Codorniu – The Creators of Cava Express the Terroirs of Spain

There is never an excuse needed to drink bubbles. And, while you might think of Champagne or Prosecco when it comes to bubbles, do not forget about Cava. I am not talking about the cheap brands in the supermarket. I am talking about beautifully made, classic-method Cava from Codorniu, the brand credited with creating Cava, as I wrote about in a recent column in the Napa Valley Register and am sharing here.

Champagne has been thought to be invented by Benedictine monk Dom Perignon in 1693, but sparkling wine was invented in 1531 by the Benedictine monks of the Abbey of Saint-Hilaire in Languedoc, France. Sparkling wine was made in Italy for the first time in 1865 by Carlo Gancia. And in 1872, the Codorníu family created cava in Spain. Cava may not be the sparkling wine that comes to mind if you are thinking of opening a bottle of bubbles. But, after tasting the Codorníu cavas, perhaps it should be.

The Codorníu family is the oldest winemaking family in Spain. A family business founded in 1551, Anna de Codorníu was the last person to carry the Codorníu name, as she married vintner Miguel Raventós in 1659. Learning from their French neighbors, they instituted the traditional method to their winemaking and created the first bottles of Spanish sparkling wine in 1872. Naming it after the cellar where the wines were aged, the sparkling wine became known as cava. By 1897, Codorníu was appointed to the Spanish Royal Household as an official supplier of cava and today is the second largest producer of cava in Spain.

Cava is the name of traditional method Spanish sparkling wine that is produced mainly in the Penedès region of Catalonia. However, Codorníu has vineyards in three regions in Spain, each with a distinct terroir, climate, history and soil. Codorníu is the only producer making cava that articulates the highest expression of each landscape.

The Finca La Fideuera vineyard is located in D.O. Penedes in the Catalan region, south of Barcelona. The vineyard is planted at an altitude of 560 feet. The soil consists of gravely limestone and is rich in phosphorus and low in potassium. The grapes are noted for their acid, aging potential and elegance. The grapes grown at Finca la Fideuera are Macabeu, Xarel-lo and Parellada.

The Finca El Tros Nou vineyard is located in D.O. Conca de Barberà, in the north of the province of Tarragona. The calcareous and slate soils are located in a depression where the soil was eroded by the Francolí River. Surrounded by mountains, the area has a Mediterranean microclimate but with continental influence. Some of the oldest Pinot Noir vines in Spain are grown in this vineyard.

The Finca La Pleta vineyard is in D.O. Costers del Segre located in the province of Lérida. A mixture of mountains and plains, the area has a continental climate. The soils are poor and shallow with llicorella slate, resulting in grapes with aromatic concentration and good acidity. Chardonnay is grown in this vineyard.

The diversity of the three vineyards is reflected in the extensive range of wines produced by Codorníu. On the high end, only 100 cases are made of the “457” Gran Reserva Brut 2008 ($200). A blend of the best plots from each of the three single vineyards, the wine consists of 45 percent Chardonnay, 45 percent Pinot Noir and 10 percent Xarel.lo. The Chardonnay from La Pleta reflects the intensity of the site. The Pinot Noir from El Tros Nou contributes minerality and refinement. The Xarel.lo from La Fideura adds acid and elegance. After cold fermentation, the wine ages for 9 months on the lees and is then blended. The resulting wine has aromas of brioche, white flowers, ripe fresh fruit and almond with chalky notes.

Expressing just one of the vineyards, the Finca La Pleta Cava de Paraje Calificado Brut 2009 ($125) is a single variety from a single region. This Chardonnay based sparkling wine with a little age on it shows a little oxidation with sherry notes, as well as notes of green apple, nuts and oyster shells.

Coming from the oldest vineyards, the Jaume Codorníu Gran Reserva Brut 2013 ($90) is a blend of 42.5 percent Chardonnay, 42.5 percent Pinot Noir and 15 percent Xarel.lo and spends four months on the lees. It is a richer style cava with aromas of green apple and lemon and a creamy midpalate.

In 2002, Codorníu was the first to make cava from 100 percent Pinot Noir in 2002. The Gran Codorníu 2015 Pinot Noir Brut ($20) is the utmost expression of Pinot Noir from the original planting. The wine is a salmon pink color and as intense notes of strawberry, raspberry and floral notes.

Working with the same source material, vineyard work and terroir, Codorníu has the very affordable Anna de Codorníu line. These wines that are not barrel aged or lees aged but the quality is the same as the higher-end cavas. The Anna de Codorníu line was launched in 1983 and pays tribute to the heiress and last person in the family to bear the Codorníu name. The Anna de Codorníu Blanc de Blancs Reserva Brut NV ($16) is a blend of 70 percent Chardonnay, 15 percent Parellada, 7.5 percent Xarel.lo and 7.5 percent Macabeo. It is a brilliant yellow color and has notes of citrus and tropical fruit. The Anna de Codorníu Rosé Brut NV ($16) is a blend of 70 percent Pinot Noir and 30 percent Chardonnay and has red fruit aromas.

Cava is more than the cheap stuff you may have purchased in the past, and Codorníu is more than cava producers from Catalonia. They are expressing the terroir of Spain through a diversity of cavas.

Read the original story in the Napa Valley Register.