My old vine soul mate

Recaredo: Turó d’en Mota

This article below is a personal one, it was written a year ago. Maybe a bit cheesy, maybe a bit too much. Still, it is mine, so here it is, take, it read it, love it or hate it. But first of all: taste the first single vineyard sparkling wine of Spain!
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Birds are chirping in the distance, and a giant ant is hurrying on with a seed twice as big as his body. I am sitting on the ground, with my back leaning on the thick trunk of a vine. There is an empty spot next to me, I remember that one team member of Recaredo told me the story of this missing vine. We were standing in a chapel-like wing of the cellar in the heart of Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, the cava centre of Spain. It was a kind of blessed silence which I did not really understand. What is this big fuss about that tiny plot, slightly bigger than a handkerchief?

Survived Franco, but did not survive a quad attack

“There were some teenagers sporting their quads in the vineyard. It was a rainy day, they somehow missed the turn and ran between the vines. They destroyed six vines! It’s a small village, soon we found the perpetrators, the parents came to us to apologize. They wanted to pay for our loss. But how could we have told them the price, or rather the pricelessness of these vines?”.

Soon I understood. I learned that these vines had been planted in 1940. The founder of Recaredo, Josep Mata Capellades was a rebellious spirit, he always went against the flow. He gathered his pesetas for the cellar one by one, working as a professional football player and a professional “flying disgorger” – what a combo. Part of the cellar was literally carved by his hand chisel. He was the first to leave Chardonnay behind and to create a blend of the magic local threesome – Xarel·lo, Macabeu and Parellada. What is more, to shock people even more, he created a brut nature sparkling wine even though the common palate preferred sweeter wines at that time. “No one will like it? No problem, then I will drink it all myself” – said the stubborn man and named the cava Reserva Particular (something like “Own Reserve”).

His two sons followed his path, so does the third generation, and the tiny, above mentioned plot is the source of another pioneer product.

“Single Handkerchief” superstar

Turó d’en Mota is indeed a small plot with unique characteristics. There is a little hill above the vineyard with trees to give shadow – some ease from the summer heat of the mediterranean sun. The soil is very calcareous with some sand, silt and clay. A varietal vineyard – only Xarel·lo vines grow here, thus Recaredo team decided to create the very first single vineyard Xarel·lo cava of Penedés – and Spain. So far only 9 vintages have been released, all of them in very limited quantity (only 4,539 bottles were made from vintage 2007). The vineyard is cultivated according to biodynamic viticulture with maximum respect of nature.

And the wine? A liquid miracle, and it is not exaggeration. The minimum ageing on the lees is 120 months, 10 years! I tasted vintage 2007, thank God several times. Amazing complexity, those lovely nutty, toasty notes, the best of a bakery, yet we have the elevating freshness, vibrant acidity, full of life. And the aftertaste – well, it never ends. I can easily recall the taste now, sitting in the vineyard, thinking of all my cellar visits at Recaredo.

Never enough

Nowadays I have several jobs, one of them is to organize cava tours for small groups. Obviously I know most of the cava – and now corpinnat estates –, there are more than 80 wineries in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia. I visited many of them several times, each has its merits, each has its own beauty. However, Recaredo is so special. I think I have visited them more than 20 times, and on every occassion I learned something new. The humble aspect of the whole team and the family always strikes me with the same intensity. They disgorge every single of their 390 000 bottles not to show off, not to feature it as a marketing mantra, but simply because they cannot do it by machine. The reason: they do not close the bottles for ageing by crown cap, but by cork. Again very simply because they realized that crown cap was not suitable for long ageing. What happens with the cork? It is being recycled, like everything else in the estate – some part of the floor in Sagrada Família is made of their used corks. They even use the cover crop flowers of Turo d’en Mota – a superb tea is made of all the herbs of the vineyard. And they rescue bats from excintion, a rare bat species lives happily in their organic-biodynamic vineyards. And I could go on telling amazing facts about Recaredo for a whole day. Just one last amazing fact: I live in the same street where Recaredo cellar is situated.

Series of coincidences

Being a Hungarian wine writer, why am I writing about a Catalan vineyard? I will tell you.

22 years ago I was spending a year at home in our flat in Budapest, looking after my baby boy. I tried to avoid watching television, but a soap opera caught my attention – that is the nature of soap operas. It was the first and only – to my knowledge – Catalan soap opera, and the setting was Penedés, the plot was about the intrigues and love affairs of wealthy cava estate owners. Back then I was not involved in wine business, but I was fascinated by the world of wine.

Five years later I got an amazing job, God must have loved me a lot, I became the editor in chief of the Hungarian edition of Decanter magazine. I was unexperienced and scared, it was a grueling period. I remember our very first issue – it featured a travel article about Penedés!

Another ten year period passed, I did all the necessary WSET grades, tasted thousands of wines, travelled the wine regions of the world and became a so called wine expert.

Looking for a change and some adventures I left my beloved job and with my family of five we moved to Spain. Of course to Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, the capital of cava. I am still a Hungarian, what I often say, I have a heart big enough to love both countries.

Now I am again going through a huge change, this time because of my marriage. I am like this old vine behind me, with a missing one next to it. How to go on? Very simple, I will just go on living, like this old fellow, enjoying the sun and the rain, listening to the birds and watching the ants.