Bricks Wine Advent Calendar 2017: Day 12

12 12 2017

We are here, my friends:  at the midpoint of Advent, 24 posts in (including this one) and 25 to go, about to hit Advent Hump Day tomorrow (on a Wednesday, natch), with two columns of the Bricks Wine Advent crate vaporized and another two left to go.  I’m late posting this tonight not because I got started late, but because tonight’s bottle is so damn fascinating that I’ve just spent the better part of the last hour reading about it instead of getting down to business.  It’s a Cava, but not really.  It has a history dating back either millions (for the land) or hundreds (for the family) of years, but it’s also so new that it has yet to obtain an official designation.  I looked at the label for a good long time trying to figure out what was going on before resolving to dive deeper on this one.

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The label says “2011 Raventos i Blanc Conca Del Riu Anoia De La Finca”.  I recognize it to be a sparkling wine from eastern Spain, but it doesn’t say “Cava” (the only widely known bubbles appellation in the area) anywhere on the bottle.  It’s also vintage-dated, which a lot of Cava is not.  Um.  Starting with the only one of those label words that I knew, and the only one with its own website, I pulled on that thread and started unravelling the mystery.  Raventos i Blanc is one of the top quality sparkling producers in Spain, an estate that has been family-owned and -run for TWENTY-ONE GENERATIONS, since 1497.  The Raventos family is intimately connected with the creation and rise of Cava:  it was Raventos ancestors who first established the indigenous grapes that would form part of the Cava blend (Macabeu, Xarel-lo and Parellada) and who actually made the very first bottles of Cava in 1872.  The Cava DO has since stretched, however, now encompassing a half-dozen areas that aren’t at all geographically connected and now permitting Champagne grapes Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to also be used in the bubbly blend.  The current generation of the Raventos family were not a fan of these changes.  So in December 2012, they left the Cava appellation and started their own.

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The estate and vineyards are still based in the very heart of classical Cava, of course, in the core of Penedes near Barcelona.  But Raventos pulled the name of the region off its bottles and instead added the name of a proposed new location-focused appellation:  Conca Del Riu Anoia, named for the nearby Anoia River.  Their proposed requirements for this new region are strict, ranging from a commitment to organic viticulture to minimum purchase prices for fruit bought from growers to longer minimum aging periods.  I keep saying “proposed” because the Conca Del Riu Anoia “region” has no legal or formal existence but is still just a vision; but it has some kind of existence, because I see it on the label of this leading light.

Raventos i Blanc makes 5 commitments with respect to its wines:  (1) 100% native grapes, with no international varieties allowed (take that, Chardonnay); (2) biodynamic viticulture; (3) all estate fruit; (4) only single-vintage wines (a massive departure from the way almost every other bubble house in the world operates, by mixing multiple harvests’ worth of wine together in order to create and maintain a house style); and (5) at least 18 months’ aging on the lees before disgorgement.  It adds up to a singular commitment and a considerable expense with no clear marketing payoff:  they are removing the aspects of Cava bubbles that the general global buying public most recognizes (international grapes) and paying more in production costs to do it.  You can’t say they don’t have the courage of their convictions.  I love it.

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Disgorgement date and bottle number on the bottom right; plot map on the left.

I am determined to end before 1,000 words, so I will turn to the wine.  It’s a 2011 traditional method sparkling wine, from my eldest son’s birth year, made from 50% Xarel-lo (the grape most likely to be named after a mythical Scientology hero), 40% Macabeu and 10% Parellada.  This particular bottling, De La Finca, is made from the oldest grapes on the Raventos estate, planted in the coolest of their 44 separate vineyard plots back in 1964 in the no-translation-necessary area they’ve named Vinya Dels Fossils, because the soils making it up are 16 million years old and riddled with old fossils from an ancient prehistoric riverbed.  The wine is made like Champagne, with the secondary fermentation taking place in the bottle, after which it aged on its lees for 36 months then was riddled manually before disgorgement on January 21st, 2015 — I know the exact date because it’s set out on the back of the bottle alongside a map highlighting the precise sub-locations of the estate vineyard from which the grapes were harvested.  A LOT of effort has been put into both this wine and this venture.

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Cork Rating:  8.5/10 (Love the red, and crazy coverage on what are normally highly boring bubbly corks.  Everything these guys do is full out.)

The 2011 De La Finca is a deep rich lemon-gold in colour and rolls in aromatic waves of malt, brioche, toasted marshmallow, baked earth, grilled pineapple, lemon rind and blackcurrant Wine Gums, showcasing autolytic depth and complexity but not at the expense of the precious fruit underneath.  Extraordinarily fine but omnipresent bubbles create a thousand tiny detonations on the palate, which surprises with an oyster-y brininess and burnt rubber/elastic band funk overtop green savoury herbs, sourdough bread and fossil-laden minerality, finishing with an eternal expansiveness that continues unfolding long after the wine is gone.  The fruit steps away but the complexity somehow increases.  The weight, density and intensity of this wine almost freaks me out, but lightning-bolt acid keeps everything in rigorous order.  I just want to keep writing but will force myself to stop.  Whatever you do, try to find this wine.  I will.  Onward, Raventos family, and bravo.

93 points

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