Gramona...Cava Like No Other - 10/06/14

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I seem to be spending quite a bit of time tasting at Berry Brothers & Rudd these days but the truth is they really do deal with some truly excellent and unique wines which I would highly recommend looking out for.

My latest tasting, in fact Masterclass, which took place on Friday evening, was that of Gramona, arguably the finest producer of Cava. Now I understand that Cava is probably not a wine which most people associate with quality. Up until Friday I myself had only tasted a handful of Cavas which I've thought really delicious, all of which I tasted when I was working for Miguel Torres out in Penedes and happened to attend CavaTast, Cava's official weekend festival, which takes place each October in Sant Sadurni d'Anoia, the home of Cava. 

You see the problem with top quality Cava is that it never leaves Spain. The Spanish (quite rightly as the top stuff is so good!) keep it all for themselves. Gramona's export market is just 20% Ana Lopez Lidon, their export manager, told me. Considering just 1500 bottles of each of their top wines, the Gramona Enoteca Brut and Enoteca Brut Nature, get produced each year, that's a mere 300 bottles for the rest of us outside of Spain. Not an enormous amount by any stretch of the imagination!

I therefore consider myself extremely fortunate to have attended last week's Masterclass as I managed to taste a number of wines which I'll probably have a hard time finding again unless I make the pilgrimage to San Sadurni, something I'm now certainly considering doing after being blown away by the quality of the Gramona wines. 

An all natural, organic, biodynamic vineyard and winery, Gramona is as sustainable and environmentally friendly as they come. Just 5% of the winery is visible to the outside world, the majority buried 6 metres underground to ensure natural thermal insulation leading to significant energy savings. Rainwater is collected to use in the vineyards and winery processes and no expense spared in terms of R&D to ensure they are doing their upmost to protect their natural environment. 

The history of the estate is just as impressive - over 125 years, spanning five generations. Cousins Jaume and Xavier Gramona currently head up the estate; Jaume also a Professor of Sparkling Wines at the University of Tarragona, and Xavier with a wealth of business experience outside the cellar. 

The key to Gramona's uniqueness is both the long ageing process they use for their wines, between 3-11 years, and the fact they use a much higher proportion of native Barcelona grape Xarel-lo in their blends. Xarel-lo is unique, not only because of its slow oxidation, but also because it contains the highest levels of anti-oxidant resveratrol found in white grapes. It can therefore withstand years of long ageing, the hallmark of Gramona's finest Cavas. 

If that wasn't enough to set them apart from all the rest, Gramona have one more trick up their sleeve which makes their Cavas utterly unique. The family has a distilling tradition, that began at the end of the 19th century, trading rum, sherry and wine with the Americas (Cuba, Mexico, Florida etc). Their "liqueur" or "dosage", that is used to top up the bottle after disgorgement, is made by means of a "solera" system where the "brandies" are aged in old Gramona barrels with sherry or rum sediments from this ancient trading between Spain and the Americas. 

So what of the wines themselves? Does all this history, tradition and innovation lead to greatness? From my tasting notes below, I think you'll agree yes! 

2009 Gramona, Argent Gran Reserva Cava

100% Chardonnay. Bright green apple on the nose with a hint of yeast and a touch of something pleasantly chemical. Good body with a smooth mousse, refreshing acidity, white peach and pear notes with a touch of smokey saltiness. Quite complex with a nice fresh finish. 16 (HK$290)

2008 Gramona, Brut Vintage, Gran Reserva 

50% Xarel-lo, 45% Macabeo, 5% Chardonnay. Savoury, lemon and lime aromas with a rich, smooth mousse and tangy acidity. A nice, yeasty, nutty touch. Quite long to finish. A nice wine. 17 (HK$180)

2007 Gramona, Imperial Gran Reserva

50% Xarel-lo, 40% Macabeo, 10% Chardonnay. 5 years lees ageing. Nice bright greenish yellow colour. Lemon, lime and Granny Smith apple with a salty tang on the nose and a hint of toast. Fresh, complex nose. Biscuit and fresh baked dough notes on the palate which is wonderfully smooth, intense and long. Rich, toasty, with full body and plenty of complexity and concentration. 17.5 (HK$340)

2006 Gramona, Gran Reserva III Lustros 

75% Xarel-lo, 25% Macabeo. 7 years ageing on the lees. This wine and the next 3 are all sourced from the same vineyard parcel, the only difference is the length of ageing. Toasty on the nose with a hint of something chemical (not unpleasant). Lemon, apple, biscuit, nuts, butter, with a lifted floral note on top. Very yeasty on the palate and much smoother than the previous wines. Rye bread hints. A fuller bodied wine. High acidity. Long and very complex. 18 (HK$335)

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 2004 Gramona Cellar Battlle Gran Reserva Brut

75% Xarel-lo, 25% Macabeo. Deep and intense toasty, savoury, nutty notes. Wonderfully smooth on the palate yet with a nervy acid backbone. Brioche, walnut, almond, apricots and figs with a creamy touch. Hugely complex. A very well made wine. 18.5 (HK$600)

2000 Gramona Enoteca Brut 

75% Xarel-lo, 25% Macabeo. More golden in colour, nutty, toasty, with notes of figs and apricots, a touch of white flower blossom. Massive complexity. Full bodied with all the flavours of a fine Parisian patisserie shop. Apricot tart in particular. Rich, rounded, with lovely acidity and a very long concentrated finish. Delicious. A really stunning wine. 19 (HK$1380) 

2000 Gramona Enoteca Brut Nature 

75% Xarel-lo, 25% Macabeo. If the Enoteca Brut is the Ferrari of the range, then the Brut Nature is the F1 car. Totally pure, with remarkable fizz, hugely linear, vibrant, direct, wonderful freshness. Toasty, nutty, savoury complexity with plenty of green apple, lemon, lime and a salty minerality. Very high acidity. So lifted and fresh. Needs food to cut through the acidity. Oysters would be perfect. 18.5+ (HK$1300) 

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All wines available to buy from Berry Brothers & Rudd HK.

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