Friday, 26 April 2013


Penedès is an area known mainly because quite a proportion of wine production belongs to the designation of origin Cava, and, to a lesser extent DO Catalunya. It’s difficult to understand how the same geographical area belongs to three denominations of origin, and still there are vineyards that aren’t members of any. In Penedès, the three denominations of origin –Cava, Penedès and Catalunya– live in harmony, alongside cellars that have chosen not to be certify their products in either of the regions. Conceptually it’s quite hard to understand the logic of this if you are not physically here in Penedes, and involved in wine or wine production. It would be our pleasure to explain it in person should you wish to visit us in Penedes!

Today we discuss a cellar that works with two denominations of origin, Cava and Penedès, producing exclusively organic wines and cavas. The first thing to highlight is its location: in the middle of the Garraf massif, effectively an unofficial subregion of Penedès. The winery is VallDolina, which is the trading name, but local people know it as Can Tutusaus (“Can” is used in villages to mean “House of” Tutusaus). 
Can Tutusaus, in Olesa de Bonesvalls

In 1348, documents found indicate existence of a farm and forest belonging to Can Tutusaus, however it was not until 1729 that the farmhouse was re-built on the cellar’s current site at Olesa.
Can Tutusaus farm has several acres, most of which are Mediterranean forests, planted with pines, holm oaks and broom. A range of Mediterranean plants like fennel, thyme, rosemary and lavender also exist. In spring there is an explosion of colours and aromas, quite a spectacle to see and appreciate the intensity of the aromas. It is especially beautiful early morning and evening, if possible with a glass of wine or cava. Nature can be captured in all its magnificence, it’s amazing!
The estate has 11 hectares (27 acres) of vineyards converted to Organic status in 1998. This conversion required a re-think of all the vineyard tasks. They became focused on respecting the environment and also on understanding the vines so well that their care became individual. The results showed in the wine, as there was a great improvement in its expression.
Can Tutusaus’s recent history is relatively short given its antiquity. In 1986 Raimon’s father began to make cava, reviving the traditional custom that each farmhouse made its own wine or cava. Then the cava production was limited to around 10.000 bottles that were sold only at cellar door, largely due to word of mouth recommendations. People went to all the way to Olesa just to buy the cava! Raimon helped his father and inherited his winemaking and viticulture passion. From a young age he learned to love the profession. Over time Raimon trained as an oenologist and began to work with different wineries in Priorat, France and the Penedès region before starting the VallDolina project. In 2003 he took over from his father and the cellar incremented its production from 10.000 to 13.000 bottles in the first year. In the second year production grew to 17.000 and then to 21.000 in the third. The workload was also increasing and the winemaking idea that for so long had been in his mind was beginning to take shape. As the workload increased Raimon realised he couldn’t cover everything, so he decided to team up with his friend Ferran. Ferran was as passionate as him about the vineyard and the incredible products that evolve from it! Slowly the cellar was increasing its variety of products and also they started to recover and work older vineyards. Project VallDolina took shape, and today they make 3 different cavas a white wine, a rosé wine and two red wines.
The vineyard and winery activities are done manually. If you can visit the cellar, Raimon would be pleased to show you around, quickly you will realise that this project is about tradition and craftsmanship, not ‘manufacturing’ wine.  All the products, wines and cavas, are born in a little space that  they call the magic room. This is a small five meter long room and two meter wide room where they bottle, label, cork and disgorge the cava … everything happens in the magic room, the epicentre of the cellar.
In this post I focus on one particular cava, the VallDolina Reserva 2010. This cava is a brut nature that has been bottle aging, in contact with the lees for 24 months (the minimum legal requirement for a Reserva cava is 15 months). 

This cava is made from the three traditional cava grape varieties and Chardonnay. The Xarel·lo, which is the predominant variety (42%) gives the structure and body; the Parellada (20%) brings finesse, freshness and aroma; the Macabeu (28%) provides more aroma; and finally there is a small percentage (7%) of Chardonnay, which gives the balance.
Visually, the appearance of the cava is clean and bright, with very fine bubbles rising to the surface forming a crown that is remade constantly with small bubbles. It is light lemon colour.
The flavours are clean and intense. Initially we notice a brioche type aroma, this comes from the aging yeasts. However there are also aromas of dried apricots, cooked fruit (peach, apricot, prune) and toasted hazelnut. When the cava is opening up the citrus hints emerge, especially mandarin peel.
On the palate we find a dry, medium-full bodied cava with balanced acidity. It is elegant, silky and creamy. Again we can taste dried and cooked fruit with hints of the brioche. Its persistence on the palate is notable, and it would complement roasted poultry and seafood beautifully.
 In conclusion it’s an intense cava, that still can further age in the bottle. The VallDolina Reserva 2010 has great structure and balance, without being complex. It shows the typical characteristics of Xarel·lo, Parellada, Macabeu and Chardonnay, which gives it its particular and perhaps peculiar structure and balance. It’s a great cava and doesn’t need a special occasion to enjoy it, any opportunity to drink it is good!

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