We recently started working with Leo Gramona and his cousin Roc, the energetic next generation of well known sparkling wine producer. L’Enclòs de Peralba gives them freedom to experiment outside the family business, and focus on single parcels of local varietals. We caught up with Leo on zoom and tasted the wines, which are now in the UK.
It’s not just about making their own wine, Leo explained, there is a a lack of confidence in the quality of the vineyards in Penedès. Over the past 50 years viticulture has been industrialised in Spain, they want to revive the knowledge of the traditional viticulturalists, by practicing old pruning styles, classifying vineyards, and working with local grapes, to create wines that shine a light on the potential of the area.
The first wine, and the foundation of their quality pyramid, is Vi Fi Blanc. The 2019 is a blend of Garnacha Blanca and Malvasía de Sitges. Garnacha Blanca can reach high alcohol for a white, and has quite thick skins, both of which give a wine structure, it isn’t an aromatic variety. Malvasía de Sitges on the other hand:
“My cousin and I believe in this grape, it has a lot of potential, it’s the future Riesling of our region. It has a lot of natural acidity, and a lot of aromas”.
The wine is a balance between the broad Garnacha and the fresh, sharp and aromatic Malvasia. It has a lovely concentration of white peach and sunny orchard fruits backed up by refreshing acidity.
Low touch winemaking
Leo describes their winemaking as low intervention, they rent a small cellar in the garage of the Gramona family winery! Fermentations are spontaneous using a pied de cuve, the winemaking equivalent of a sourdough starter; they use a small amount of SO2 before crushing and before bottling. They age in a variety of vessels, about half of each wine in oak, some new, and some foudre, they just want a little gentle evolution not the footprint of oak flavours on the wines; the rest in concrete – a mix of eggs and deposits – which is more reductive. This gives them a choice to blend the two style to get the wine that they want. Ageing is between one-two and a half years in tank and bottle.
Next we tasted their Pet-Nat, it’s an Brut style, made by the Ancestral method with no sugar added. Made from Malvasía de Sitges from the young Cal Manuel vineyard in the centre of the Penedes valley. It’s made to be a refreshing, easy drinking glou-glou white.
Then we moved to their first parcel wine Les Camades, an extraordinary Garnacha Blanca, with beautiful fruit, blood orange and some petrol, with texture and a fresh finish. Grapes come from 35 years old vines on red iron rich clay soils in the Serra del Montmell at around 450 metres. The vineyard is worked biodynamically by Pere Padilla, they have his name on the label to acknowledge that over 50% of the work of winemaking is in the vineyard.
“Normally Garancha Blanca is more alcoholic, has a bigger volume, but we’re trying to make a light, fresh style regardless of the vintage”.
They make another single parcel Garnacha Blanca called Tres Feixes, it’s an interesting comparison, richer and spicier. The vineyard is a few kilometers from Les Camades with the same microclimate, but the vines are older (planted in 1939) and lower yielding. Leo and Roc think this vineyard has something special. “All the vines are very tall, 1.8metres high, it’s like a forest. It was unattended, and very wild, with lots of natural cover. Because of the age you don’t need to work the soils or take off leaves, the vines have found their balance”.
I asked how they find their vineyards? “Our family has worked in the region for a long time. When you go and do the maturity checks in the vineyards you get to see and know which are interesting. The older guys don’t want to sell the plots, it’s not just a business for them it’s a way of living, and we don’t want to take that away from them. As long as they can work how we want with biodynamics”.
Next we moved to Els Presseguers which is 100% Xarello. It’s fresh, but ripe, with pure concentrated fruit. 2018 was a cool year and Leo thinks it’s one of the best in the region in last 10 years. The vineyard is one of the first they started working with, and is certified biodynamic. The name means peach orchard, the Gelida area is famous for the fruit and has it’s own DO. It’s at 450 metres and is north facing so is relatively cool and the grapes ripen slowly. Also there is a natural spring by the vineyard which keeps the calcerous clay soils damp. Xarello, like Malvasía keeps it’s acidity. Skins are thicker, the parents of Xarello were red grapes so it has a lot of antioxidants. But unlike Malvasía it isn’t aromatic in youth, it needs some lees stirring to give more expression.
“If it was a person Xarello would be very shy. But it opens up with time. It’s a good wine to keep”.
Next we move to El Tòfol the final white made from Macabeo. It doesn’t have as high acidity as Xarello or Malvasía but it’s aromatic, it’s normally used in blends but they wanted to showcase it as a traditional regional variety.
They make a small amount of red including Els – Escorpins which is Grenache with about 5% white Grenache which are co-planted in the vineyard. They crush 50-70% of the grapes and put them in the fermentation container in layers with whole bunch grapes. There is some carbonic fermentation and the stem tannins give the wine a sense of freshness.
The wines show a clarity and purity uncommon in such young winemakers. They want to keep the project manageable and work with the best sites and grapes they can find – if they take on new vineyards they will drop others single parcel wines. Despite their focus on the region the project isn’t DO certified – the pace of change and improvements isn’t fast enough for Leo and Roc. Given their energy and obvious love for the area, we predict they will act as catalysts for a bold new Penedès.