Long before Cava became a brand, a category, a marketing term, a beverage sourced from disparate lands across all of Spain, it was an experimental artisanal wine produced by a handful of visionaries in the Alt Penèdes—the gorgeous rolling hills west of Barcelona in the long shadows of Montserrat, within striking distance of the Mediterranean Sea. The dictates of rapid industrialization transformed Cava from a local Catalan curiosity into a highly marketed juggernaut, with power and influence concentrating in the hands of several enormous bulk producers; but a few holdouts from Cava’s inception held fast and flourished even as the category grew increasingly insipid.
Chief among these is the Recaredo estate in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, in continuous operation by the Mata family since its founding in 1924, and long considered the ultimate standard-bearer for quality in the region. Their wines are beloved and ubiquitous in their home territory, and, in fact, it was not until the mid-2000s that they began exporting to other markets. The tensions between Cava’s increasing commercialization and Recaredo’s ever-deepening commitment to terroir-specificity, labor-intensive viticulture and cellaring, and overall boundary-pushing reached a head in recent years, and Recaredo, along with a handful of other like-minded growers, founded the Corpinnat association and cut ties with Cava once and for all in 2019.
Recaredo’s vineyards—today encompassing 65 hectares in the Bitlles Valley Highlands in the Alt Penedès—have never been worked with synthetic chemicals, and the estate was the first in the entire region to convert to biodynamic viticulture (certified by Demeter since 2010). It is one thing to purchase biodynamic treatments and apply them to one’s micro-parcels in a monocultural vine-scape, surrounded by sometimes dubiously farming neighbors; it is another thing entirely to biodynamically cultivate the vast rich and thriving ecosystems that comprise Recaredo’s holdings. Their immaculately tended hillsides, punctuated by dense forests and teeming with animal life, exemplify the fullest possibilities of biodynamics as originally envisioned by Steiner; and, at the risk of sounding mystical, one feels a certain sense of energy and vigor just from standing among Recaredo’s vines.
This sense permeates their jaw-dropping subterranean cellar as well. Vast stretches of stacked bottles nestled within rough-hewn walls, all stoppered with natural cork for their secondary fermentations—Recaredo was the first estate in Europe to receive the Aged with Cork certification from the European Cork Federation—patiently await disgorging, which is performed manually at cellar temperature (as opposed to the nearly ubiquitous neck-freezing method) by a team of full-time experts. All wines rest a minimum of three years on their lees before disgorgement, with some wines aging well over a decade, and nothing is ever given a dosage; with fruit this healthy in a climate this sun-blessed, there is no need. The bottles have been riddled by hand—with the intuitive, sensitive human touch no machine can replicate—since the estate’s founding nearly a century ago. Theirs is the old hand-made style of Cava that ignited interest in the category in the first place but became overshadowed, like so many truly artisanal products, by big-business interests over time. We are immensely grateful that it still exists, and particularly in such beautiful form as at Recaredo.
Recaredo’s deeply expressive, finely etched, startlingly complex wines not only offer a singular glimpse into this incredible Mediterranean terroir, they articulate a unique paradigm for sparkling wines in general. To both farm and age 65 hectares worth of vines in such an uncompromising manner puts them among Europe’s greatest and most awe-inspiring wineries; and, when one considers the sheer amount of labor involved, their prices remain surprisingly modest. This autumn, we at Rosenthal are thrilled to offer to our clients the below collection of long-aged sparkling wines from this peerless estate.
2014 “Terrers” Corpinnat Brut Nature
Recaredo’s flagship wine is an evocative, delicious, and riveting encapsulation of the house style. With its four years of lees aging, and its hand-riddling and manual disgorging, “Terrers” is a “basic” cuvée that sees more back-of-house time and labor than the overwhelming majority of Champagnes of any echelon. Built on the back of the minerality-enhancing Xarel-lo (56%), with smaller amounts of Macabeu (42%) and Parellada (2%), the 2014 vintage of “Terrers” offers even more penetrating minerality than usual, with snappy orchard fruits, citrus blossom, and a nougat-like character all given definition by sizzling acidity. Its extended lees contact is felt more in the wine’s palate-commanding breadth than in any blatantly yeasty character, and it possesses a precision—an almost arch air of elegance—that shames its peers, while all the while remaining irresistibly delicious. Disgorged June 9th, 2019.
2014 “Intens” Corpinnat Rosat Brut Nature
Recaredo’s uncompromisingly vinous, deeply colored sparkling rosé is produced from fully ripe Monastrell and Garnacha, pressed slowly and given six hours of skin-maceration, and given five years of lees aging. Bright, sappy, and bursting with salt-flecked fruit, this 2014 simultaneously expresses the verve of the vintage and the solar imprint of the terroir. If most still rosé from the French stretch of the sea straitjackets itself with overcropping, sulfur, and a rush to bottling (that salmon color so beloved by the market requires some coercion), “Intens” expresses the full luscious heat of the Mediterranean in typically Recaredo-esque visceral fashion, yet it remains scintillatingly vibrant and refreshing to drink. Disgorged July 19th, 2019.
2011 “Serral del Vell” Corpinnat Brut Nature
With the 2008 vintage, Recaredo debuted their “Serral del Vell” cuvée—a single-vineyard offering whose embrace of a specific terroir runs counter to the mass blending that characterizes most sparkling wines in the Alt Penedès (or, for that matter, in Champagne). This highly calcareous high-altitude plateau produces wines of rigorous minerality and kinetic linearity, showcasing the region’s ability to rival Chablis in its transmission of limestone essence. The 2011 is both powerful and graceful, with a quince-jam quality to its vivid yet taut fruit (comprising equal parts Xarel-lo and Macabeu), and a tunneling, long-echoing finish of impressive cling. Notes of raw almond and vanilla bean speak to its nearly eight years of lees aging, but this wine is built on freshness rather than autolytic heft. Disgorged September 13th, 2019.
2007 “Reserva Particular” Corpinnat Brut Nature
The most viscerally classic of Recaredo’s offerings, “Reserva Particular” traces its origins back to 1962, when Josep Mata Capellades debuted the region’s first ultra-long-aged sparkling wine. The current iteration of the cuvée uses the estate’s oldest vines of Macabeu and Xarel-lo (two-third and one-third, respectively), planted between 1950 and 1955 on steep slopes in the northwest sector of Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, and it is a plumper, more thickly textured take on these limestone-dense vineyards than the “Serral del Vell” above. Recaredo’s characteristic precision and drive are on full display, but the overall impression is enveloping and luscious rather than hyper-chiseled; there is an analog-rather-than-digital quality here that evokes a bygone era of less-governable fermentation and a more open-armed embrace of wildness. The 2007 “Reserva Particular” spent over eleven years on its lees during secondary fermentation. Disgorged July 22nd, 2019.
2006 “Turó d’en Mota”
Recaredo’s most towering achievement, “Turó d’en Mota” expresses the outer limits of their methodology and stands unquestionably as the greatest sparkling wine produced in the Alt Penedès. This single-vineyard offering, produced from pure bush-trained Xarel-lo planted in 1940 on a northeast-facing (and hence acidity-retaining) slope, spends a staggering eleven years on its lees under natural cork for its secondary fermentation. Even after all that time, the lees buttress rather than dominate the wine’s profile, and its articulation of calcareous depths rivals that of the greatest Champagne or white Burgundy, but with a proudly and distinctively Mediterranean accent. Borne from a meteorologically balanced, healthy growing season with adequate rainfall, the 2006 is a skeptic-silencing masterpiece, with notes of white truffle and raw vanilla framing a penetrating, saliva-inducing palate of immense salinity and breadth. It is truly a wine outside category, and it must be tasted to be believed.