Many times, we meet winemakers whose parents already made wine and taught them the ins and outs of winemaking. Other times, less times, the grandparents also devoted themselves to wine. Seldom, very rare, do we find someone who is the twenty-first generation of his family. This translates into about five centuries of family viticulture.
This is the case of Pepe Raventós, the heir of a saga that began in 1497, shortly after the Discovery of America. His family, Raventós i Blanc, owns 90 hectares of vineyard and forest in the heart of Penedès, in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, which are currently managed by Pepe who, according to family tradition, follows the principles of biodynamic viticulture.
However, today we are not going to talk about what is being done at Raventós i Blanc but rather about a much smaller project Pepe started three years ago, in 2014, with the idea of making natural wines vinified in the garage of his house on the farm Mas del Serral. This project, Natural Wines by Pepe Raventós, consists of three wines elaborated following the traditional methods. Pepe applies biodynamics in the vineyards, working organically and respecting the soil. He understands the vineyard as an ecosystem in which grapes are only a part of it, like man, leaving the vegetation cover and allowing animals to be an integral part of a whole.
Biodynamics is governed by a lunar calendar that indicates when work is to be done in the vineyard. In the property, they make the necessary preparations for the care of the field: dung, silica, dandelion, chamomile, nettle, oak bark, yarrow and valerian. The compost they also use comes from their own animals and from nearby ecological farms when necessary. And of course, Maria Thun’s preparations and others are used when necessary including dilutions of ashes for rabbit pest, antifungal horsetail or the preparation of the wise men. Phytotherapy, including applications of horsetail, nettle and comfrey, is also a fundamental part of the process. As we see, biodynamics is the root basis of the work in Natural Wines by Pepe Raventós.
The work in the vineyard is manual, and when they need extra help, they use horses. Yeast, enzymes or any chemical compounds are not added and there is no temperature control in winemaking, which makes the process as natural as possible.
The soils of the vineyards are calcareous. They consist of a clay layer rich in nutrients, organic compounds and water, and a second layer underneath formed by calcareous rock, full of marine fossils.
We mentioned Pepe makes three wines in this project. For them he uses two autochthonous varieties: Xarel·lo and Bastard Negre. The three wines are produced in a very limited quantity:
Xarel·lo de la Vinya del Noguer Alt. Vines nearly 50 years and calcareous soils. In 2015 the wine fermented in a concrete tank and in a 1,000-liter terracota amphora. Subsequently, in 2016, the processing method changed replacing the concrete tank with a 1,500-liter wooden cask while still using the amphora.
As a curiosity of the 2016 vintage, the part of the must fermenting in the amphora finished the process one month after it started, while the fermentation in the wooden cask stopped in winter and it was not until the temperature rose in the spring that it started again to finish by the end of April. Then he made the blend and bottled it without clarification or filtering. The wine then rested in the bottle for six more months.
The 2015 vintage offered a rather fine wine, perhaps with a somewhat low acidity, but still very pleasant to drink and easy to match with food. A wine that stood out with the character of the Xarel·lo. The 2016 vintage presents a bit of turbidity. The nose is very aromatic, with certain notes of apple compote. In the mouth the acidity grabs you from the very beginning and the final result is very good. It is very nice and very well done wine. The two vintages are quite different from each other, as it should be since there are always differences between one harvest and the next. However, the difference in the method of elaboration is great. Both went through terracota, but the ageing in wood in 2016 makes it a much more structured wine with its sharpest acidity. That, of course, as well as the differences between both vintages. The wood is not present at all in your glass, which is very pleasant.
Two wines that adapt to different tastes but at the same time they are very delightful and easy to drink.
From this Xarel·lo wine, 2,166 bottles were made in 2015 and 2,824 in 2016.
Ancestral is a natural sparkling wine, 100% Xarel·lo, grapes coming from the Vinya del Mas vineyard. Calcareous and clayey soils. The wine begins fermentation in stainless steel tanks and finishes it inside the bottle, just as it was done in the past.
If something characterizes this wine is the grip it has. Visually it looks a lot like Xarel·lo 2016. On the nose it grabs you from the beginning and before tasting it you already know that you have something special in the glass. When tasting it, a very well balanced acidity makes the wine spectacular, very aromatic and with very fruity. It is indeed a different sparkling wine, with a very thin bubble and that has nothing to do with the cava wines made in the area. These are two concepts of wine, the cava wine and this ancestral, which clearly show their differences. Personally, I thought it was an excellent wine and that certainly made me enjoy very much while it remained in the glass.
Unfortunately, when it comes to producing this Ancestral, the production is quite limited as well. The production was 1,671 bottles in 2014 and 1,418 bottles in 2015.
The third wine is a red, Bastard Negre, from Les Terrasses del Serral vineyard. Vines over 40-year old in very poor calcareous soil. The wine ferments in 225-liter open barrels of 4-5 uses. The wood does not show up to the wine, hence the reason for employing used barrels. No temperature control during fermentation.
In 2014, the production was 582 bottles and in 2015, the number diminished to 483 bottles.
Soon we will talk with Pepe Raventós about his wines and his winemaking philosophy.
Photos (c) VN by Pepe Raventós