Tuesday, May 18, 2010
As recently as eight years ago, if you were to head to Spain in search of a natural wine scene, you would have been hard pressed to find one. It is around this time that a Catalan IT guy with a strong desire to cultivate vines and to produce wine from them started experimenting with old vine macabeu, carefully tending vineyards and making wine from them in a way that could be called hands off, no frills, and in today's context of modern, technically correct yet cookie cutter winemaking, more than slightly out of place. Nonetheless, Laureano Serres continued in his pursuit of the ideal, without a like-minded community of vignerons to consult for support or ideas about his winemaking. What began as a hobby, a two day a week pursuit, steadily grew into something ever more important and time consuming. Now Laureano is just about a full-time wine grower, producing a wide range of very tiny productions, selling in Spanish shops as well as restaurants such as michelin three star El Celler de Can Roca. He even exports some wine to France, represented by another well respected, accomplished vigneron in Thierry Puzelat.
Within those eight years, a community of eight natural winemakers has formed the Productores de Vinos Naturales. There have been two natural wine fairs in Barcelona, the most recent one a huge success, with over 1500 attendees tasting not only Spanish natural wines, but some important examples from France and Italy as well. Laureano has attended the important fairs in France and Italy, and now, unlike the early years where he gleaned information from the internet and French publications, he has a network of like-minded Spanish winemaking colleagues with whom he is in regular contact.
One of those colleagues is his good friend Joan Ramon Escoda, who also makes sans soufre (sin sulfuroso, en español) wines in the Conca de Barbera D.O. in Catalunya. Like Laureano, he is convinced that natural wines, produced from very carefully tended vineyards and with no added sulphur, can be amongst the most delicious and expressive of all. Unlike Laureano, Joan studied oenology for more than a semester, and was a paid member of the winemaking team at other wineries, including Penedes based Jean Leon (equally famous for its cabernet sauvignon as for its celebrity owner, 1950's LA restaurateur Jean Leon). He also made wine at the well respected Can Rafols dels Caus in the Garraf sub-zone of Penedes.
Joan joined us for a mega "cata" of 25 wines, some of which were made by him, others by Laureano, and a few others by another member of the PVN making wines in Granada, in some of the most highly elevated vineyards in Europe.
One crazy Catalan winemaker who produces flor wines from Macabeu (amongst other oddities), another slightly less crazy Catalan winemaker who produces one of the most mineral and acid driven Chenin Blanc based wines that you are likely to taste from anywhere, and a crazy, intrepid foreigner trying to take it all in, talk wine en Castellano, and not get too lost by the occasional Catalan rattled back and forth between the crazies. It had all the makings of an epic tasting.
Next: The tasting, as best as I can transcribe from my notes....