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Natural wines from a garage in Catalonia

Pepe Raventos corks

I’m not going to get into a discussion about so-called natural wine or raw wine, except to say that I'm not a cheerleader for them. That doesn’t mean I’m anti the practices. Far from it, but I find the cultish proselytising hard to take and I’m emphatically anti poorly made wine being presented as something good or positive, particularly when consumers are paying for it, and even more if they’re being lulled into paying extra for it. Enough said. I’m reviewing these two avowedly non-interventionist, biodynamic natural wines because I like them and think that other people will. Simple as that.

They’re made by Pepe Raventós of Raventós I Blanc, whose family has been producing wine in Penedés, Catalonia for hundreds of years, above all sparkling wine, but since 2012 outside the Cava appellation by choice. He started his garage wine project to make “the purest wines possible”, in his garage (obviously) at Mas del Serral in 2014 and now produces four wines. The vineyards are certified biodynamic and all work is done by hand, using horses when necessary. The wines are made with skin contact and spontaneous fermentation and without sulphites, yeasts, sugar or any other additives. They're unfiltered and unstabilised.

Pepe Raventos wines

Xarel-lo de la Vinya del Noguer Alt 2017

From Xarel-lo planted in 1970 in clay and limestone soils in the 1.5ha Noguer vineyard at the top of Mas del Serral. Fermentation, with indigenous yeasts and lasting 30 days, in a 1000-litre clay amphora and 1600-litre open, French oak foudre. 6 months on the lees; bottled 11 April 2018. 3224 bottles. 12.54% abv. pH 3.26.

TASTE: Pale, bright and slightly clouded appearance. Delicate fresh pear, ginger, smoke and pear-cider on the nose. Gently lemony, saline, pear-cider and gingery notes on the palate, soft, slightly chewy texture and refreshing acidity. Everything in balance. It opened up over two days, lasting well and losing its initial slight edginess. Good with risotto and with roast, spiced cauliflower (nigella seeds, caraway, turmeric), but was overpowered by an intense morel sauce.

Isabel Negra Sumol, Garnatxa Negra, Samsó 2016

50% Sumoll, 30% Garnatxa, 20% Samsó (Carinyena), from 2ha planted in 1976 in calcareous soil with a clay-loam texture. Fermentation with native vineyard yeasts in stainless steel and amphora: 15 days with a little pigeage. Spontaneous malolactic (after draining off the unpressed pulp). 8 months in barrels. No filtration or stabilisation; a low dose of sulphur (31 mg/l). 6796 bottles. 13.36% abv. pH 3.20. volatile acidity 0.42g/l.

TASTE: Medium-deep ruby. Perfumy, with spicy, smoky, red berry and cherry aromas and flavours. Strikingly silky texture, very soft tannins but fresh acidity. Lasted well over two days. Very good with duck legs roasted with cardamom, cumin and fennel, and wilted spinach.

Photographs by Joanna Simon

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