Archive for November, 2012

I have been wanting to write about Cava for a long time now, but I was looking for something special, that magical touch, that feeling I cannot put into words but is most definitely there.  I was beginning to think that unlike the Cellers I have written about  it did not exist, until, that is, Josep M Ferret Guasch invited me to visit his Celler and see how he made his Cava.

So one wintry Wednesday afternoon found my wife and I driving to the Penedes region.  It is here in the foothills of the Pyrenees and bordered by the mystical Montserrat mountains to the northeast that Cava is produced.  We have passed by on our way to Barcelona but never ventured into the region until now.  At Villafranca we turned north and headed into the gently rolling plain, covered by vines now wearing their autumn colours basking in the last rays of autumn sun. Dotted here and there were pretty well-kept houses, each a producer of wine and Cava.   As we drove along the country road, we saw signs indicating various Cellers, some with old traditional presses on the road side letting you know they made wine.  In this relaxed way we drove on through two small towns savouring the sights untill we saw the sign we wanted and turned right.

We did not have far to drive, up a little hill, along a small road and there was the Celler facing us.  I parked the car and we looked around.  Here was a peaceful scene, houses set back in vineyards, the sun casting a wintry golden glow over everything, and joy of joys here was that feeling again.  We walked round to the entrance and rang the bell. Suddenly a big shaggy head appeared gave a deep woof then looked towards the office, from which a lady appeared and let us in once she had put ‘woof ‘ in his kennel, I do like dogs.

We were made welcome and shown into the courtyard first so my wife could take photographs. Whilst we were doing this and admiring the Celler and house our greeter left us to inform Josep we had arrived.  On her return we were taken into the reception where there is a large brazier with tables and chairs plus a small bar. On the walls are various pictures. One is of the Saint for Catalan farmers, another is a wall hanging from Japan. Josep is proud of this, Japan is one of the countries that buy’s his Cava.

Josep’s family began making wine in 1907, when his grandfather opened his small Celler.  In those days everything was done by hand and gravity, making for backbreaking work.

Then the grapes were brought to the hopper and fed into it by hand then two men turned the wheels crushing the grapes. Next they were placed into the large presses to get the maximum juice which then ran out of the press into channels and down to the vats below, more hard work.

In 1941 his father opened his own Celler and began to make wine and Cava. Here Josep worked and learnt his trade, but being the man he is he wanted to make his own label so in 1997 his took over his grandfather’s Celler and so began a labour of love.

When Josep first started out with his wife and two young children he was using the original equipment his grandfather used.  Everything was done by hand and gravity, it was backbreaking, but Josep held to his vision.  He worked hard transforming a vast vault of a Celler into two stories above the caves where the Cava matures.  On the ground floor you find the modern bottling plant.

Here just before it’s final corking the Cava is placed into an ‘ice ring’, here the neck is frozen then the bottles are placed on a belt that takes them to a uncapping machine. This first removes the metal cap then the sediment is drawn out, the bottle then moves to the next procedure where it is topped up with Cava from another bottle. After this comes the cork, wire cap then finally metal cover is added, once this is done the bottles are set to age.  You will note, that unlike Champagne, at no time is extra sugar added the grapes are sweet enough not to need it.

We also find the small caves which are named after his son and daughter each containing racks of Cava  several rows deep.  To make the Celler workable Josep placed begers across the celler  filled them with pots (concrete beams infilled with terracotta ‘pots’ typical way of building) creating a ceiling downstairs and useable floor space upstairs. Up here he has lovingly preserved the original presses and crusher of which he is very proud and you can also see the date that his grandfather began making wine. There is also a tasting room and storage area here.

Then it was back down stairs into the caves themselves.  Here Josep showed us the bottling machine where he bottles both his wines and Cava.  This machine is cleansed twice with hot water before it is used for bottling so that everything is sterile. Only when this is done will the wine be pumped down then he begins his work.

After the Cava has been bottled it is taken through to the caves to begin it’s maturing, depending on the type of Cava he is making the time will vary from between 9 to 33 weeks.  Here the bottles are checked and turned to prevent the sediment from settling and encourage it to gravitate towards the neck.  If you hold the wine to the light you can see the sediment as a musty line. These days Josep uses a machine that gently turns the bottles from horizontle to neck down thus ensuring the sediment is in the neck ready to be disposed of.

In the sample room are bottles in racks or lying on the table and Josep can tell you exactly which part of the cave holds the twin of a particular bottle. Beside this Josep has a small blending lab where he blends his Cava and wine to perfection.

We have just visited the final stages but now we are going to the beginning.  This is a small Celler producing high quality wines and Cava, so I was not surprised to see the same compact machinery that I have seen before.

Here you will find the vat where the yeast is added, this is left for around 24hrs then the process is stopped after this the wine is placed into vats to ferment.

In the room behind this one is the automated de-stalker and squeezed – this is most important – not pressed. This operation is run by a pump which when the pipes are connected takes the juice from there to the vats.

All this Josep has done on his own. The building, the blending everything, a true labour of love and a real feel for quality, no factory production here, just plain tradition with a dedication to quality. His son now works with him as well as his wife, and on Saturday’s his daughter holds classes in the reception, this really is a family business. Yes Josep has a small Celler but from it comes quality Cava, no large-scale manufacturing here, just wonderful, lovingly made good quality Cava.

As the wines and Cava’s here are of high quality, you will not find them in supermarkets, this is the Cava you place on the table at festive times or for parties when you want to ensure your guests are drinking something special. The Japanese like quality and know a good Cava when they taste it.  The first Cava Josep produced he called:

Grand RVA Brut Nature  VALLDEFERRET  it is a blending of both surnames of his wife’s family and his. Such romance.

The grapes used to make this excellent Cava are Macabeo, Xarel-lo, Parellada, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. This results in a soft golden wine where the bubbles rise to a crown.  The Bouquet is of light summer fruit with a hint of sweet spices.  The Taste: It has a light creamy taste with lingering aftertaste, bring memories of warm fires and good friends. This Cava spends 90 months aging.

Next comes Grande Reserve Brut Nature Sara  this Cava is named after his daughter.

The grapes used for this are: Xarel-lo, Parellada, Chardonnay and Macabeo, giving this wine a pale straw colour with just a hint of a green tone the bubbles are small and again form a small crown. The Bouquet there are tones of apple and pear with a hidden hint of flowers.  The Taste: Although this is a long aging wine – 48 months – it is fresh and light the Chardonnay giving it that something special.

Next is Brut Nature Grand Reserve

The grapes used here are  Xarel-lo, Parellada and Macabeo, giving once again a gentle straw colour with a greenish tint with bubbles forming a small crown.  The Bouquet: A gentle fruity aroma.  The Taste: Light and fresh with a gentle floral taste.  This one we drank one evening it lifted us back to the summer a perfect sipping Cava.

Now comes Brut Nature Reserve

The grapes for this are Xarel-lo, Parellada and Macabeo this wine has a light greenish colour fresh and clear.  The Bouquet: It is persistent light and slightly fruity.  The Taste: Fresh and young very much a super Cava after 30 months aging.

Finally Brut Nature Rose Grand Reserve

This is a spectacular Pink Cava. A beautiful pinky reddish colour with bubbles in abundance, that when they form the crown look classic.  The grapes used to produce this gem are Pinot Noir, Garnatxa and Trepat. The Bouquet:  You can smell the grapes here whilst there is a hint of age. The Taste: it’s fresh with a red currant lean plus persistent bubbles. It is aged for 36 months.

Well there you are, some of the most special Cavas I have tried.  I have to say that given the choice between champagne and Josep M Ferret Guasch Cava there is no contest this Cava would win every time. Try them contact Josep M Ferret Guasch on: ferretguasch@ferretguasch.com or visit www.ferretguasch.com  and enjoy A Cava Of Passion.

(c) Michael Douglas Bosc

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Sitting In The Garden

Sitting In The Garden.

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“Once upon a time in a monastery vineyard far far away, the monks were looking rather dour.  They had been producing wine for many many years, good wine, but always they felt something was missing what they did not know.  Until one day Brother Rene returned from a pilgrimage and told them how he had been overcome and a monastery in Catalunya  just the other side of the Pyrenees had taken him in and made him well. Brother Rene then went on to tell about this fabulous wine they made. It tasted wonderful, sparkled and was alive with bubbles that tickled your nose, but it made you feel rejuvenated, well that’s how he felt.

The wine makers pho-hoed him but Brother Rene insisted he was right, so two of the monks went to see for themselves.  They were away for a very long time and everyone thought they must have been set upon by robbers and  killed.  Then one day they were seen approaching the monastery gate riding a cart with what looked like grapevines in it.  Well the vintner monks were so happy to see they were alive that at first they didn’t ask about the cart, but eventually they did.

The Brothers took from their cart a carefully wrapped book and some flagons.  This book contained instructions on how to make CAVA and which grapes were best to use.  They then removed the flagons which contained some very nice wine – which disappointed the other monks as they wanted to try this CAVA – but there were no bottles of Brother Rene’s rejuvenating CAVA.  The two Brothers then explained that no matter how hard they tried they could not get the bottles to travel as every bump in the road shook them and they burst. However all was not lost,  the monastery had kindly given the Brothers some of the vines so the monks planted them and waited for them to grow.

Well the monks tried out the recipe following the instructions and sure enough they had CAVA.  One day whilst enjoying their wine a monk asked why it was called CAVA.  Brother Rene said that although it was made in Catalunya it was actually made in the Cava region so the monastery had decreed that should be its name. This news was a little disconcerting after all they could not have other monks saying they had stolen their wine, so they decided that as their monastery was in Champagne they would call their wine Champagne…..”

I was told this story by someone, whether it is true or not I cannot say, but I like to think it is. What I can say is that my visit to the Cava Celler of Josep M Ferret Gausch taught me a lot.  Again, here was a small producer, but his love for his product was not only audible but tangible you could see and feel it. Here was a man who produced a wonderful wine, I again had the same feeling that has followed me through all my visits to the Cellers of Catalunia. Hardworking vintner’s, with a good knowledge of wine, happy but throughly immersed in their belief of what they are doing, plus a true and soul felt delight in Catalunia wines.

You can go to the supermarkets and buy Cava such as Frexinet cheaply, but if you want quality Cava then you need to pay, just as you do for Champagne.  So why don’t people drink more Cava outside of Spain? The British do, they love Cava, but I do not think they know why. The reason is simple, Champagne has sugar added to it just before it’s final corking, in an attempt to reduce the acidity, but basically all that happens is the acidity just levels it out.  Cava on the other hand, does not need anything added, the grapes of the Cava region get so much sun there is no need to add sugar it’s already in the grapes, thus making the wine more natural, more gentle, more pleasing to the taste than Champagne.

I am so grateful to Josep M Ferret Gausch for allowing me the privilege of writing about his Celler.  All my articles have been about the wine and Cellers of Catalunia,  their pride, history, tradition and the love of what they do, the result has been something spectacular, untill now, this last visit is just superb…

The article will be out soon so make a note of the contact number and try some quality Cava……

(c)  Michael Douglas Bosc

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 It is strange how things change in life. One minuet I am being eyed up by Farmer John for the cooking pot the next I have an agent and a life in films seems on the cards. Then I get a publicist and coach then BANG! I find Farmer John has been nattering to his pals about me wanting to be in a Bond film only to find out that one of them is a ‘Government Man’. Next thing I know I am taken to a ‘Special Unit’ place where I have been training and working ever since, boy am I pooped.

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Mind you I life is not too bad. I mean every secret agent has girls, and as you can see I have two. The next thing I know Farmer John is my ‘contact’ and passes messages between Duck E (the boss of the agency) and myself.  However, there was one condition I had to marry the girls. MARRY THE GIRLS!!!!! why? James Bond didn’t marry… oops yes he did. So I got married and it was after that I actually met  Duck E. nice bloke really, bit quackers but nice. Mind you I am not sure things are strictly above board, one of my girls called Duck E daddy, well I think she did, she said no, but I could have sworn…..

There are some very strange goings on out there in the spy world. Last week I was hooked up with this flighty piece, couldn’t speak a word of Peasant, but she was plump in all the right places, really tasty if you know what I mean. Now it seems some Frenchies were smuggling pheasants across the channel and she was the inside bird.

These illegals were causing havoc with the shooting set, they were teaching the other pheasants to duck and dive when they flew, not supposed to do that. So off we went on a train thingy under the water to France where we were turned loose and told to ‘sort ‘em out’. We spent a few days posing as illegal pheasants trying to get into Britain saying we had plenty of corn and were finally contacted by a greasy looking turkey called Mon sure Gobbledygook. He said that to get us into Britain it would cost us a sack of corn, we tried to haggle but it was either a sack or no trip. So we paid the sack of corn and the next we knew we were inside a big lorry which was then packed off to a place called Dover. When we arrived and were far enough from the port not to be seen by the police, the lorry stopped and the back was opened so we were able to get out. As soon as I could I called Duck E, said we had the case cracked. When the assignment was over I took my partner to meet Farmer John he did not like her, said all she was fit for was the cooking pot, never saw her after that.


Anyway, I had plenty of things to keep me busy for a while. Then one morning I was having breakfast when my old friend Bruce Gull of the flying services came to see me. It seems someone was trying to put the R.S.F.S. out of service.  He was not sure if it was Puffin Billy or Petrel Head but someone had infiltrated the base and tried to steal some equipment. It had him really worried if either of those two got their hands on the spares they could be dive bombing people all round the coast, and he already had enough trouble with Chip Butty and the Gull Gang.  Well what could I do? Bruce had been helpful to me before so I went to see Farmer John – he knows about these things – and asked his advice. But he just wanted to shoot them but I did not want any bodies around, to messy.

I kept on at him after all his wages – 1 bottle of Famous Grouse and some fish eggs a week – very strange wages I thought, he would have been better off with corn like me. Anyway, we hatched a plot. The H.Q. of the R.S.F.S. is at Tangmere so Farmer John and I decided to keep watch and when the robbers turned up we would nab them. Not wanting to give the game away, he would be on his tractor and plough the field in the middle of the old runways whilst I went to the hanger where the stores were, find a large box and hide myself behind it.

So one afternoon after we had a tip from Bob Ferret, we put the plan into action. Farmer John got his tractor going and I slipped into the hanger and hid. I had not been in there long before I heard a noise and peeking round the corner of the box, I saw the hangar door open and a puffin waddle in followed by two hard looking rats riding in a small cart pulled by a scrawny looking fox. They headed towards the far side of the hanger where the kestrel bombs were stored and started to load their cart.

Now we had agreed that Farmer John would wait for my signal then drive his tractor up and catch the baddies in the act. I had to sound a horn by jumping on it. I had managed to sneak past the baddies and get outside then I jumped up and down on the horn. I forgot the first rule of 001’ship ‘keep your eye on the enemy’. I was so busy watching Farmer John heading my way with his tractor that I was taken by surprise when the hanger door opened and out dashed the fox cart with the puffin and rats onboard I had to jump out of the way, a near miss and no mistake.

Well, I have never seen Farmer John drive so fast, with a great shout of ‘Tally Ho’ he was off after those rouges and the last I saw of him was a cloud of dust as he disappeared out of the airfield in full pursuit of the villains. When he returned a little later with the bombs and the cart – he’s given that to me for my personal transport – he looked flushed and happy. He took the bombs back into the hanger and I stayed on guard until Bruce Gull came back.

Later that afternoon Farmer John returned to collect me, he had to lift me on to the tractor as Bruce and I had been celebrating our successful foiling of Puffin Billy’s raid. So it was late on that summers evening when we headed home, me dreaming of the events and Farmer John softly singing to himself. But I am not sure his helping me was a good thing, you see he went off one morning and we have not seen him since. I think he has got a little taste for my line of work and Mrs Farmer John is very worried, but I will look after her, well as long as she feeds me……

(c) Michael Douglas Bosc

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