We recently talked about the wines Pepe Raventós is doing on his personal project based in the garage of his Catalonian masia Mas del Serral in the Penedès: Vinos Naturales by Pepe Raventós. Today we will talk with him about this project and his passion for biodynamic viticulture.
Good morning, Pepe, and thank you so much for your collaboration. You have always been linked to wine and cava through the Raventós family winery. What made you decide to start a project as personal as Vinos Naturales by Pepe Raventós?
Four years ago, my passion for innovating constantly led me to start making natural wines vinified in my garage. During my years of transition between New York and San Sadurní and, as the works of rebuilding the old Masia to make it the home of my family continued, I began to experiment with making wine as pure as possible. I wanted to recover the traditional Penedesian farmhouse and create in it authentic and experimental wines.
What are the hallmarks of Vinos Naturales by Pepe Raventós?
Purity, sincerity, courage and rigor. Rigor in the vineyard, courage to show what Earth is giving back without makeup, sincerity in the truest expression of our varieties, our soils and our climate. Purity by the minimum intervention we employ.
Two still wines (single varietals Xarel·lo and Bastard Negre) and an ancestral sparkling wine (Xarel·lo). Why these three wines?
I wanted to recover the old traditional winemaking style. Learn from our ancestors, let nature speak for itself. I experimented with amphorae, concrete and skin contact and obviously the ancestral method, which is the way old sparkling wines were produced, with minimal intervention but with varieties that we know well and are deeply rooted in our culture and our area.
The Xarel·lo grape allows us to experiment and innovate with different types of containers: ceramic, fudre, bottle…
The Bastard Negre, a variety almost lost that we are trying to recover on the farm, allows us to experiment with skin contact.
What does the Xarel·lo offer to work with in these two styles?
The Xarel·lo is our native variety by excellence of the area and the one that best adapts to our Mediterranean climate. It is a very austere variety, which shows all the prominence of the soil, an almost unique soil that transmits the great expression to all our wines.
How does the Bastard Negre function and why did you decide to do a single varietal with it?
The Bastard Negre is the variety that had historically been planted on the farm; we thought it was Monastrell and from the latest microsatellite analyzes (DNA), we discovered that it was synonymous of Morastel, Monastrell Verdadero or Monastrell Menudo, among other names. Of this variety of uncertain origin, the biggest part of its production is in Rioja and Navarra, but we find this variety throughout the Mediterranean. Our BN vineyard was planted in 1974 and the plant material is a mass selection of the farm.
It is a very interesting variety that maintains very good acidity and low pH, with many facets that allows us to innovate and experiment under different winemaking styles.
In Can Sumoi, a Raventós property, you also elaborate organic white wines. What is the difference between the wines of each project?
We can say that Raventos i Blanc only produces sparkling wines. In fact, it is the only winery in the area producing only sparkling. We have acquired an estate to produce still wines; the farm is Can Sumoi, in the Bajo Penedès; an estate located 600 meters above sea level, with autochthonous varieties and with a unique soil origin.
It all started in 2012. This year marked a before and after in the family Raventós i Blanc; we put aside the Cava appellation of origin to immerse ourselves in a new dream for our sparkling wines: Conca del Riu Anoia. That’s where our willingness to find an origin for our still wines came from. After years of transition and search, our viticultural passion finally took us to the Can Sumoi farm, to elaborate natural wines with an identity and accompany them on their lifespan obtaining a faithful reflection of the land where they are born: the Serra de l’Home.
Vinos Naturales by Pepe Raventós follows the principles of biodynamic viticulture. Why is this so appealing to you?
Live it day by day! Living in the farm, we learn every day from it, and this makes the biodynamic viticulture we apply going beyond following the Demeter principles to obtain a certificate. The outcome is exciting. Only after you have spent time practicing this type of viticulture you are able to see the life that it generates, in the soil, in the plants, in the animals, then you do realize its importance. The natural requires the natural. In the farm, everything we take out of the land, we return it. There is an everlasting balance.
How is biodynamics reflected in your wines?
Biodynamics is almost a philosophy of life; it seeks a better balance of the global ecosystem; and consequently, it improves the quality of the wine and its personality. For sure the wines have more life, more energy.
How is working in the field with a horse instead of modern machinery?
It is wonderful. Walking through lanes with Bru, Nora or Françoise, to feel the soil, the vineyards, getting to know them one by one, taking care of not damaging them, pampering them after almost 80 years of life. It is listening to the sound of nature, no interference whatsoever.
The first vintage was 2015 for dry wines and 2014 for ancestral wines. What has been the evolution from 2015 to 2016? How is 2017 looking like?
We continue experimenting and innovating. This is a miniproject in which we allow ourselves to take maximum risks. For example, we did the Xarel·lo 2015 with concrete vats and terracotta vessels. In 2016, we used oak fudres and terracotta vessels. Each container gives us something new, and that is the constant discovery that captivates us and makes us continue to grow.
You present your wines at various international fairs such as the Raw Wine in London and New York. How does the public accept your style of wine?
The public is increasingly interested in natural wines, it is more than a fashion, it is something that has come to stay. And this is just the beginning. People are willing to try everything presented to them, much more if it is organic or biodynamic. Our natural wines are not radical at all and the two vintages we have brought to the market have enchanted us.
Is there a difference with the acceptance of your wines in Spain? Does the public associate them somehow to Raventós cava?
With this project we are going step by step. The first vintages were all sold almost outside Spain, I cannot assess how the Spanish public has received these wines. But sales reflect a good acceptance.
Is natural wine better understood by the public nowadays?
Everywhere there are experts and everywhere there are people who want to learn. But perhaps is in countries like France or Germany, where its boom started earlier, and in markets like New York, where natural wines are present for years now and there are many restaurants with ample and important natural wines only wine lists.
Why do natural wines have a bad name in Spain?
Do they have a bad reputation? I think that we have great natural wines producers. If they have a bad name, this will change.
The production of your three wines is very limited. Do you have plans to increase it or will you keep it in those low numbers?
No, as I said this is an experimental project, we could even say that it serves as a relax project. My main projects are Raventós i Blanc and Can Sumoi.
Will we see any new variety incorporated to your project?
Why not? As long as it is an autochthonous variety, but since there is nothing like the Xarel·lo and the Bastard gives us so much versatility, so… Let’s leave some mystery, ok?
What style of wine do you like to drink when you are not working?
Lately I am enjoying so much natural wines.
Thank you so much, Pepe!!