Vol. 26 No. 11 Wine

Codorníu, The Cava Jewel of Raventós Codorníu

The Codorníu estate is known as the “Cathedral of Cava.”


I encountered Anna de Codorníu several years ago at a tasting in San Francisco and recently toured her historic Spanish winery.

Anna is an important figure in the heritage of Cava. Her ancestor Jaume Codorníu was a winegrower in the 1550s. When Anna Codorníu married winegrower Miguel Raventos in 1659, she launched the storied Raventós Codorníu legacy.

Anna’s descendent Josep Raventós was the first to produce Spanish sparkling wine in the Champenoise method. Having observed the French process, Raventós made the wine at Sant Sadurni D’Anoia in the Penedès region of Northwest Spain in 1872. Josep’s son Manuel Raventós was a true visionary. Manuel built a grand winery in 1895 known as the “Cathedra of Cava,” the Codorníu estate, now a national historic site.

Codorníu Overlooking the old cellar Photo credit-Deborah Grossman.

During our visit to Codorníu and two other Raventós Codorníu wineries, we learned more about Anna, Manuel, and the current leaders’ focus on tradition, innovation, and sustainability. In addition, we toured a section of the seven-level, 18-mile cellar at the Cathedral of Cava and met the company’s CEO and the Codoníu winemaker.

Codorníu entrance to the cellar Photo credit-Deborah Grossman

The public can visit the Cathedral of Cava which features a museum and event center. Three floors in the cellar, however, continue to age Codorníu cava. The longer-aged cavas are stored at the lower levels, which are the coolest.

Along the way, we saw numerous “streets” and nooks named after icons such as Alphonso XIII, the last Spanish monarch, and family members such as Anna.

Codorníu cellar Alphonso XIII Credit-Deborah Grossman

After the tour, the presence of the Raventós Codorníu family was also displayed during our lunch in the library in the historic, former family home with the winery’s CEO, Sergio Fuster, where Anna graces the ice buckets. A portrait of Manuel Raventós hangs on the wall.  

Codorníu winery Anna de Codorníu ice buckets Photo credit-Deborah Grossman

Recognizing the potential for quality sparkling wine, Manuel purchased 3,000 hectares in 1885 west of the Penedès in the Costers del Segre region. With a high desert continental climate in contrast to the marine-influenced Penedès, Manuel established vineyards and developed the infrastructure for the village of Raimat to ensure wine-growing operations.  

Fuster offered historical context on cava. “The term ‘cava’ didn’t take off for 25 years. It was called Champagne at first until the courts got involved. Today, given our quality levels, we consider our competitor to be Champagne rather than large cava producers such as Freixenet.”

In 2018 Raventós Codorníu merged with Gleva Cellars and now comprises 15 wineries in Spain, the U.S. (Artesa), and Argentina (Séptima). Before joining the winery, Fuster worked in the U.S. with large international companies in commercial branding. Fuster articulated his primary mission: “Let’s build on the legacy of 18 generations of producing cava and caring for the land and communities. Everything we do must be sustainable, and we are the worldwide leader in producing organic cava.”

As Fuster discussed the market advances of cava, we enjoyed Limited Edition Codorníu with a local pork dish with truffled potatoes prepared by the winery’s Spanish restaurant partner, Els Jardins de Codorníu.

Codorníu Limited Edition Photo Credit:: Deborah Grossman

Fuster noted that the worldwide market for cava grew 40 percent from 2020 to 2021, with rosé cava, in particular, growing in popularity. Raventós Codorníu was the first to produce a 100 percent Pinot Noir rosé cava.

According to Fuster, the U.S. is the top consumer of sparkling wine, with Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio as the preferred sparkling grapes. Added Fuster, “Anna de Codorníu is well positioned in the market. With the introduction of the Anna de Codorníu brand in 1984, we were the first to produce cava from Chardonnay grapes in addition to the traditional Xarel-lo, Macabeo, and Parellada grapes.” He further said, “We now own most of the Chardonnay vineyards in Spain. And our vineyards will be 100 percent organic by 2024.” 

We also had the opportunity to taste through the Codorníu portfolio with head winemaker Bruno Colomer. With grapes from a myriad of new and old plantings, plus the complexity of continental and maritime terroirs, Colomer is famed for drawing his philosophy of winemaking on the white table rather than the usual whiteboard.

Codorníu Winemaker Bruno Colomer explains cava Photo, credit-Deborah Grossman.

What Colomer depicted on the table was a simple A-B-C-D or increasing quality of the Codorníu portfolio. The D grapes are derived from a broad swath of the Penedès, Costers del Segre. And other regions are mechanically picked and vinified into fine Ars Collecta Codorníu cavas.

Closer inspection of the grapes from more suitable terroir zones is allocated to the single vineyard Ars Collecta Paraje Calificado (qualified location) range, such as El Tro Nuo and Le Pleta. The grapes for Le Pleta come from a small plot on shallow, southwest-facing clay loam soil in Raimat, which we viewed from a ridge later in our tour.

La Pleta vineyard in Raimat Photo credit-Deborah Grossman

We then tasted the 459 Grand Reserva cava which our group immediately identified as the top of the line. Deliciously refined with fine bubbles and deep complexity, the cava evoked the characteristics of Champagne. “Only grapes from the best growers in the top terroirs are used in this “A” cava,” said Colomer. “With longer aging, the 459 Grand Reserva pairs well with meat.

We toasted Colomer for the excellent presentation on cava and decided we needed to explore more of the cava and still wines that Raventós Codorníu offers at Raimat and Scala Dei wineries.

Photo credit: Deborah Grossman

Feature photo: Codorniu, The old family house Credit-Deborah Grossman

Raventos Codorníu   https://www.raventoscodorniu.com/en
Codorníu   https://www.codorniu.com/en
Els Jardins de Codorníu  https://calblay.com/en/els-jardins-de-codorniu/
15 Bodegas  The online Raventos  Codorníu  store  https://www.15bodegas.com/es_en/

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Deborah Grossman is a San Francisco Bay Area journalist whose specialty is writing about people and places that craft unique beverage and food. Her gastronomic travel articles depict experiences at the global dining table. She writes for several print and
online publications. She occasionally eats dessert first and applauds the Italian proverb: 
A dinner without wine is like a day without sunshine.

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