We recently had the pleasure of visiting Gramona, Spain’s premier cava (sparkling wine) producer located southwest of Barcelona in the Alt Penedès region of Catalonia. Gramona dates back to 1881, when it was established under the name Cellar Batlle, and is still today a family owned and operated winery. Gramona’s mastery is in bottle-aged cava, produced from grape varieties grown only in Catalonia — principally Xarel·lo and Macabeo. These varieties flourish in the region’s Mediterranean climate and clay-over-limestone soils and are well-suited — thanks in part to naturally high levels of acidity and antioxidants — to bottle aging over long periods of time that makes Gramona cava so unique. Gramona farms their vineyards organically and biodynamically, employing cattle for fertilizer, sheep (trained not to eat the grapes or grape leaves) to weed the vineyards, chickens to control insects, and dogs to protect the chickens from predators — all in natural harmony.
Gramona produces several different cavas — each distinguished by how long it ages on the lees (yeast sediment) in bottle. Gramona’s approach to producing cava is hands-on from vineyard to cellar, and this is most evident in Gramona’s most extraordinary cavas — those aged over five years. The winery employs the “traditional method” — whereby the wine undergoes a secondary fermentation inside the bottle — and for cavas aged over five years the winery uses natural cork stoppers (rather than metal crown caps, the most common practice in sparkling wine production) to seal the bottles during the aging process. This technique allows for some exchange of oxygen with the wine and yeasts inside the bottle over time.
Gramona cavas aged over five years are riddled by hand (a process also called remuage, a slight turn or shake of the bottle each day to ensure that yeast sediment settles toward the cork) and, at the end of the aging process, disgorged by hand (see photo, above). Gramona then tops-off most of its cavas (the exception being the Brut Nature) with a special recipe of dosage (in cava production called “licor de expedición,” a mixture of still wine and varying amounts of sugar syrup or concentrated grape juice that adds a distinct perfume to the finished wine) before inserting a second, and final, cork into the bottle. In a finishing flourish, Gramona cavas aged over five years are hand-wrapped with clear cellophane (see photo, right), which is both attractive and an indicator of whether the bottle has been appropriately stored (discolored cellophane indicates exposure to heat).
All of the Gramona cavas we sampled were graceful, complex, and entirely unlike any cavas we have ever tasted. They truly are wines of great distinction. We offer tasting impressions of two of our favorites — both selections aged over five years — below.
Celler Batlle | Brut Gran Reserva | 2005
Named after the original winery of 1881, Celler Batlle consists of 75% Xarel·lo and 25% Macabeo sourced from valley floor vineyards in an area called “la plana.” This is a deeply enchanting sparkling wine, with aromas that suggest dried apricot, lemon peel, and toasted biscuit, followed by flavors of candied peach, hazelnut, and brioche — all interwoven with notions of tarragon and butterscotch. It is dry, with gentle acids, and creamy on the palate. The wine aged in bottle sur lattes (stored on the side) for over 115 months. This is the finest cava, and indeed among the best sparkling wines, we have ever tasted.
($90 | 12% ABV)
Gramona | III Lustros Brut Nature Gran Reserva 2007
Comprised of 75% Xarel·lo and 25% Macabeo, III Lustros is “Brut Nature,” which means it is slightly drier (no added dosage) than a Brut. This is a vibrant and exotic sparkling wine, with pear, jasmine, and toasted biscuit on the nose; and on the palate, notes of baked apple, quince, and toasted walnut — all laced with hints of mineral and spice. It is bone-dry, with zesty acids, and fresh on the palate. It aged in bottle sur lattes for over 72 months.
($45 | 12% ABV)
For maximum enjoyment of Gramona’s cavas, we suggest that you serve them at traditional cellar temperature (around 55°F) — that is, not stone cold — in a wine glass with a large bowl, rather than in a champagne flute. They become more expressive the longer they sit in the glass.
Availability: Gramona cavas are available in select markets nationwide and through some online wine merchants. For information on where you may find them in your area, go to
—www.gramona.com/store-location/?lang=en. Celler Batlle and III Lustros can be difficult to find, but the winery’s less expensive lines — including the excellent Imperial Brut Gran Reserva (aged in bottle for 41 months) — are more widely available. For more information on Gramona and its cavas, visit the winery virtually at www.gramona.com.