Sometimes you read about a particular winemaker and know instantly that you need to try their wine.
That’s exactly how I felt when I read about Ton Rimbau, winemaker and founder of Casa Rimbau based in the Penedes DO in Catalunya in North East Spain.
When you read about a winemaker who puts so much thought and consideration into every aspect of the winemaking process and combine that with a complete respect for nature, minimal intervention and some unique vineyard management techniques, you know that you need to take notice!
Based in the village of Vilobi, Ton Rimbau produces four wines under the brand Porcellanic; a natural sweet wine, a Xarel-lo, a Xarel-lo Sur Lie and a Xarelo-lo orange wine. He also produces a sparkling number, all of which are made from the Xarel-lo grape (most commonly seen in Cava production).
The quality of grapes also needs to be right, which is why in some vintages the wines are not made at all. If they do not reach the standards required, the wine is not produced. Simple!
For this reasons the wines are in demand and have gained high profile support. Today, you can find his wines sold at many Michelin star restaurants around the world including El Celler de Can Roca in Catalunya, Noma in Denmark and Aqua in Germany.
There is so much to say about his wines, his winemaking philosophy and techniques so I’ll narrow this down to five things you need to know about Ton Rimbau:
- Permaculture Philosophy – you may be thinking…WTF is a permaculture!? I know I was. It is essentially a method of ancestral agriculture that utilises the features of a natural ecosystem to positive effect. There are three core tenets to permaculture; Care for the earth, care for the people and setting limits to population and consumption. The result of this philosophy leads to minimal intervention, particularly in the vineyard where Ton Rimbau keeps the vines as if they were a forest. The vineyards are not cultivated and haven’t been so for the past 6 years. The weeds are crushed by means of a roller and then cut away to avoid dust and fine particles to be scattered in the air. The weed rolling also ensures the weeds are flattened down which forms a protective layer for the soil against UV rays and also encourages fungi which adds nutrition and moisture to the soil. No pesticides or chemicals are used. The philosophy encourages its own ecosystem which maintains an internal balance and allows stronger plant growth.
He also leaves nothing to chance and does his upmost to avoid cross contamination from neighbouring vineyards using chemicals. In order to block these products reaching his crops and affecting his wines Ton has plant two rows of grape plants around the perimeter of his land to act as a shield to protect his grapes.
- Spiders – If you’ve seen his wines before or have been on the Ton Rimbau website you may have noticed a spider logo occupying key real estate around the project. This is to pay homage to the numerous spiders that call the vineyard their home and have become so crucial in supporting the permaculture system. Rather than removing the spiders from the environment they are encouraged to thrive as they act as a natural insecticide against the more destructive butterflies and moths. They estimate that there are around 15 spiders per acre in the vineyard performing this security job!
He also builds nests for bats to encourage them to nest and eat mosquitos and night butterflies that would otherwise damage the vines. It’s estimated that between the spiders and bats they eliminate 95% of potential harmful insects.
- Ceramic Bottles – This is definitely the only wine I have had that comes served in a ceramic bottle. This is done to protect the wine from the negative impacts of light. This can cause imbalance in the wine by breaking down the chemicals and molecules in the wine that allow ageing. This speeds up the ageing process and can cause faults in the wine. By using ceramic bottles the wines exposure to light is not an issue.
Let’s be honest…they look awesome too!
- Aged Under Water – I recently wrote about Raul Perez and his experiments with underwater ageing in the Atlantic Ocean. Whilst these wines were never released for sale to the public Ton Rimbau’s wines are! As Catalunya has no access to the Atlantic Ocean the wines are submerged in water inside Ton’s garage in underground non-negative geological tubs. Temperature is a crucial aspect to the ageing of these natural wines. They have no preservatives added which makes them especially vulnerable to even the slightest changes in temperature, even a variation of one degree could have a negative impact. The underwater ageing allows them to maintain a constant temperature at the correct level.
- Recommended Drinking Days – the wines are produced with biodynamic principles and grapes are hand harvested and processed on fruit days following the canons of the lunar calendar.
This is taken one step further as their website contains recommended drinking days for the year. These days are seen as the optimum days to consume the wines to experience their truest expression.
If you have a bottle, check out the website to ensure you have the right day in 2018 to open your wine!
It is genuinely one of the most unique experiences you could find in wine.
Not only is Ton a pioneer, he is as humble as they come. A passionate and welcoming man who was inviting me to his home to experience his vineyard and taste his wines after only a few email exchanges.
I will definitely be taking him up on his offer!