Cava Civil Wars and Pagan Rituals

At the Lavinia Tasting Class with Anna Harris Noble the first wine we tasted was from Raventós I Blanc Bodega in Cataluña. Now it’s not my intention to write up every bodega represented that night, but the history behind this one is just too fascinating not to share. Anna, our host, visited all the bodegas represented that night and was a mine of information.

The wine in question was sparkling white from the Catalan region that you would have expected it to be a D.O Cava. But it wasn’t! It is one of the many examples of the ongoing battles in the Cava Denominacion in Spain. Cava is the only D.O that is not geographically based. However its origins are in Cataluña. This sparkling wine meets all the requirements of the Cava D.O, using the specified grape varieties and fermentation via the classic champagne method, yet doesn’t carry the quality label.

What is going on?

It is in fact a personal choice by the Bodega. They are perfectly entitled to the qualification but choose not to use it. They prefer to focus on their terroir i.e. the potential of their particular terrain over an emphasis on grape varieties and wine production methods.

The Raventós i Blanc Bodega has been owned by the same family and producing wines in the region since the 15th century. The family is apparently part of the Cordiniu dynasty and this was part of the problem. They previously produced sparkling wines under the D.O Cava but had a falling out with Cordiniu in 2013 and have refused to be part of D.O Cava since.

They are not the only ones. This year a group of nine bodegas split away from D.O Cava and set up the CORPINNAT Group which is based on one small geographical area in Catalan. Similarly in 2013 twelve bodegas split away to form the Classic Penedés group, again geographically concentrated.

This whole terroir movement is very problematic.

Back to Bodega Raventós I Blanc who tried to set up their own Denominación de Origen, Conca de Rui Anoia (named after the river in their area), but it was never made official. I don’t know whether this was because they are the only bodega in the region (seems a bit elite to have a D.O. for just one bodega) or because their wine production techniques are a little extreme and far beyond what most wine makers would be prepared to do.

Let me explain:

Bodega Raventós I Blanc fervently believe in their terroir and they care for it with tree hugger ferocity. They carry the bio dynamic label which is one above organic. Nothing is done by machine, instead old agricultural methods are used such as ploughing using animal power. They follow a lunar cycle with different jobs allowed only on certain days within that cycle. I.e one day would be for tending to the vine leaves, another for the roots, another for the fruit etc.

They fertilise using natural manure: that usually means cow shit, though in this case donkey, pig, sheep, hen and horse shit is also thrown in for good measure. The animals are used to work the farm and to keep the vines weed free. Once a year the bodega follows a ritual burying of natural manure packed into hollow cow horns as a means of renewing the earth. This is just one of a number of biodynamic preparations used to imbue the earth with different minerals and reproductive qualities. Others include oak in domestic animal skulls and yarrow in deer bladder.

It never fails to amaze me the lengths wine makers will go to for the perfect glass of wine. These guys certainly deserve a medal for their care and attention to Mother Earth, but I’m not how reproducible it would be or how much of an effect it has on the end product.

Image from Raventó

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