Mike Turner packs his castanets and visits Juvé y Camps in the Espiells region of Penedes and comes back raving about the premium Cava he tasted there. He argues that the current popularity of still Xarel.lo is one reason why premium Cava could be making a comeback on the right lists.
Normally such a shy and retiring type, Mike gets into the swing of things even posting tasting notes that say “Wow! Just Wow!”. Read on.
“Salut i força el canut!”
Apparently that’s what you say in Catalunya when you’re toasting with a fine glass of Cava over your patatas bravas or grilled sardines. It’s partly a cry to the power and pride that the drinkers have in this wonderful wine. A wine that has recently struggled to find its place on the retail shelves or the fancy wine lists in the UK. But two days spent out with those lovely folks at Juvé y Camps has convinced me that those days in the wilderness will soon be at an end, or at least I bloody well hope so, they’re delicious!
Based up in the Espiells region of Penedes, in the vicinity of the epic looking Montserrat mountains, Juvé y Camps have a whopping 400 hectares of land. With 280 hectares under vine, they’re the biggest organic vineyard in Catalunya by a country mile. And it’s a viticultural ethos of which they’re very proud. “Within 10 years the whole of Spain is aiming to be organic,” suggests marketing director Anna Canal, “there’s no excuse in a place with our climate.”
Now the sneakier observers of you may note that none of Juvé y Camps wines currently hold the seal for organic viticulture. This is a marketing strategy, as they wait for all their maturing wines to be ready for release before releasing the entire range under the “organic” flag. And this takes time for Juvé y Camps, a producer focused on the Gran Reserva style of Cava (producing 35-40% of all Gran Reserva Cava made each year), with a minimum of three years on the lees.
The re-emergence of Xarel-lo as an “interesting” grape variety in the eyes of wine geeks will play directly into Cava’s hands. On arriving in Barcelona, we tried a 100% still Xarel-lo in the glorious Monvinic wine bar and it had everyone purring for more.
Better planting areas and better handling in the cellars has allowed the sometimes overly rubbery aroma to show off the great structure, floral, herb, spice, and earth flavours of the grape, something that has always made Cava what it is. Juvé’s Essential label is 100% varietal, and highlights the point fantastically well.
Winemaker Antonio suggests, however, that Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are the most important on the estate as they’re tough to find outside in sufficient quality. Chardonnay is strangely difficult in these warm climates as it’s the first to be picked – 20 years ago it was picked at the end of August, now it’s at the start. Climate change has lead Antonio Orte to “forget calendars, we just act when we need to act.”
Of the wines we tasted ourselves, I have to say the rosé was an absolute belter. 100% Pinot Noir, and with only 12 months lees ageing to keep the fresh red fruit, it had a lovely kick of residual sugar to balance the acidity that just completed the picture. Seriously impressive.
Continuing on the Pinot Noir theme, the 2012 Blanc De Noir, with three years on the lees, was equally impressive. A style of wine not allowed in Cava before 2008, there was a lovely tartness to the red cherry and red apple, which lifted the palate superbly above the well integrated autolytic character. Definitely one to watch next time you get a chance to try.
Wow! Just wow! Beautiful golden colour, with honey, nuts, cream, dough, apricot, and peach. And what’s more, all the Marmite-style rubber flavour from young Xarel-lo has gone, leaving just the structure this grape supplies to shine through. If the Cava de Paraje Calificada DO finally gets the go ahead (anyday now apparently), this wine will be one of the first candidates put forward. This is a serious Cava that would grace any, and I mean any, wine list.
So it’s time to rethink Cava boys and girls. A food-focused and varied set of bubbles. Next time Meritxell Juvé and her team from Juvé y Camps are in town, make a bee line straight there. Or just head out to Barcelona, that could be a bit more fun 😉