Castellroig, for example
As I’ve written before, I get very tired of people comparing Cava to Champagne and decidedly stating that Cava is in no way at the same level. This doesn’t take into account price as well as the fact that they’re often tasting one of the Cavas produced by the big three companies of: Freixenet, Codorníu, and García Carrión (better known for their Jaume Serra brand.) These three producers make 95% of all the Cava produced and overall, their portfolio is focused primarily on price as they’ve been trying to chase Prosecco’s massive growth which most warrant hasn’t gone as well for Cava as it has for Prosecco.
In the 5% of the producers that remain there are some excellent Cava makers and one such example I was finally able to get around to visiting was Castellroig. It’s a venture owned by the Sabaté i Coca family and it was the 4th generation of this winemaking family, Marcel who met me at their cellar just as spring was starting to make itself known in Penedès.
Located in the Alt Penedès county and specifically in a zone known as Vall del Bitlles, the winery sits just outside of Sant Sadurní d’Anoia. Marcel and I went for a tour of their various properties which are not only close to the winery but also owned by them. This is one of those aspects to Castellroig that makes them a better example of how DO Cava should be with smaller landholders making wines in their own cellars instead of hiring out for the task.
There is a strong chalky aspect to most of the soils and it comes through in the wines as they do something that isn’t often found in Cava, in that they show a sense of place and like the handful of others who strive to work as they do, they’re starting to be known.
On top of this, they offer a very wide portfolio of wines. If you are convinced that all Cava should be 5€ fizz, then you won’t find that here–which is a good thing, even their 9€ shows tremendous quality for the price. But, as is often the case in Cava, if you spend just a bit more and get say, their Gran Reserva, you jump to another category of craft winemaking.
There are indeed many Cava producers and I’m happy to say that in the handful I consider to be making a truly quality sparkling wines, I now add Castellroig.
Brut Nature 2013
From 15 year-old vines from several parcels. Citric notes, bit of blood orange, lemon pith. Pale straw in color. Young mousse. Medium minus body, medium plus acidity. Quite agreeable overall and very reasonable for the price. For export they add 5g of sugar to make a Brut.
Xarel·lo, Macabeu, Parellada 12% 9€
Gran Reserva 2010
Pale lemon. Lemon pith, cream, light limestone minerality starts to come out a bit more at this level. Medium body and medium acidity. Balanced and while shorter in finish, easygoing in the mouth and makes for good food pairings.
85% Xarel·lo, 15% Macabeo 12% 17€
Sabaté i Coca 2008
70 year-old vineyard. Zone of Terroja. Lemon in color. Degorged in 2011. One part aged in oak, the other in stainless steel. Pronounced minerality, radically more complex aromatically with levels of white pear and fennel, white blossoms. Medium body, medium acidity, smooth in the mouth, round & integrated, very smooth in the finish with great deal of life. Easy to spend an evening with.
100% Xarel·lo 11.5% 30€
SO Blanc 2015
Cured red apple, pulpy, young, jumpy fruit. Good deal of white fruit in the body, fresh, bright, medium minus body and acidity, short finish. Reliable reference.
97% Xarel·lo, 3% Malvasia 12.5% 7€
Terroja de Sabaté 2013
Only aged in stainless steel from a vineyard of 18 years. Notes of pear as well as bit of wild spice such as fennel and rosemary, little hit of graphite minerality. Light toasted quality from the lees aging. Medium plus body, medium acidity. Short finish, needs a good deal of time to open up.
100% Xarel·lo 12.5% 23€