A Cava of Passion
by Michael Douglas Bosc
Josep Cava 1997
I have wanted to write about Cava for a long time now, but I was looking for something special - that magical touch, that feeling I cannot put into words but is most definitely there. I was beginning to think that unlike the Cellers I have written about it did not exist, until, that is, Josep M Ferret Guasch invited me to visit his Celler and see how he made his Cava.
So one wintry Wednesday afternoon found my wife and I driving to the Penedes region. It is here in the foothills of the Pyrenees and bordered by the mystical Montserrat Mountains to the northeast that Cava is produced. We have passed by on our way to Barcelona but never ventured into the region until now. At Villafranca we turned north and headed into the gently rolling plain, covered by vines now wearing their autumn colours basking in the last rays of autumn sun. Dotted here and there were pretty, well-kept houses, each a producer of wine and Cava. As we drove along the country road, we saw signs indicating various Cellers, some with old traditional presses on the roadside letting you know they made wine. In this relaxed way we drove on through two small towns savouring the sights until we saw the sign we wanted and turned right.
We did not have far to drive, up a little hill, along a small road and there was the Celler facing us. I parked the car and we looked around. Here was a peaceful scene, houses set back in vineyards, the sun casting a wintry golden glow over everything, and joy of joys here was that feeling again. We walked round to the entrance and rang the bell. Suddenly a big shaggy head appeared gave a deep woof then looked towards the office, from which a lady appeared, and let us in once she had put
‘Woof ‘ in his kennel (I do like dogs).
We were made welcome and shown into the courtyard first so my wife could take photographs. Whilst we were doing this and admiring the Celler and house our greeter left us to inform Josep we had arrived. On her return we were taken into the reception where there is a large brazier with tables and chairs plus a small bar. On the walls are various pictures. One is of the Saint for Catalan farmers; another is a wall hanging from Japan. Josep is proud of this as Japan is one of the countries that buy his Cava.
Josep’s family began making wine in 1907, when his grandfather opened his small Celler. In those days everything was done by hand and gravity, making for back-breaking work.
Then the grapes were brought to the hopper and fed into it by hand. Then two men turned the wheels crushing the grapes. Next they were placed into the large presses to get the maximum juice which then ran out of the press into channels and down to the vats below; more hard work.
In 1941 his father opened his own Celler and began to make wine and Cava. Here Josep worked and learned his trade, but being the man he is he wanted to make his own label. So in 1997 he took over his grandfather’s Celler and so began a labour of love.
When Josep first started out with his wife and two young children he was using the original equipment his grandfather used. Everything was done by hand and gravity, it was back-breaking, but Josep held to his vision. He worked hard transforming a vast vault of a Celler into two stories above the caves where the Cava matures. On the ground floor you find the modern bottling plant.
Here just before its final corking the Cava is placed into an ‘ice ring’. Here the neck is frozen then the bottles are placed on a belt that takes them to an uncapping machine. This first removes the metal cap then the sediment is drawn out, the bottle then moves to the next procedure where it is topped up with Cava from another bottle. After this, comes the cork, wire cap then finally metal cover is added. Once this is done the bottles are set to age. You will note, that unlike Champagne, at no time is extra sugar added as the grapes are sweet enough not to need it.
We also see small caves which are named after his son and daughter, each containing racks of Cava several rows deep. To make the Celler workable, Josep placed concrete beams in-filled with terracotta ‘pots’ creating a ceiling downstairs and useable floor space upstairs. Up here he has lovingly preserved the original presses and crusher of which he is very proud and you can also see the date that his grandfather began making wine. There is also a tasting room and storage area here.
Then it was back downstairs into the caves themselves. Here Josep showed us the bottling machine where he bottles both his wines and Cava. This machine is cleansed twice with hot water before it is used for bottling so that everything is sterile. Only when this is done will the wine be
pumped down; then he begins his work.
After the Cava has been bottled it is taken through to the caves to begin its maturing. Depending on the type of Cava he is making the time will vary from between 9 to 33 weeks. Here the bottles are checked and turned to prevent the sediment from settling and encourages it to gravitate towards the neck. If you hold the wine to the light you can see the sediment as a musty line. These days Josep uses a machine that gently turns the bottles from horizontal to neck down thus ensuring the sediment is in the neck can readily be disposed of.
In the sample room are bottles that are in racks or lying on the table and Josep can tell you exactly which part of the cave holds the twin of a particular bottle. Beside this Josep has a small blending lab where he blends his Cava and wine to perfection.
We have just visited the final stages but now we are going back to the beginning. This is a small Celler producing high quality wines and Cava, so I was not surprised to see the same compact machinery that I have seen before.
Here you will find the vat where the yeast is added. This is left for around 24hrs then the process is stopped after this the wine is placed into vats to ferment.
In the room behind this one is the automated de-stalker and squeezed – this is most important - not pressed. This operation is run by a pump which when the pipes are connected takes the juice from there to the vats.
All this Josep has done on his own. The building, the blending- everything - is a true labour of love and a real feel for quality, no factory production here, just plain tradition with a dedication to quality. His son now works with him as well as his wife, and on Saturday’s his daughter holds classes in the reception; this really is a family business. Yes Josep has a small Celler but from it comes quality Cava, no large-scale manufacturing here, just wonderful, lovingly made good quality Cava.
As the wines and Cava’s here are of high quality, you will not find them in super markets. This is the Cava you place on the table at festive times or for parties when you want to ensure your guests are drinking something special. The Japanese like quality and know a good Cava when they taste it.
The first Cava Josep produced he called: Grand RVA Brut Nature VALLDEFERRE. It is a blending of both surnames of his wife’s family and his - such romance!
The grapes used to make this excellent Cava are Macabeo, Xarel-lo, Parellada, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. This results in a soft golden wine where the bubbles rise to a crown. The Bouquet: is of light summer fruit with a hint of sweet spices. The Taste: It has a light creamy taste with lingering after taste; bringing memories of warm fires and good friends. This Cava spends 9 months aging.
Next comes Grande Reserve Brut Nature Sara. This Cava is named after his daughter.
The grapes used for this are: Xarel-lo, Parellada, Chardonnay and Macabeo, giving this wine a pale straw colour with just a hint of a green tone with bubbles that are small and again form a small crown. The Bouquet: Have tones of apple and pear with a hidden hint of flowers. The Taste: Although this is a long aging wine - 48 months – it is fresh and light with the Chardonnay giving it that something special.
Next is Brut Nature Grand Reserve.
The grapes used here are Xarel-lo, Parellada and Macabeo, giving once again a gentle straw colour with a greenish tint with bubbles forming a small crown. The Bouquet: A gentle fruity aroma. The Taste: Light and fresh with a gentle floral taste. This one we drank one evening and it lifted us back to the summer - a perfect sipping Cava.
Now comes Brut Nature Reserve.
The grapes for this are Xarel-lo, Parellada and Macabeo this wine has a light greenish colour fresh and clear. The Bouquet: It is persistent light and slightly fruity. The Taste: Fresh and young very much a super Cava after 30 months aging.
Finally Brut Nature Rose Grand Reserve.
This is a spectacular Pink Cava. A beautiful pinky-reddish colour with bubbles in abundance that when they form the crown looks classic. The grapes used to produce this gem are Pinot Noir, Garnatxa and Trepat. The Bouquet: You can smell the grapes here whilst there is a hint of age. The Taste: it’s fresh, with a red currant lean plus persistent bubbles. It is aged for 36 months.
Well there you are, some of the most special Cavas I have tried. I have to say that given the choice between Champagne and Josep M Ferret Guasch Cava there is no contest for me. This Cava would win every time.
To try them contact Josep M Ferret Guasch on: email@example.com or visitwww.ferretguasch.com and enjoy A Cava of Passion.
(c) Michael Douglas Bosc
For more information on Cava visit Michael's blog at: http://asoldierswind.wordpress.com/