July 11: Codorníu Classico Brut is a sparkling DO Cava produced since 1872 using the 3 local Spanish grapes in Sant Sadurni by Codorníu Raventós, the oldest business house in Spain and made using the traditional method of making champagne, and being an ideal mate with even Indian snacks and foods it offers an attractive proposition from the Mumbai-based importer VBev, writes Subhash Arora who recommends it with snack- foods like pizzas, samosas, dosas and burgers and most vegetarian dishes and also suggest wine lovers visit the iconic, historical winery near Barcelona post-Covid
Have you had an overdose of Prosecco and don’t really want to splurge on Champagne costing four times as much? Here is an attractive alternative from Mumbai-based importer VBev, the world famous (Spanish) Cava that used to compete with Champagne in popularity and the volume consumed till Prosecco surged past both several years ago. While Prosecco is light and frothy, Cava made from traditional method- second fermentation in the bottle as in champagne, is fuller, more complex and elegant. Made from Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada, the original native grapes of Penedés in Sant Sadurni, about 35 kms from Barcelona, Codorníu Classico has a bready flavour and is fairly complex and yet easy drinking. Of course, the winery has about 35 variants that include the top ended Paraje Cavas.
History and Background
Josep Raventós, one of the ancestors of the oldest private run wine company in Spain, started making cava for the first time following the Traditional Method in 1872. This was a couple of years after Antonio Carpene of Carpene Malvolti, (currently imported by Aspri Spirits) started producing Prosecco by Charmat (tank) method and called it Italian champagne. The company has been otherwise making wine since 1551 and is a perfect balance of tradition and modernity.
The winery in Sant Sadurni was declared a National Historical Artistic Monument in 1976 and constitutes one of the most impressive examples of architecture at the center of cava making and cellaring.
Import into India by VBev
Codorníu was launched in India by Brindco, about 18 years ago. Ahead of its times, it did not compete well with the very well-priced Freixenet. Codorníu Cuvee Raventós was served as an aperitif as far back as in March 2002 at a wine dinner at Hyatt Regency, Delhi organised by Brindco which discontinued imports a few years later.
It was re-introduced a couple of years ago by VBev which is also importing other wines from the group also-especially Viña Pomal from Rioja. Codorníu is distributed pan India- MRP in Bangalore being a very reasonable Rs. 1750, competing well with Prosecco produced by the cheaper tank method. It is priced decently at just under Rs. 2000 in Mumbai, but a tad expensive at an MRP of Rs. 2250 in Delhi where the Label Registration charges are very high and VAT went up from 20 to 25% earlier (one hopes it was a temporary measure due to Covid-19 and will be rolled back after the Covid impact is muted). Sumedh Singh Mandla, CEO of VBev says, ‘we have kept a very low price for the premium product from the iconic, historic group to offer a Spanish alternative to champagne in terms of complexity and elegance with Spanish Terroir. We are trying our best to offer in Haryana too now that monopoly has ended.’ The prices might be thus more reasonable for Delhi residents too.
Codorníu Classico Cave as cool condiment
Codorníu has been a personal favourite of mine as I love bubblies- be it Champagne, Prosecco, Cava or India produced. It has a good body, nice appley and citrus aromas, fine bubbles, fresh and pleasant on the palate with propensity to match most of the foods as a condiment. Purists put condiment as sauces, mustard, pickles, vinegar etc. to add to the food flavour but in a wider sense today, I consider wine also as one as it adds to the flavour and helps to down the food very well-especially pizzas, pastas and Indian snacks like samosas, dosas (though one needs to be careful with the spices in chutney in sambhar), Pav Bhaji, Vada Pao and even Chana Bhaturas or aloo- tikki burgers. It helps clean the palate after every bite and sip.
Perfect as an appetiser when served chilled at 5-6°C, Codorníu goes very well with fried fish and sea-food Paella too due to good acidity and possibly tandoori chicken and other dishes with light sauces. In fact, I have tried it with many snacks and find it an easy and tasty, effervescent substitute for coke, beer and tea.
Visiting Codorníu Raventós near Barcelona
The beautiful winery is a big attraction for tourists with its kilometres of underground caves where thousands of bottles are stored. It was shut down during the current pandemic but opened to public on July 1 with the inauguration of Codorníu Gardens, created in the grounds of the centuries-old winery where one can enjoy a glass of Cava with tapas.
It is one of the few wineries I know of (barring Porto/ Vila Nova de Gaia in Portugal where many Port producers provide a complimentary bus service for tourists), where one can go from Barcelona to the winery for a 45-minute visit in a bus for €4. An absolute MUST, if you visit Barcelona after Covid crisis is over. Their food and Cava tastings are legendary. Do try to visit the Cava Museum as well.
Raventós Codorníu has hugely invested to create the new wine tourism offer making sure all the activities in the group wineries meet the necessary safety standards. The new strategic plan positions all wineries as wine tourism destinations making the experiences a not-to-miss option for tourists visiting Spain and Catalonia and balancing the economic profitability of the wine tourism department with the value-add for various brands. It aims to increase the volume of national and international tourists exponentially over the next four years. It is indeed a very desirable model for Indian wineries which generally don’t give the treatment to tourism it deserves, except perhaps Sula Vineyards.
Codorníu Raventós owns 3,000 hectares of vineyards, making them the largest vineyard owners in Spain and perhaps Europe. The group owns 15 wineries in Spain including Penedés, Aragón, Priorat, Rioja and Ribera del Duero and Artesa in Napa California and Septima in Mendoza Argentina.
In 2016 I met Mar Raventós, President of the group in Haro in Rioja where I was visiting Haro Station Wine Experience and had the pleasure of tasting with her Viña Pomal from Bodegas Bilbaínas (also available in India). She shunts between Haro and Sant Sadurni and had attended the grand reception. After around 550 years of the family running it, the Raventós family sold a majority of stake in the group in 2018 to Carlyle, the well-known Private Equity company in the USA.
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