Last week, after a day spent at the natural wine fair (Vella Terra), we have found ourselves rushing through the streets of Barcelona, flooded with the early-spring sunshine. The plan was to catch an early train to Sant Sadurni d’Anoia in Penedès – a wine region to the immediate west of the city – perhaps most known as a historic centre of the Cava production. Bubbles, however were not on the menu that day (and were not particularly missed either!), as we have planned to visit Finca Can Comas, a home to Ramon Parera of Celler Pardas, whose wines we are lucky to bring to Ireland since 2014.
1st STOP: HOW DID IT ALL STARTED?
Ramon Parera and Jordi Arnan are long-term friends and have been working together for many decades. They have started their winemaking project in the area in 1996, when Ramon bought a 60-hectares of land at the heart of Penedes, near the town of Torrelavit. As our first stop was at the gently sloping plot of the Cabernet Franc, planted by Ramon in those early days, we have admired a panoramic view of the Mediterranean forests, shrubland and olive groves, which surround the vineyards. Right from the start Ramon and Jordi took it as their duty to respect this diverse landscape, with its fauna and flora and to work in harmony with nature. Today majority of the 40 hectares under vine, that belong to Pardas are certified organic. This is a result of a long-term commitment to the land they come from, rather than merely a fashion or a superficial trend they have chosen to follow
2nd STOP: THE WINERY
Along with the land Ramon also bought a historic country house, with an adjacent building hosting an old, two storey winery. And just as with the land, he decided to maintain this heritage, preserving the original walls, door and ceilings of the medieval building, restoring and utilizing some of the centenary winemaking facilities. According to Ramon, who oversees the winemaking, those gravity fed, cement vessels ensure excellent temperature control, resulting in stable fermentation carried out by the wild yeast. The winemaking at Pardas is relatively simple, yet not without certain innovation and open-minded attitude. We were lucky to sample and compare Xarel.lo from 2017 vintage, fermented and maturing in two different ways: one batch in concrete egg, the other in French oak barrels. The difference was astonishing! Eventually those two distinctive wines, made from the grapes originating in the same vineyards, will be blended to create Aspriu Xarel.lo, Ramon’s top white. Apart from the barrel sample of the 2017 Sumoll, a vibrant red fermented with an inclusion of stems, we were particularly impressed with the heady aromatics and piercing acidity of Ramon’s Malvasia de Sitges.
3rd STOP: WITH JORDI IN THE VINEYARDS
After the tasting and a chat in the winery, it was about time to get our shoes muddy! It was a beautiful sunny day, with the blue sky, Garraf mountain range on the horizon and birds chirping away in the wake of spring. And off we went, led by Jordi, who was eager to show us his best plots.
The soil in their vineyards is mostly calcareous clay with proportion of sand and rocky in it’s core. As Jordi explained, it doesn’t rain a lot in Penedes, but when it does, it’s a proper downpour. To prevent erosion and balance the vigour of the vines, they encourage ground vegetation between the vines. Unirrigated and without any chemical fertilizers used, the vines don’t have it easy there and suffer a lot especially during the hot and dry summer. But this is precisely why they produce fruit of the highest quality! In his early days as a viticulturalist, Jordi recalls experimenting with French grape varieties such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Marselan. It was not long before himself and Ramon realised that the real quality and true treasure of Penedes lies in the two local grapes: Xarel.lo and Sumoll, for years commonly blended into a bulk of Cava production. They were one of the first growers to place their faith in making quality still wines based on them and remain a reference in the region today.
As much as he remains focused on the vineyards, Jordi never loses his touch with
what surrounds them. Coming from the family of farmers, his “down to earth” approach and real attachment to the land is evident. The Betlles river, which flows nearby, blossoming almond trees, bushes of wild rosemary, various birds and of course the wild boar – the signature animal and an emblem of Celler Pardas – all this seems to play a part, in what is both: Jordi’s home and his workplace. He spoke with particular fondness about the centenary olive trees from which they make their own olive oil…
4th STOP: BACK AT THE FINCA…
Nearly two hours spent in the vineyards, was enough to make us properly hungry… And what awaited us back in the winery was a real treat: butifarra, grilled cuts of meat, baked artichokes, chickpea salad, dry roasted almonds and “torta de aceite”, of which some of us could not help, but to have another piece…
All that with some of Ramon’s best wines:
2009 Aspriu Xarel.lo: textured, mouth filling, yet mineral and fresh as a whistle, with a certain bright future ahead of it, as it is only starting to evolve!
2007 Negre Franc, which matured gracefully at this point, went down a treat with the grilled meat.
Pardas Rupestris from 2011 vintage; a blend of Xarel.lo, Malvasia de Sitges, Macabeo, and Xarel.lo red; Ramon’s basic white which surprised us with how youthful and refreshing it still was
The latest vintage of “Sus Scrofa” – 100% Sumoll, juicy and lively, full of sour cherries, spices and herbs.
Couple of hours later, on the train back to Barcelona, while the impression of the stunning 2009 Aspriu Xarel-lo was still resonating within us, Rafa has received a short message from Jordi: “Thanks for the visit. I’m glad you have liked the olive oil!”