Buenos dias otra vez del loco y adorable profesor de Cava,
People apparently get it loud and clear : Pere Mata is making insane-o good bubblies that will redefine what you thought possible from Spanish Cava. Without exception, I have people who have tasted from the first few waves coming back for more with the kind of googly-eyed enthusiasm that I thought was reserved only for my offerings…. ;0 Hitting on all pleasure points intellectual, hedonistic, and food accompanying refreshment, any value conscious wine lover simply couldn’t ask for anything more. From the crushable ease of the entry level Cupada wines, to the serious substance/complexity of the upper tier wines, every bottling delivers the goods and then some. As the refill crowd seems to be unending, with the vast majority of what I thought was an excessive amount of “backup” inventory now gone, I checked in with Pere to see if he still has some of the outstanding 2010 base year wines so that I can build the stacks back up. Trust me when I say that the three 2010 wines offered here, the Ensemblatge, Cuvée Barcelona, and Reserva Familia should be wines to buy by the 6pk/case, as they are delectably sublime examples. (uh oh, I broke out the caps, underline, AND italics…!) And so……..
In 2014, I caught wind of this interesting character named Pere Mata from the Penedès, the heart of Spanish Cava sparkling wine country just outside of Barcelona. His national US agent, Thomas Calder (a man of impeccable discernment and taste in wine), had introduced me to his dizzying array of wines, presenting them as a “growers’ Champagne” style of organically farmed bubblies, fashioned by this “mad professor” who is obsessed with pushing the qualitative boundaries “as he chases the dream of making Cava as good as Champagne.” I was all dialed up to offer the wines, but as I had not yet visited and tasted, I filed things away in the to-be-continued drawer. So when m’lady Amber expressed interest in visiting Barcelona for the first time, a little light went off in my head : now is the time…….
His shorthand history: after working for roughly a decade in the Cava consulting business alongside one of the most talented and prolific consultants in the region, he decided to strike out on his own, buying a 3 hectare parcel of older vines in Sant Sadurni d’Anoia, and building a winery alongside it in 1998. His first vintage was 2000, with each year presenting an opportunity to refine and experiment with the native grape varieties of the region: the whites Macabeo, Xarello, and Parellada; and the red Trepat. In due time, he refined both his sources and methods, stably partnering with three different organic farmers, and continually experimenting with subtle variations in grape blends, dosage, lees contact, amount of time in bottle, and barrel vs tank ageing. Today, he has a clear vision of what he prizes and how to get there (although the experimenting will surely never stop…), with the time and innumerable trials under his belt informing a mature expression of the region’s potential that is flat out stunning in its purity and complexity, not to mention the simply mind blowing value quotient offered. Having now tasted with him, I can see why Champagne superstar Cédric Bouchard said: “these could hold their own in a tasting with Champagnes”.
Pere will tell you straight up: “I am not a very good businessman.” Simply put, he is one of those wonderfully afflicted souls who values love more than money. As we tasted through a head-spinning variety of bottlings from different years to get a full picture of his nutty wine universe, he would candidly say when pouring a certain wine, “I don’t like this one so much”. Every detail and nuance that he pointed out resounded clear as a bell. I found his sense of playfulness and candor to be a pure delight, my kind of people and then some…..
As we approached the twenty bottle count, the theme emerged that both 2010 and 2014 are terrific and “classically” styled vintages, built upon purity of raw materials and ideal sugar/acid balance; they are Pere’s preferred vintages as well. And so, without further ado, I present to you the very best of the best, with impressions/thoughts on a blow by blow basis. Let me just say that you can and should mix and match with blind abandon, as literally every cuvée here offers outrageous substance and value. If Cava is often known for its Cheepnis (a nod to Frank Zappa) moreso than its place on the world stage of raw quality, these are exhibit A examples that will redefine what you thought possible. It sort of goes without saying that these are of the silliest bubbly values that I have ever offered, so tarry not…….
EL MENÚ –
As a quick intro, Pere uses the name “Cupada” (translating as Cuvée or blend) with a # to indicate, well, not much. :0 It is just a number sequence marching forward as the years roll by, without any inherent correlation between the cupada # and the year. Eventually, in 50 years, we will be on Cupada #84 (or something of the sort). We will always need to ask: what exactly is in this one? I have given those details alongside each Cupada #. The other wines (non-Cupada) have a vintage indication.
Also, this is principally a zero dosage, Brut Nature house. This means you can expect dry and very precise wines. The few Brut wines have minimal dosage, with a smidgey-poo more of textural body and fruitiness afforded accordingly.
Wines are aged for a minimum of 2 years on the lees (the amount of time required in Champagne for “vintage” wines….), and up to 6 years+……at these prices, such an ageing regimen with its resultant vinous complexity is plain bonkers…..
Cupada Brut rosé – 100% 2015 vintage, a blend of Parellada and Trepat – The native Catalonian red variety Trepat is principally grown in the higher elevations of the Conca de Barberà, with Pere’s source from the Mont Blanc area. From its delicate red fruited aromatic display to its playful and harmonious palate presence, this is all about easy, simple, and undeniable charm. As you can see from the pricetag, a pink bubbly this good at this pricepoint is sort of a wine-world unicorn. Get some.
Trepat rosé Brut Reserva – 100% 2016 vintage, 100% Trepat – This 100% Trepat cuvée is a slight step up in sappiness/density, with a bit more textural sauvity and richness due to its 4-5 grams of residual sugar and the warmer 2015 vintage. Again, in bang for the buck, silly good. Like many of the different cuvées offered here, It would likely be a toss up between the folks who prefer one over another, with this one finding favor among those who want even more fruitiness in their bubbly.
Cupada # 19 Brut Nature – 100% 2015 vintage, 40% Macabeo, 30% Xarello, 30% Parellada. This is the next Cupada to be released, one that I didn’t taste last summer with Pere. I imagine that it will fall in line with the kind of value and gulpable refreshment of the other Cupada wines that I have tasted, as both the #16 and #18 are damn tasty (a smidgen left in stock of each)…..
Origen ’14 Brut Nature Gran Reserva – 100% 2014 vintage, 60% Macabeu, 40% Xarello – This is the next release of his Orixen, following the outstanding 2010 vintage example that I brought in on the first waves. Pere tells me that, in his mind, the greatest complexity comes from Macabeo and Xerello, moreso than from Parellada. That is why he makes a small amount (roughly 65 cases) of this cuvée using only those two varieties. It has a greater sense of chalky cut and mineral tension, with even more intense white florals. If you are a minerality lover like myself, this has your name on it. In the 2010 version, the seamlessness of the fruit/minerality/acidity is masterfully measured. Again, for the money, are you kidding me? Amber gave the 2010 of this one a little “heart”. Based on the fact that both the 2010 and 2014 base wines were easily the most impressive vintages that I tasted with Pere, I imagine this one will be on point.
L’Ensemblatge Brut Nature ’10 – 100% 2010 vintage, 50% Macabeu, 30% Xarello, 20% Parellada – Wow. This one shows the art of blending and then some; I guess that is why it is literally named “the blending”. 😊 This wine’s sense of layered complexity is awesome and immediately apparent. There is a little bit more nuance and dimension to this relative to the Orixen. Maybe purists will like the Orixen, and everyone will like this one? Don’t let my attempt to characterize things get in the way….just get some, make up your own mind, and thank me later…roughly 650 cases made. I have really enjoyed this one, even more than I did on our day tasting together in Spain.
Reserva Familia Brut Nature ’10 – 2010 vintage base year, 45% Macabeu, 40% Xarello, 15% Parellada, with 20% reserve wines aged in barrel, less than 1g residual sugar. Winner winner chicken dinner. This is plain outstanding for its sense of layered complexity, the 20% neutral barrel aged reserve wines bringing another little somethin’ somethin’ to its sense of bracing texture and flavor. I think that Pere, Amber, and I were all in agreement that this is rightfully the top of the range. Whereas there isn’t a wine in the selected range that isn’t beyond worthy, this one would be my candidate to serve blind in a Champagne tasting to embarrass French winemakers for their prices…..Amber gave this one a little “heart”. Get a 6pk-case, and thank me later.
Cuvée Barcelona Brut ’10 – 2010 vintage base year, 45% Macabeu, 40% Xarello, 15% Parellada, with 20% reserve wines aged in barrel, between 5-6g residual sugar. This is the exact same wine as the Reserva Familia, but with a wee smidgen of dosage. It too is just plain delicious and wowie zowie complex, with a bit more fruit and masterful finesse, if not the same sense of bracing mineral cut as the Reserva Familia. Again, like so many of the wines in the range, there is undeniable class and substance, with the stylistic nuance being much more of a personal preference than anything else. Maybe this one will please the broadest audience, with the Reserva Familia favored by “purists” and rockheads like me? Incidentally, this one has a special label that is a beautiful artists rendition of the mountains that frame Barcelona. Get a 6pk-case, and thank me later.
I knew that I was in for something pretty special, but I couldn’t have known just how good Pere’s wines in fact are. In substance and value, these are of the finest bubbly wines that I have ever tasted, and I can guarantee that you will see the same for yourself……
CHEERS TO PERE, PUSHING THE LIMITS IN THE PENEDÈS, REDEFINING WHAT IS POSSIBLE FOR CAVA!!