Although James Dean did not to the best of my knowledge make it to the Penedes region in Spain, it was through his association with Jean Leon, that we have the Jean Leon winery, as I discussed in Part 1. If you missed Part 1, I highly recommend reading Part 1 before continuing with Part 2, as it gives you some background on the Penedes area.
Next stop on my Penedes tour was the famous Bodegas Torres winery, which was founded in 1870. As we drove up in our tour bus, I was in awe as we passed through the Mas La Plana vineyard, which to me is very iconic for top quality Spanish wine. This vineyard is planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, and I would put the Mas La Plana wines up against any Cabernet Sauvignon wine produced around the world. I highly recommend this wine. With so much history with this winery, it wasn’t surprising to see that they actually have a museum at the winery. Some artifacts are old wine making tools, such as grape presses, but there are also other things, such as historical Catalonian ceramic tiles, which were quite beautiful. Our tour guide took us on a small “train” that wove through the various buildings at the winery, pointing out the significance of each of them, and brought us inside one building, housing the barrels filled with wine. It was quite interesting because inside the barrel room, the lights were turned off, then a multi-media show was displayed for us to learn about the history of Bodegas Torres. I think everyone was quite entertained.
And the highlight, was to taste some wine. The winery had set up 3 wines to taste, and also provided samples of cheese and torta (a cold potato and egg pancake) to sample with the wines. That was a nice touch as wine and food working together can bring out flavours and textures that you would miss on their own. The wines were all entry level for Torres.
Torres Vina Esmeralda 2013 – This is a white blend of Muscat and Gewurztraminer. It has a sweet nose with a flowery aroma. Dry with medium acidity. Light lychee and orange flavour, with a hint of sweet spice. This wine went nicely with the brie cheese we were served. An easy sipping wine that most people would enjoy. This wine is available in BC.
Torres Atrium Merlot 2012 – It has a light woody, cherries, plums and vanilla on the nose. Medium body, dry with higher acidity. Light cherry and plum flavour. Spicy/hot finish. An OK wine.
Torres Atrium Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 – Light intensity aromas of ripe plums and a whiff of capsicum and chocolate. Full body with an acidic prickle on your tongue. Ripe plums and cassis flavours with a hint of nutmeg. Fine tannins. An understated wine that was quite good for being entry level.
The history of this sparkling wine empire starts with the Ferrer family which establishes La Freixeneda, a wine-growing estate in the Penedès in the 16th century. The family exported wine around the world, and it was not until 1914 that Pedro and Dolores Ferrer release their first cava in 1914 under the Freixenet label. The Freixenet Cordon Negro was released in 1974, a new cava bottled in the distinctive dark frosted bottle that you have more than likely seen in your wine store. Entering Freixenet on the tour, our guide shows us a display case with historical bottles of their Cava, including specialty bottles, such as one made for the Barcelona Olympics. In total,
I think Freixenet currently produces 15 different cavas, of which we get 4 cavas; Cordon Negro, Carta Nevada, Cordon Rosado Brut, and Legero (I had to investigate this one, as I did not see it listed in Freixenet. From my Internet search it is a dealcoholized cava, probably based on Carta Nevada). Pricing and availability of these 4 cavas in BC are at this link. Each of the 15 different cavas is made of a blend of 3 different indigenous grape varieties: Macabeu, Xarelo-lo and Parellada are the traditional grapes used. The difference is the percentage used in each blend, plus aging. Freixenet also listed the Malvasia, Monastrell, Garnacha and Trepat grapes, which show up either as single varietals or in a blend.
The blends, or coupages, are:
- Reserva Real,
- Cuvee D.S.,
- Cuvee Dolores
- Brut Barroco,
- Brut Natural,
- Brut Rose,
- Gran Cordon Negro,
- Cordon Negro,
- Gran Carta Nevada,
- Carta Nevada,
- Extra, and
- Excelencia Brut Reserva.
As most people do not know how cava is made, our guide took us through a series of panels explaining the grapes used, and the process involved to turn still wine into sparkling wine. The display and description by the guide was very good. For those that do not know, cava is made using the Traditional Method, the same that is used in the Champagne region where the second fermentation, which creates the bubble, is done in the bottle. Stay tuned for my youtube channel where I will be posting my video recording of the steps as described by the Freixenet tour guide.
Our last stop, before tasting their cava, was a short ride on a “train” through the cellars and back scenes area of the winery. There seemed to be endless miles of cava bottles stacked to the ceiling, which was very impressive. Just thinking about the price of one bottle and multiplying it by the price of a bottle, I could see that one short corridor could contain hundreds of thousands of dollars of cava, if not more.
At last it was time to taste some cava. We were given a glass each of Freixenet Cordon Negro and Brut Rose, and had a variety of jamon, cheese, and more appetizers to sample with our cava.
Freixenet Cordon Negro – Slightly petrol with light citrus on the nose. Dry. Very citrusy, together with apples and nuttiness on the palate. Small, slightly creamy bubbles.
Freixenet Brut Rose – Light salmon colour in the glass with a light strawberry and cherry nose. Very high acidity. Raspberry and raspberry leaf flavour. Very small bubble that dissipated quite quickly. Not bad.
Overall, the tour was very relaxed, starting at 8:30am and finishing at 4:30pm. The tour guide on the bus gives the tour in English, and has MP3 players for those that need the tour in another language. BCN Travel is the tour operator. They have other wine tours as well leaving from Barcelona. Adéu to Spain and the tour. I look forward to visiting again.