aromas and flavours of ripe citrus and a medium (+) finish.

 

Codorníu, Finca La Pleta, 2009

100% Chardonnay

Grapes for this Cava were grown approximately 60km from Conca Barbera, which has a continental climate, resulting in warm-hot days and cool nights.  This Cava was very rich, creamy and full bodied, with high levels of acidity, hints of honey and brioche, and a long finish.

 

Codorníu, Finca El Coster, 2009

100% Pinot Noir

This Cava was the first Blanc de Noirs from Spain and it was made from grapes grown at 610m altitude.  Full of bright ripe red fruit, this Cava had complementing acidity, a relatively full body and a long finish.

 

Codorníu, Ars Collecta 456, 2007

45% Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir and 10% Xarel-lo

The name 456 reflects the 456th vintage of the company.  This Cava was rich and creamy, with a more complex nose, an excellent concentration of fruit and a very long finish.  It was disgorged a year ago and is due to be launched on the market in Barcelona in 2 months’ time.

 

Bilbainas, Vinos Singulares Garnacha, 2010

100% Garnacha

This wine had a very powerful, jammy nose, with aromas and flavours of violets, plums, blackcurrants, blueberries and red fruit.  It had complementing levels of acidity, soft ripe tannins and vanilla spices from its ageing in new, large French oak vats and American oak.

 

Scala Dei, Masdeu, 2012

100% Garnacha

This full bodied red was made from grapes grown in chalky soils at 800m altitude.  It was fermented in concrete tanks and 100% of the stems were used in the fermentation process, which increases levels of tannin.  It was aged in large 1200L old oak foudres.  This wine had an excellent concentration of black fruit, hints of minerality, medium (+) acidity, some toasty oaky notes and ripe, mouth-coating tannins. 

 

Legaris, Calmo, 2009

100% Tempranillo

Grapes for this wine were selected from 20 different parcels and it was aged for 20 months.  This was a beautifully smooth full bodied red, with complementing acidity and alcohol, an excellent concentration of ripe red and black fruit, careful use of oak, soft velvety tannins and a long silky finish. 

Bilbainas, Alto de la Caseta, 2012

100% Tempranillo

This extremely elegant red was made from grapes grown on calcareous limestone soils which were fermented in open barrels.  It is still being aged in the winery and will not be released until the Summer.  A single vineyard wine, this had a great concentration of ripe blackberries, smooth velvety tannins and a very long finish. 

 

Scala Dei, Cartoixa, 1975

80% Garnacha, 20% Carignan

A stunning example from the 1970’s, this gorgeous red was packed full of black cherries, blackberries and red plums, with refreshing acidity, soft, silky tannins and a long lingering finish. 

 

Bilbainas, Viña Pomal, 1978

100% Tempranillo

The Viña Pomal was slightly paler in colour than the Cartoixa but still very bright and fruity.  It had excellent acidity, red cherries, raspberries, black plums and a hint of tobacco all wrapped up in beautifully soft ripe tannins, with a very long finish.

 

Ricard Rofes had some interesting observations around Scala Dei wines produced in the 1970’s which he feels are much more alive now than those produced in the 1980’s or 1990’s.  He attributes this to four main changes.  In the 1970’s wines were fermented with 100% stems, in concrete, with no temperature control.  High temperatures would have resulted in far more extraction.  In addition, these wines would have been aged in large old oak barrels of between 10,000 – 20,000L, rather than small French barriques of 225L.  The resulting wines had less oak influence and less exposure to oxygen.  Wines made in the 1980’s and 1990’s were fermented without the addition of stems, using temperature control and aged in small French barriques.  In the 1970’s, wines were initially harder to approach when young, but far better for ageing.  As far as present day is concerned, and as a result of global warming, grapes at Scala Dei are now being picked earlier than they would have been in the 1970’s and alcohol levels are higher. 

 

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