The Non-Sparkling Soul of the Penedés Singular Still Wines from Recaredo’s Celler Credo

Posted on Posted in Cava Recaredo, Rosenthal Wine Merchant News, RWM Contributor

The Recaredo estate in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia is justly regarded as the greatest producer of sparkling wine in the Penedès. Their long-lees-aged, zero-dosage, single-vintage, hand-disgorged wines are ubiquitous on the greatest wine lists in Catalunya and in Spain in general, and we at RWM have greatly relished building their reputation here in the United States over the past dozen years of our partnership. 

Under the stewardship of the visionary Ton Mata, whose grandfather Josep founded the estate in 1924, Recaredo became the first biodynamic producer in the Penedès (certified in 2010), as well as the first producer in the region to bottle a single-vineyard sparkling wine (the peerless “Turó d’En Mota,” which spends over a decade on its lees), and their stunning winery is a testament to how technology can be employed to elevate rather than dominate terroir.

The historical reputation of the Alt Penedès was built on sparkling wines, and the region today is largely commercially geared toward cranking out massive quantities of inexpensive Cava (whose bubbles and dosage mask a variety of sins), but recent years have seen a small number of growers experimenting with still-wine production, often to great effect. After all, the area’s high-altitude, well-ventilated limestone vineyards comprise a unique and assertive terroir, and the local grape varieties—particularly the acid-driven Xarel-lo—can voice these soils with great fluency when handled respectfully. 

At the forefront of this growing movement are Ton Mata and his loyal crew, who produce a series of still wines under the “Celler Credo” label which gorgeously articulate heretofore unseen facets of the local varieties, and which offer riveting, unadorned glimpses into the great vineyards of the Alt Penedès. We have worked for a number of years with the bright, saline, terrific-value “Miranius,” but with this newest batch of arrivals we expand our work with Celler Credo’s lineup significantly. 

2019 “Miranius”
“Miranius”—which translates loosely into Catalan as “peers into nests” (a tribute to the foxes which sometimes roam their biodiverse vineyards looking for a snack)—is 100% Xarel-lo, in part from some of the estate’s younger vines, and in part from fruit purchased from a handful of biodynamically farming friends in the immediate area. Fermentation proceeds spontaneously in stainless steel, and the wine rests on its fine lees in steel for six months before being bottled with a non-sterile filtration and a minuscule dose of sulfur. “Miranius” displays the brisk, agile side of Xarel-lo, a variety whose relatively neutral fruit character allows for a powerful articulation of calcareous minerality. Xarel-lo’s naturally high acidity brings balance in this warm Mediterranean climate, and indeed this wine is bright, saline, and immensely refreshing, as well as a tremendous value.

2018 “Aloers”
“Aloers”—an old Catalan term for independent farmers in the Middle Ages—takes the basic spirit of the “Miranius” above and greatly ratchets up the depth, complexity, and intensity, offering a mouthwatering and tension-filled take on pure Xarel-lo. Its site of origin, called “Montargull,” was planted to bush vines in 1970 at 230 meters of altitude in the commune of Avinyonet del Penedès, 15 kilometers outside Recaredo’s cellar in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia. “Aloers” is pressed whole-cluster and very slowly and gently, spending six months on its fine lees in steel, and it is kept in bottle for a year before its release to allow for Xarel-lo’s characteristic youthful austerity to diminish. Broad on the palate but laser-focused, the 2018 tastes as if Maldon sea salt was sprinkled into the glass, and a persistent note of gunflint adds complexity to the apricot- and almond-like flavors.

2017 “Can Credo” [NEW] Whereas “Miranius” and “Aloers” offer remarkably chiseled and linear takes on Xarel-lo, “Can Credo”—what locals call the Mata family’s home—plays in a different register. From a beautifully situated three-hectare parcel called “La Pedra Blanca” planted in 1992 at 200 meters altitude, “Can Credo” spends the first two days of its fermentation on its skins in old oak casks with twice-daily punch-downs, after which point it is pressed and returned to barrels to finish its fermentation and rest a few months on its lees. The wine is finished in stainless steel and held in bottle for a year before its release, like the “Aloers” above. Comparisons to Burgundy are frequently overutilized and misguided, but this 2017 offers a combination of profound limestone essence, ultra-subdued fruit character, and racy acidity whose only true analogue is Chablis (if only most Chablis were even close to this lively and expressive!). It swells on the palate, building toward a nearly overwhelming sense of mineral grip on the salivation-inducing finish, and the openness of texture engendered by the barrel fermentation does nothing to compromise the wine’s stunning sense of precision.

2017 “Mirabelles” [NEW] With “Mirabelles” we move beyond Xarel-lo into uncharted waters. Within the vineyard “Can Rossell,” located 10 kilometers from Sant Sadurní d’Anoia at 200 meters altitude, Celler Credo tends 0.9 hectares worth of a local obscurity called Malvasia de Sitges—a variety of unknown origin that was nearly decimated by phylloxera in the late 19th century. The variety grows wild here, and Ton and his team harvest minute quantities of grapes each vintage from these low-yielding long-branched vines, which are spaced far apart and wonderfully aerated. Pressed whole-cluster, fermented in a combination of stainless steel and ceramic, and aged in steel for 18 months, the 2017 “Mirabelles” is explosively aromatic, offering a viscerally saline evocation of the nearby Mediterranean. Notes of tangerine oil and smoke offset the wine’s intense minerality, and a gripping sense of dry extract drives the wine toward a remarkably lengthy finish. This combination of unique variety and incredible terroir make for a completely singular experience, as “Mirabelles” offers a moving glimpse into the pre-Cava, pre-technological past of the region.

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