Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Learning about Cava with Juvé & Camps


I was lucky enough to attend a press trip last week to visit Juvé & Camps, one of Cavas premier producers. This proved to be an absolutely fascinating trip and confirmed my suspicions that well made Cava represents one of the best value wines, particularly in relation to the world of sparkling wine.
 

The family and the vineyard


One of the nice things about Cava is that most of the businesses are owned and run by families with a tie to the region. Juvé & Camps is no exception with the current joint CEOs being Meritxell Juvé Vaello (see photo left) and Laia Rosal Juvé who are the fourth generation from the Juvé family having recently taken over from the inimitable Joan Juvé Santacana who ran the business for many years. We were fortunate enough to meet and spend time with both Meritxell and Joan during our trip and I was struck by both their passion for their wines and the esteem that the family are held in by the people who work with them. I must also say that given the slightly fusty and patriarchal feel that wine can sometimes have, it is very refreshing to see young, female CEOs leading a prestige wine brand.

One of the other features about a family run business is that they are even more aware of the need to create a sustainable business and one that they will be able to hand-on in good health to their own progeny. Nowhere was this more apparent than when Meritxell spoke about the effects of climate change on their business; one generation ago they tended to pick most of their Chardonnay grapes at the end of August, whereas now they tend to pick them at the beginning of August. Meritxell is aware of the challenges that the vineyard will face and is looking to see what she can do to counteract this, for instance, since 2015 the vineyards have been certified organic.


The family have 400 hectares of land in the Penedès area, of which about 280 are currently planted with vines. They produce the traditional Cava grapes of Xarel-lo, Macabeo and Parellada as well as other grapes such as Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Muscat, Gewürztraminer, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. 85% of their production is focussed on the production of their Cavas, with the remaining 15% being for an interesting selection of still wines that they make.

The vineyards themselves are set in the beautiful rolling hills of the Penedès region (as illustrated by the photo above, taken from a viewing platform within their vineyard), which is only 30 - 40 minutes drive outside of Barcelona. I was struck by how immaculately all of the vineyards were kept as we drove around them, they all look to be extremely tidily maintained and are harvested by hand in order to ensure that only the best grapes make the selection.

As well as visiting the vineyards, we also visited their premises in the small village of Sant Sadurní d'Anoia which was absolutely fascinating. They possess two buildings in the village across the road from each other which on the surface look aesthetically pleasing, but there is no hint of the treasures that they contain within...! Each building has six floors underground which are used for storing the 10 million or so bottles that are being aged in these caves (in fact the word cava itself comes from the Catalan word which means cave or cellar.) The underground floors connect between the two buildings to produce a labyrinth of racks of bottles as evidenced by the photo on the left.

The wines


We were taken through a tasting of the wines of Juvé & Camps by their chief oenologist Antonio Cantos (proudly clutching one of his bottles on the right), who actually came back from his holiday early just to lead this tasting - what service!

We tasted a number of different wines, focussing on their collection of Cavas. I will pick out five that I particularly enjoyed:

NV Brut Rosé (100% Pinot Noir), which had a very intriguing nose of light strawberry notes. On the mouth this was surprisingly complex with a nice red cherry profile add some refreshing freshness from the acidity. It was remarked by our group that often rosado cavas are not particularly refined, but this one was and at a great price level too.

2012 Blanc de Noirs (100% Pinot Noir), this wine is a Reserva level having had an average of 25 months of bottle ageing before release. The nose was very classy with ripe cherry notes coming through, along with that pleasingly warm brioche profile that you tend to get from wines that have been aged in the so-called Methode Champenoise. On tasting the wine was bright and zingy, with plenty of acidity and juicy strawberry notes. This wine once again showed how refined for their price-point a good Cava can be; you would have to pay a lot more in Champagne for this kind of elegance.

Now we start to move on to some of the really big hitters...!

NV Reserva de la Familia (55% Xarel-lo, 35% Macabeo, 10% Parellada). This is one of Juvé & Camps' premier wines and is one of their most famous labels. We tried a limited edition bottle, which had a slightly sweet nose featuring honey notes and some light, warm citrus fruits. On the mouth it was once more class personified, with a nice level of complexity, but overall it just represented an extremely enjoyable drinking experience.

2012 Juvé & Camps Gran Reserva (40% Xarel-lo, 25% Macabeo, 25% Chardonnay and 10% Parellada). The nose here was even more exotic than the previous wine, a lot richer and more toasty; I even detected a bit of a peppery note on it (although I'm not sure I picked that right!) On the palate it oozed class and elegance, with a rich, broad profile that developed nicely. What was also noticeable was was a really nice mouth-feel to the wine, with fine and delicate bubbles. A beautiful wine.

They saved the best for last with their exceptional 2006 Juvé & Camps La Capella (100% Xarel-lo). This wine is made from grapes all from a single vineyard where the team from Juvé & Camps noticed that they continually harvested their best grapes from. Apparently this area of Cava is going to be awarded its own sub-appellation called a Cava de Paraje Calificado in the very near future as the Spanish wine authorities have noted its exceptional characteristics. The wine itself is aged for about 108 (!) months on average, hence we were drinking the '06. The nose was phenomenal, it had so much going on; honeysuckle, lychee, as well as warm brioche. The taste was just as good with a huge flavour profile, that evolved and developed over the three minutes or so that it lingered on the palate. There was also an interesting slight waxiness to the wine which is quite typical of Xarel-lo. Apparently they only produced 3,000 bottles of this wine so we were very lucky to try it!

If you want to find Juvé & Camps' wines in the UK, their official distributor is Ehrmanns and you can find out what wines they possess by following this LINK.
 

A lunch to remember to finish it all off


After this phenomenal tasting, we were treated to a beautiful lunch in one of the family's gorgeous properties on their estate. We started with a selection of appetisers, including (of course) some rich and decadent jamon served with some aged parmesan (see left), some earthy yet classy blood sausage, some fresh and delicious seafood (prawns and salmon); all served with some of those delicious Cavas as well as a selection of their still wines.

The highlight of the lunch, however, was the grand unveiling of a magnificent wild sea bass that had been salt-baked. The chef broke into the casing with great precision and great theatre and revealed its treasured contents. The result was a fish that was delicate, succulent, fresh and delicious. It was served with those glorious Spanish tomatoes that you get and a fluffy potato. The lunch was also a great opportunity for our group to get to know the family a little better and we continued to be taken by their pride, passion and sense of purpose for the future.

video

Below is a photo of our intrepid group along with our very generous hosts. This is after the lunch so we were all in very good spirits at this point...!


Thanks (Gracias)....


This was a really wonderful trip as I'm sure you can tell from the effusiveness of my write up. As I stated in the beginning, I already considered myself a fan of Cava, but I felt like I still had something to learn of its heart and soul. I now feel that I understand it a little better and I owe that to the generosity and kindness of the people from Juvé & Camps. I must also extend my thanks to Bryony Wright for doing so much hard work in organising this trip.

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