TWO SUMMER FIZZES: RAVENTOS I BLANC vs LYME BAY
(Do I Not Like The Word Fizz When Applied To Quality Sparkling Wines But Still Use It!)
Something old … and something new
Cheerful and inexpensive, we used to buy Cava when we could not afford Champagne. That was before Prosecco arrived with a bang and squeezed modest Cava out into the third place. The style is still classic, produced exactly like Champagne, the quality is fast improving with many top producers now competing with Champagne including with their prices.
One of them is Raventos i Blanc. The 21st generation of the same family now run the show that began back in 1497, making them “the longest, documented viticulture tradition owned by the same family in Europe” – as they claim. It’s owned by a brunch of the family, producers of Codorniu, which pioneered Cava production exactly like Champagne in 1872 and created the traditional Cava blend a few years later, in 1888, using only native grape varieties from their own estate: Macabeu, Xarel-lo and Parellada – the grape varieties are still used in white Cava today.
As old as it is, it’s also very new. They reinvented themselves in 2012, two years before the Lyme Bay Winery produced their first wines. In the early 2000s, they realised that the image of Cava is not representative of the quality of the brand so they decided that the only way forward is to quit the Cava appellation which was all about volume with no particular geographical area attached. Unlike Champagne and Prosecco, Cava can be made in 6 wine regions in Spain, although most of it is produced near Barcelona in Penedes. So in November 2012 they announced that they were leaving Cava DO and would start producing Conca del Riu Anoia wines. They committed themselves, among other things, to 100% organic and biodynamic viticulture, the usage of 100% native grape varieties, to age the wine for at least 18 months, and to make only a vintage wine.
They never looked back. They’re hoping that their idea will catch on and an old good Cava will prosper once again. A few top Cava producers have also left the appellation since then and the Cava Appellation have taken urgent measures to introduce important changes that may reverse its fortune.
2016 RAVENTOS I BLANC, Blanc de Blancs, Conca Del Riu Anoia Spain
Highbury Vintners (2014) - £21.00
2015 RAVENTOS I BLANC, De Nit Rose, Conca Del Riu Anoia, Spain
Harvey Nichols - £30.00
Highbury Vintners - £24.00
… and now something very new …
The last 20 years have seen a rapid development and expansion of English wine production. Just a quick reminder that Britain produces two categories of wine: British – from concentrated juice or grapes bought from abroad, and English – from the grapes cultivated in England and Wales. It’s English wine which is of most interest. The number of vineyards in Britain currently exceeds 500 and there are more than 400 wineries in the country. And the numbers are rising fast.
One wine newcomer is Lyme Bay Winery in the Axe Valley in Devon. Ten years ago there were only four vineyards in the county, with one winery between them. Today, there are 11 vineyards and four wineries producing wine for them. To start with, Lyme Bay Winery successfully made Mead, Liqueurs, Cider and fruit wines, then in 2009 and 2010 they decided to try their luck at making grape wine and planted about 26000 vines with the view of buying more grapes from the best growers in the Southern England. They strongly believe that the best wines “are born from grapes with diverse backgrounds”. Their first range of grape wines was released in 2014 (only 2 years after Raventos i Blanc was reborn) to great acclaim. In 2017, their wines received 31 medals from the top international wine competitions: 14 bronze, 14 silver and 3 gold. Not bad for a novice!
Like all top producers in the country, they use the “traditional classic method” for their sparkling wines like in Champagne. They currently make four sparkling wines in different styles: Classic Cuvee (81% Pinot Noir and 19% Chardonnay), Blanc de Noir (100% Pinot Noir), like in Champagne this means “white wine from black grape varieties”, a Sparkling Rose (100% Pinot Noir), and a Brut Reserve from a grape variety, or rather hybrid, popular in England, Seyval Blanc. They also produce six still wines, one of which is 100% Chardonnay.
2014 LYME BAY WINERY, Blanc de Noirs Brut, Devon England
Lyme Bay Winery - £27.99
2015 LYME BAY WINERY, Sparkling Rose, Devon England
Lyme Bay Winery - £27.99