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26 June 2010

Spain: Llopart Cava - Upper Penedès

Or "Alt" in Catalan: the Can Llopart wine estate is indeed lost up in the Penedes hills a few kilometres south of Sant Sadurni (and about 45 minutes west of Barcelona, or two hours if you time it wrong traffic wise like I did) with vineyards planted from 370 to 420 metres altitude (1300 ft above sea level). The elegantly landscaped winery and old family villa lying a little higher up, surrounded by 85 ha (210 acres) of handsome terraced vineyards (planted with Catalan and French varieties), do make a pretty picture as you'll see from the sumptuous photos on their website (link at bottom. This peaceful spot has lovely views all around, and you quickly forget you're not that far from the not-so-pretty western side of Barcelona with its big airport, heavy industry, towering new development etc.
Llopart is still very much a family affair - they all appear to have a role whether office, cellar or vineyard - as I discovered in late June 2010 when tasting with Jesi Llopart i Llopart (the full family name) and soon met her brother and dad. There's a 14th Century Latin document displayed on the wall mentioning an ancestor (Leopardi, whose name's used for one of their Cava cuvées: see notes below) who was allocated some vineyards here; and they first made bottle-fermented wines in the late 19th Century. Fascinating stuff, I hear you say, but what are the wines like now? I first tried their Cava range back in 2008 and was very impressed, so it was good to have the opportunity to call in and taste them again in situ; confirming they really do give you quality and style (and hence the prices starting at €10 a bottle in Spain).
"We're now almost entirely certified organic," Jesi added, "but we've always only ever used sulphur and copper sulphate treatments (sanctioned by organic viticulture regs) in the vineyard." She continued: "We usually start picking in mid August, which is later than elsewhere in the region... the Cavas are aged from 18 months to five years on the lees, with an average of about three years (i.e. longer than most), and we shake up the lees half way through (adds extra flavour complexity)." Their Brut Nature styles (= "zero dosage"), which I'm particularly fond of if done well, are very dry and even the Brut Cavas have half as much residual sugar (RS) as many producers' (and Champagnes too, by the way). US importer Fine Estates from Spain in Massachusetts lists the Leopardi and rosé; and some of their wines are available in Belgium, Germany and Japan (but not the UK at the moment unfortunately).

2009 Vitis (Xarel.lo, Subirat Parent, Muscat 12% alc.) - juicy lees-tinged and aromatic with banana and grape notes; turning to greener fruit edges with crisp juicy and gummy mouth-feel, quite zingy finish although not so dry. 80+
2009 Clos dels Fossils (mostly Chardonnay + Xarel.lo 12.5% alc.) - very light creamy oak vs peachy and slightly exotic fruit; zesty and crisp with subtle lees notes, refreshing and quite elegant finish. 85+
2007 Cava Reserva Brut Nature (Macabeu Xarel.lo Parellada Chardonnay, 11.5% alc., 2 g/l RS, 2+ years lees-ageing) - subtle toasted oat cake vs aniseed notes; clean crisp and intense palate with attractive subtle acidity, turns a touch toastier and richer to finish vs crisp and very refreshing. 89+
2004 Leopardi Gran Reserva Brut Nature (Macabeu Xarel.lo Parellada Chardonnay, 12% alc., 4+ years, 2 g/l RS) - enticingly toasty oily nose, richer and "sweeter" profile than above (although not sweet) vs still very crisp vs oily finish; has more flavour perhaps but somehow a bit flatter too in the end, lacks the poise of some of the others. 89+?
2005 Imperial Gran Reserva Brut (Macabeu Xarel.lo Parellada, 3.5+ years, 5 g/l RS) - pretty toasty with fruit cake and chocolate aromas/flavours vs fine and intense with refreshing acidity; quite mouth-coating and textured yet still surprisingly nimble with only 11.5% alc. Nice balance and class. 90+
2004 Ex-Vite Gran Reserva Brut (old vine Xarel.lo & Macabeu, 12% alc., 5+ years incl. some barrel ageing and reserve wines, 6 g/l RS) - rich and creamy nose and palate, oily and rounded with yeasty bite and again fresh acid underneath; delicious oat cake and chocolate finish vs elegant cut, wow. A foodie Cava: dessert or main course even I'd say! 94
2006 Microcosmos Reserva Rosé Brut Nature (85% Pinot Noir 15% Monastrell, 12% alc., 2+ years, 2 g/l RS) - attractive mix of yeasty intensity, ripe red fruit cocktail and cherry cake; tight crisp mouth-feel with light red fruit bitter twist, long and lively finish. Delicious. 92+
2007 Rosé Brut (Monastrell Garnacha Pinot Noir, 11.5% alc., 18+ months, 7 g/l RS) - lovely fruity style, a tad sweeter than above although still lively and quite crisp; nice strawberry and oat biscuit to finish vs intense and refreshing. 89+
2006 Castell de Subirats Tinto Selección (Merlot, Ull de Llebre = Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon 13.5% alc.) - touches of coconut and vanilla oak on the nose vs maturing savoury notes, smoky vs cassis and soy sauce too on the palate; fairly concentrated and soft textured vs a bit of grip with nice balance; attractive style with "sweet/savoury" finish and underlying oomph too. 88+


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