Recently, Metrovino and Artisan Wines hosted a winemaker's dinner for Pepe Raventós of Raventós i Blanc at Ox and Angela restaurant. Having visited the estate last June, I was eager to re-visit their wines, some of which are still not available in Canada. Meeting Pepe was an added bonus on this night - it was wonderful to listen to him speak so passionately about his family's business that started so long ago and to learn about his plans for the future of Raventós.
Although Raventós also produces reds, whites, and rosés, they are well-known for their Cava, a crisp, apple-y sparkling wine from the region of Catalunya. This bubbling beauty is Spain's answer to France's Champagne. The winemaking method is essentially the same (bottle-fermented) as in Champagne, however, Cava is produced using the local grapes; Macabeo, Xarel-lo (pronounced cha-rel-o) and Parellada. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Garnacha, Monastrell and Trepat can also be used but are considered less traditional. Cava producers such as Pepe are working to increase Cava's popularity as a celebratory wine by lowering yields and using only estate grown fruit. All grapes are harvested by hand, which allows for a higher quality product.
The story of Raventós i Blanc starts way back in 1872, when after learning the traditional method in Champagne, Josep Raventós I Fatjo made the first bottle of Cava under the Codorníu label. In 1885, Josep's son Manuel Raventós took over the family business with the goal of focusing solely on producing sparkling wine from the regions' grapes using the traditional method developed by the Champenoise. Codorníu went on to become highly successful, but it wasn't until 1984 when Josep María Raventós i Blanc and his son Manuel Raventós decided to start producing cava under the Raventós name.
A very special wine, Gran Reserva Cava means it has been aged for 30 months in the second fermentation phase. 'Reserva' translates to 15 months and when there is no mention of reserva, the minimum ageing requirement for the wine to be sold legally as Cava is 9 months (two months less than standard Champagne). The longer a wine is aged, the more flavour and intricate nuances it will develop.
The land where it all began.
Francesc Escala. Our incredibly passionate host and friend!
The traditional pupitres at Raventos. These 'pupitres' (desks) allow for the traditional process of 'remuage' (ridling) needed to make sparkling wine. Although modern winemaking techniques, notably, the invention of the gyropalette have eliminated the need for this, a 'remueur's' (ridler's) job was to turn each bottle 1/4 inch every day after the secondary fermentation until the lees had fully settled into the neck of the bottle. Once this process had been completed, the neck was frozen and the cap removed to allow for the ice containing the lees to be pressurized out. The bottle was then quickly corked to maintain the bubbles of the wine. A small amount of a mixture of sugar and wine (le dosage) was traditionally added to maintain the level within the bottle. Fun fact: Before this technique was developed in 1836 in Champagne, the foil wrapping over the cork was originally used to cover up the empty space at the top of the bottle!
The modern production facility at Raventós.
This beautiful 500-year-old oak was chosen as the symbol of Raventós i Blanc. The architecture of the winery even featured the oak as part of the design. "It is the steadfast witness to a commitment to the land and to fidelity to ideas which have been refined over more than 500 years." http://www.raventos.com/en/project/architecture-of-the-winery
Visiting Raventós i Blanc was a very special and memorable experience, I look forward to visiting again in the future. Below, I have included a few more wine notes as well as a recipe to pair with a bottle of Raventós Cava shall you decide to pick one up after reading this. :)
The Isable Negra. Having enjoyed this so much in Spain I was so excited to find out that Raventós had shipped 9 bottles out to Calgary for the dinner. Reminiscent of Bordeaux, and a result of the Raventós seven-year experiment in the region, this beauty in a bottle is made up of equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon and Monastrell. Twelve months ageing in French oak helps accentuate its tannins and spices.
Something we did not try at the dinner in Calgary was the de Nit. This pink drink is one of my favorites for its girlish and fruity flair. In true Raventós style this luscious blend of Macabeo, Xarel-lo, Parellada and Monastrell is clean and crisp, offering notes of citrus and cassis on the nose. De Nit is perfect for aperatif, dessert or just on its own. In my experience it tastes best after 7 hours of driving from La Dordogne France to Saint Sadurni D'Anoia (where we proceeded to get lost 5 minutes away from the Raventós Winery)! Thank you Francesc! It often finds its way into my dinner parties, as shown above with sweets from Yann Haute Patisserie. Such a pretty wine deserves pretty desserts after all!
If you haven't already tasted anything from Raventós I Blanc, head on over to Metrovino to pick up a bottle or two to try. I can guarantee that you will not be disappointed. And just in case you do, you may want to make a few tapa to go along with. One recipe that I have made dozens of times and always goes over well is Stuffed Piquillo Peppers. They are so easy, present well and very tasty. A bottle of the sparkly stuff and you're set. Heck, you might as well cancel that trip to Spain it'll be so good! Okay, well almost. We can pretend.
Piquillo "peek-ee-oh" Peppers are native to the Navarre region of Spain and are used abundantly in Basque cuisine. Fire roasted and slightly sweet, these brightly coloured beauties are perfect for stuffing! Find them bottled in glass jars at your local health or specialty food store. I make sure to always have a bottle on hand, just in case I have to prepare something quick for unexpected guests.
Tuna-Packed Piquillo Peppers
Adapted from Dorie Greenspan’s Around my French Table
1 5-6 ounce can chunk light tuna packed in oil (or not), drained
Grated zest of ½ lemon
1 tbsp. capers, rinsed, patted dry, and chopped
1 tbsp. minced shallot (about ¼ large), rinsed and patted dry
4 Niçoise olives, pitted and chopped, or 1 tbsp. chopped black or green olives
1 fistful flat leaf Italian parsley, finely minced
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
A good glug of extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
6 piquillo peppers drained and patted dry
Put tuna in a bowl and break it up with a fork. Add in all other ingredients and mix well to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Carefully open each piquillo pepper and stuff with a rounded spoonful of the mixture. Careful not to over-stuff.
Place the peppers on a grill pan and heat under broiler for a few minutes.
Place decoratively on a plate with arugula or watercress. Drizzle with olive oil and a healthy sprinkling of Maldon salt.
Serve with Chevre-Chaud crostinis, olives, and whatever else!