The 6 top sparkling wine wineries in Spain
Sparkling wine is experiencing one of its best decades, with consumption growing year by year all over the world, driven by a change in the trend of wine consumption. Within the wide range of wines with bubbles, the most prestigious category is that of wines with secondary fermentation in the bottle, where Champagne is the best performer in terms of quality. However, it is not the only region capable of offering great wines in this miraculous and bubbly beverage, there are great examples in other parts of the world, where Spain has more and more to say. Today we have set out to bring you the six wineries that have produced the best sparkling wines in Spain in the latest edition of our Peñín Guide 2022. We went to the six houses that have contributed the best wines by the traditional method, in order to show you the best representation of Spanish sparkling wine and how each one of them reflects in their own way the identity of an origin and a high-flying personal style.
Gramona, on a par with the historic Champagne houses
Gramona is for us the house that has best represented the excellence of sparkling wine in Spain in the last decade. It is a family winery that has championed the concept of long ageing with an oxidative style closer to the great champagnes than to the sparkling wines of Catalonian origin. Its ageing process in corked bottles and a well-kept secret, the expedition liqueur based on solera wines, have managed to position its wines at the top of the charts, being the first winery to score 99 points with one of its wines, a fact that occurred for the first time in 2016 with the wine Enoteca 2001 Brut Nature and which we also had the opportunity to compare later to another famous winery, Recaredo.
Their wines enclose the subtlety of perfectionist winemaking, which brings us closer to the concept of time and its influence on wine. It is not by chance that they use the phrase "artisans of time" as a phrase that identifies their spirit and philosophy. It has been precisely time, which they work to perfection, and their tenacity in believing in what they are doing that has allowed them to position themselves as the most famous Spanish winery in terms of second fermentation wines.
Jaume and Xavier Gramona are the fourth generation of winemakers in the family and they are also the ones who have managed to culminate with their work and dedication the direction that the winery has taken since its beginnings.
There are many wines capable of corroborating what we say here, but sticking to the last assessment made by the tasting team in the Peñín Guide, it is Enoteca Gramona 2006 Brut Nature that has brought us closer to the perfection of a wine of these characteristics. This wine has been aged for more than 160 months in bottle and 1,800 bottles have been produced. The xarel.lo (60%) and macabeo (40%) grapes come from their famous Font de Jui estate, 22.5 hectares that extend from the Anoia River (La Plana, 100 metres above sea level) to the hill of Mas Escorpí (350 metres above sea level). It is a vineyard with clay-limestone soils, with sand next to the river and rock in the highest and driest area. Enoteca Gramona 2006 Brut Nature is a superb wine, very sapid and complex, with an exceptional elegance in the mouth and a creamy and persistent bubble. An exceptional wine that is worth trying at least once in a lifetime.
Vins Pepe Raventós, claiming its place at the top of the list
Pepe Raventós has grown up in one of the historic families of sparkling wine and Cava. The Raventós surname is intimately linked to the creation of this Denominación de Origen through Josep Maria Raventós i Blanc, heir to the Raventós Estate and Can Codorníu, responsible, among many other things, for the expansion of Codorníu in the 1960s and promoter and creator of the D.O. Cava. With such a surname, the burden of a family always linked to the excellence of sparkling wine must have been a tough test for someone who wanted to carve out a niche for himself in the world of wine through very local and artisan wines, some of them bordering on the concept of "natural wine".
To position a sparkling wine at the top of the table like Mas del Serral 2009 Brut Nature on the fringes of the Raventós i Blanc family winery has been a demonstration that dedication and self-confidence are vital to achieve success. It is a wine with Pepe's personal stamp, and in which he has poured all the knowledge he has acquired after growing up surrounded by many of the great bottled bubbles of this country. It is a sparkling wine made with xarel.lo, the great variety of sparkling wine with a national stamp and black bastard. These grapes grow in the Clos del Serral plot, located in Sant Sadurní d'Anoia, in the heart of the Conca del Anoia, facing north and northwest, which allows them to take advantage of the greater freshness of the area. It is characterised by a very long ageing of 100 months in the bottle, which, in the hands of carefully selected raw materials, translates into an excitingly subtle wine. Fine bubbles, hints of local Mediterranean herbs intermingle with the fine toasted notes of its ageing, and a wine that has an exceptional freshness and elegance worthy of the great wines of our country. With this wine Pepe Raventós has finally managed to put his personal stamp among the producers of the best sparkling wines and all this despite coming from where he comes from, with the added complexity of being compared to the great figure of his father Josep María.
Recaredo, the best representation of the vineyard
This is the winery that, in our opinion, has made the greatest contribution to the conception of the most local, down-to-earth cava. This is a winery that focused its efforts on highlighting the virtues of its origin, when many thought that in a wine so influenced by the method of production, it was unlikely to be able to convey the essence of a place. Ton Mata is responsible for this, his work in this family winery has been essential to undertake the difficult challenge of expressing an origin in a wine with a second fermentation in the bottle and with long ageing in each bottling, which in the eyes of some may detract from the vineyard in favour of the expression of time in the bottle.
The Turo d'en Mota is already in its own right a little piece of land that has been able to give meaning to the concept of "paraje", because under this name not only a specific landscape has been bottled, but a landscape at a specific moment in time. It is the closest thing to a published landscape photograph, a detailed representation of what a particular land is capable of giving. The style of this house plays with the traditional dryness and fine bitterness classic of Catalan sparkling wines, and does so with subtlety and with freshness and local character, the three best ingredients we can think of for a sparkling wine.
Raventós i Blanc, the icon
We come to the family winery of one of the family names that, as we said before, is one of the most important in the evolution of the D.O. Cava. The hand of the Raventós i Blanc family in the production of great sparkling wines is unquestionable. The work of Manuel Raventós, the eldest of the eleven children of Josep Maria Raventós i Blanc and Isabel Negra i Valls, is perfectly reflected in many of the best sparkling wines that reach the Peñín Guide every year. These are fine, elegant wines that are also aged for long periods of time. Enoteca Personal Manuel Raventós 2002 Brut Nature is a wine conceived to show the singularity of a vintage under the influence of long ageing. It is a wine made from Xarel.lo in which the nuances of pastries, fine cocoa and toasted bread emerge with energy. A rounded wine, very gastronomic and with a refreshing acidity, fine bubbles and an excellent roundness in the mouth.
Manuel Raventós, the winemaker responsible for this jewel, is an example of what a life devoted to the excellence of wines with secondary fermentation in the bottle can bring. Raventós i Blanc is today the archetype of the classic sparkling wines and an icon in the region.
Alta Alella, the responsibility of championing the excellence of Cava
The fith winery to make it to this list of the best sparkling wine producers is a relatively young one. Alta Alella was founded in 1991 by the Pujol-Busquets Guillén family and in just a few years it has managed to become one of the clear exponents of the new era of quality Cava. Alta Allella is an example of how not all roads to excellence have to go through the local Catalan varieties xarel.lo, parellada and macabeo. The best example is their Alta Alella 10 2010, a brut nature dominated by the notes of long ageing with a razor-sharp acidity that explores other paths and reminds us that there is no single way of understanding wine in the upper echelons. It also happens that this house belongs to one of the five sub-zones belonging to the Comtats de Barcelona, Serra de Mar, announced last year by the D.O. Cava and which, due to its characteristics, can offer wines with different profiles.
Serra de Mar is located just 15 kilometres north of the city of Barcelona, with vineyards from where the sea and its influence can be appreciated. The characteristic soils of this land are known as sauló, characterised by their sandy structure, which allows the roots to easily go deep into the subsoil and gives a natural acidity to the grapes.
The work at this winery is also aimed at interfering as little as possible in the dialogue between the soil, the climate and the wine, which is why they do not use shipping liquor. The first fermentation of this wine took place in second year French oak barrels, something that can be glimpsed in its first notes on the nose and that provides greater weight on the palate. The rest of the nuances that can be found in this excellent wine come from its ageing for more than 10 years on its lees, which translates into a festival of tertiary and bakery notes that have helped it to reach 96 points. Alta Alella is facing the complicated but interesting challenge of being the leader of the most highly rated cavas in the Cava appellation, which is why much is expected of it in the coming years. It will certainly not be alone on the road, so it must not slow down the pace in its subsequent productions.
Llopart, the living tradition of Catalan sparkling wine
We close the circle with a winery that for us has always represented the purest Catalan style of wine made by the traditional method. Llopart is a winery with a very long tradition in the world of wine. Few houses have such a long history linked to the cultivation of vines and the production of sparkling wines as this winery. The real heart of this century-old winery is located in Les Flandes in the heart of the Alt Penedès, at the western end of the Ordal mountains. There, surrounded by wild bushes and a Mediterranean forest of pine and holm oak, the vines grow on a soil rich in calcium carbonates and at an altitude of 330 metres above sea level, an important point in the local terrain. The varietal argumentation on which they base their creations revolves around the three typical varieties in the production of Catalan sparkling wine: xarel.lo, macabeo and parellada.
Llopart Original 1887 Viñas Singulares Les Flandes 2010 is a brut nature that brings together all the essence of the place and the cultural legacy of the local sparkling wine makers, which has helped it to position itself this year as one of the best rated sparkling wines by the tasting team. This wine is made with grapes from 3 old mountain vineyards with very low production. Aged for more than 10 years, this wine is made with 50% montónega (adaptation of the parellada variety), 25% xarel.lo and 25% macabeo. It is a single vintage wine in which you can find the phenotype of Catalan sparkling wine but taken to the heights. We are talking about rich nuances of wild herbs and perfumery, which are combined with ripe fruit and nuts. The palate is deliciously bitter, intense and very long-lasting.
The Peñín Guide has received this week the award for the Best Wine Guide according to the International Wine Challenge Merchant Awards, awards that were born in the United Kingdom to reward the work of those who bring wine closer to the final consumer.