The world of Cava – Spanish sparkling wine made in the traditional method – has historically been dominated by a few large wineries that produce simple, citrusy, mass-produced wines at affordable prices. Most local growers usually sold their grapes to these large wineries or to the local co-operative. However, in the last few years there’s been a movement led by a small number of growers focused on producing higher quality, artisanal wines that reflect the distinct vineyards, terroir and unique style of their regions.
One of them is Rosell Mir, a family-run winery run by the father and son team of Josep Maria and Pau Rosell, the 17thand 18thgeneration who have farmed the Can Guineau estate farmers since 1474.
I met Pau and Josep Maria last year while attending the “Salon de las Estrellas” in Barcelona, an event organized by La Guia Peñin– Spain’s most renowned wine guide – which gathered the highest-rated Spanish wines (3, 4 or 5 Stars) from bodegas all across Spain. I was quite impressed with their organically-farmed Cavas: El Serralet and Can Guineau as well as their line of Xarel-lo based still wines and had the opportunity to visit them at their estate on a recent trip.
Alberto: What’s special about the terroir of the Penedes area of Catalunya?
Pau: Our vineyards are in Subirats and Sant Sadurní d’Anoia – 30 Km south of Barcelona – at an altitude of 180m. The area is characterized by its mild winters and hot summers with a rainfall of 500l/m2 which allows us to not irrigate while obtaining the maximum expression of fruit
Alberto: What are the main grapes you work with?
Pau: We grow Xarel-lo, Macabeo and Garnatxa Blanca. Our most important white grape is Xarel-lo: A high-yielding native variety with a firm structure and high acidity. It has thick skins which make it resistant to diseases, frost and rain during the harvest season. Macabeo is a more neutral variety that adds fruit, aromatic and floral notes and easily takes secondary flavors from lees aging. For reds, we grow mostly Cabernet Sauvignon which really does well in our warm Mediterranean climate
Alberto: Your family has been making wines since 1776, but only bottling under your own brand since 1979. What led your father to this decision?
Pau: That’s right. I’m the 18th generation in the family… In 1965 my grandmother closed the old family winery (today it’s the Cava museum in town) and became a member of the local co-operative. When my father took charge of the estate, he saw an opportunity to vinify and bottle our own wines and started by renovating the old family winery and replanting our vineyards as there were also apples, peach and almond trees growing in the property at that time.
Alberto: Can you give us a brief description of your three main wines and their unique differences?
Pau: El Serralet is our classic sparkling wine (we left the Cava DO in 2018), made primarily with Macabeo and in the last few years we’ve added a little Parellada to the blend. Parellada is a local grape known for its low sugar and alcohol content that adds freshness, acidity and aromas to El Serralet. We only make a Brut Nature aged on its lees for a minimum of 15 months.
Marc Mir is a sparkling wine made with international varieties: Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. It’s also made as a Brut Nature (zero dosage) with longer lees aging (24 months). The name is in honor of my great-great grandfather who as mayor of Sant Sadurní organized the first viticulture congress in Spain back in 1898. He was also one of the first to bring American rootstocks when phylloxera arrived in our vineyards.
Pla de la Creuis a white wine made from 100% old vines Xarel·lo. It is dry, full-bodied, with aromas of stone and tropical fruits, salty, savory notes and crisp acidity. It pairs perfectly with Catalan cuisine!
Alberto: What opportunities and challenges do you expect in the future?
Pau: We’re starting to become more concerned about global warming. We believe that in the next few years it’d be very difficult to continue to grow only native varieties (Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo) especially as irrigation is not permitted in our region.
Alberto: Can you share the new projects you’re currently working on?
Pau: This year we released two “semi-disgorged” versions of our sparkling wines: Una Volta and Bombolles. At the time of disgorgement, only the gross lees are removed, while the fine lees remain inside the bottle. This gives the wines a slightly cloudy appearance and the leftover lees not only protect them from oxidation but also contribute with an additional aroma and flavor complexity as well as structure and mouthfeel. Crispy aromas of green apple and ripe lemon with a hint of fresh almonds set the tone for these bubbles!