Spain has led the way in building world class, high end-designed bodegas. With the unveiling of its new winery in Empordà, however, the Perelada Group has gone one better. Not only is the winery at the cutting edge of technological and functional advancements in winemaking, and sporting an avant-garde design, but it has also been driven from the very start by a total commitment to sustainability. So much so that it is the first European winery to be certified LEED Gold – the world’s highest sustainable building certificate. Largely built underground the winery mixes futuristic design, sustainability and oenotourism with winemaking. The Buyer’s Marina Ray was one of the first visitors, talked to winemaker Delphí Sanahuja about how it has affected his winemaking capabilities and tastes through a range of Perelada wines.
“DO Empordà is not widely known in the UK yet, but having tasted the Perelada wines and seen the extent of their ambition embodied in their beautiful new winery, I have a feeling that we’ll be hearing much more of them in the future,” writes Ray.
The small DO of Empordà, on the north west tip of Spain, is a wine region to watch. Running up to the border with France – and sharing terroir and geography with the more famous Roussillon – Empordà is bounded by the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean, with a winemaking tradition that dates back to the 6th century BC. The wines are typically robust and concentrated, with high alcohol and good structure, from grapes dried out by the winds that can blow 100km/hr. A newly opened 1,800m3 winery, from the biggest producer in the area, the Perelada Group, heralds a leap in productivity and quality.
First conceived in 2003 by the Suqué Mateu family and local architects RCR, the winery project was shelved in 2006 amidst economic uncertainty, revived and updated in 2016 when sustainability became a key motivator, completed 2020, delayed again by Covid and finally opened this October. Unsurprisingly, given such a gestation, everything about the new winery is impeccably thought out, down to the tiniest of details. There is no great facade or fanfare, 1,600m3 being below ground: the architects have created a landscape rather than just a building, and the winery is the first in Europe to achieve a LEED GOLD certification for sustainability.
Some of the core features of the new Perelada winery design include the use of geothermal energy, efficient water and electricity use, sustainable materials and processes, thermal insulation and the prevalence of natural lighting. Overall it combines a far greater winemaking capacity with wine tourism – expertly planned wine tours through the award-winning winery alongside a restaurant, shop and gardens in the converted 1940s farm.
Split into key zones, the winery tour starts in the ‘Labyrinth’, where a series of rooms show beautifully produced films about of each of the five estates, over a floor covered in the soil of that estate. The reverence, stirring music and heroic photography set the scene for the expertly choreographed tour of the winery which is an uplifting and fascinating experience.
The design cleverly manipulates the senses: the carefully crafted steps that require concentration to walk down; the darkened glass walkway over the cave (so as not to startle the eyes after the low lighting in the Labyrinth) with small gaps to allow in the cellar aromas; the awesome ‘Temple’ where the experimental semi-ovoid concrete tanks sit, carefully lit… It’s as good as the lift that takes you up 102 floors to the viewing platform in the twin towers museum in NYC.
Delphí Sanahuja, winemaker at Perelada, foresees a jump in the quality of the wines he is able to make, now that the new winery, in all its finery, is at his disposal. More fermentation tanks enable the wines from the different fincas to be vinified separately and obviously large investments in teardrop concrete tanks and 3800 litre oak foudres, as well as the usual range of stainless steel and new and old oak barriques, will also enable him to continue and expand his programme of Ex Ex wines.
The most recent example of this range is Ex Ex 14, a single varietal Garnatxa Negra (Grenache) of the 2019 vintage from Finca la Garriga, a sandy, gravelly soil with a double trellis system. Trained with four arms, with more shoots per vine, the vigour provided by the soil is distributed among more shoots and more bunches of grapes, resulting in looser bunches and smaller berries, which translates into more concentrated grapes and, subsequently, a more balanced and intense wine.
Fresh and full on the palate with a long and pleasant aftertaste, despite being a staggering 16% ABV, the wine is gorgeously structured and round, with, I imagine, great ageing potential. ExEx14 is only the 14th experimental wine to be bottled of the 112 ‘experiments’ vinified to date. Each experimental wine explores a variation in canopy management, cross breeds, viniculture, use of spontaneous yeasts etc across the very varied soil of the five Perelada estates and the further 110 ha of long-rented vines in the area.
The Empordà DO has 20 permitted varieties, though Garnatxa, Tempranillo, Garnatxa blanca, Chardonnay, and Mataro (Mourvèdre) predominate.
DO Empordà is not widely known in the UK yet, but having tasted the Perelada wines and seen the extent of their ambition embodied in their beautiful new winery, I have a feeling that we’ll be hearing much more of them in the future.
So what about the Perelada wines?
These are the wines that are currently available in the UK through Alliance Wine. Perelada also supplies Cava Castillo Perelada for Waitrose, but that is grown and vinified in Penedès, further south.
Perelada Stars Brut Reserva 2017
D.O Cava with at least 15 months in the bottle before disgorging, it is 40% Macabeu, 30% Xarel-lo and 30% Parellada.
Available at Amps, thedrinkshop.com, Cheers Wine Merchants, Good Pair Days, Vine & Bine, RRP £13.50
Perelada Stars Touch of Rose 2020
D.O Cava, certified Vegan and organic, with 9 months in bottle before disgorging. 85% Garnatxa (Grenache) and 15% Pinot Noir.
Available at Vinoramica, Amps, RRP £15.50
Perelada Stars Brut Nature Reserva 2019
D.O Cava, certified Vegan, with 15 months in bottle before disgorging. 70% Parellada , 15% Xarel-lo and 15% Macabeu.
Available at Drinkwell, The Beeswing, Seven Cellars, RRP £15.50
Perelada Nomes Garnatxa Blanca 2021
Named as one of the best Spanish wines under £15 by Tim Atkin. 100% Garnatxa Blanca.
Available at Bonafide Wines, Hermitage Cellars, Grape & Grind, RRP £13.50
Perelada Nomes Garnatxa Negra 2020
Garnatxa Negra (Grenache) single varietal.
Available at 3 Spires Limited, Amps, Drink Warehouse Ltd, RRP £13.50
Perelada 5 Finques Reserva 2016
The blend of varietals from the 5 Perelada fincas including Cabernet Sauvignon, Garnatxa Negra, Merlot, Samsó(Carrignon), Syrah and others.
Available at Amps, 3 Spires Limited, Vinotopia, Constantine Stores, RRP £18.00
Perelada Finca La Garriga 2016
From the single estate, La Garriga, a 100% Samsó.
Available at Zito Wine Limited, KMW Wines & Spirits, RRP £27.50
The wines of Perelada are available in the UK through Alliance Wine, which is a supplier partner of The Buyer. To discover more about Alliance Wine click here.