Catalonian Ancestral Sparkling Wine

Catalonian Ancestral Sparkling Wine, article by Ancestral loving Carles Grau

Ancestral Mon Amour

Waiting with a glass of wine at the bar, the following thinking comes to my mind: How many important things are part of your life, without having thought about it?

Probably, you say that it’s a very general question as an introduction. True and true!
But actually, I wanted to refer to something more specific, as basic as it is standardized; at least for those of us who live in Catalonia, the sparkling white wine.

When I was a child, in my parents’ house there was ( still ) always -at least- a bottle of cold Cava in the fridge, ready to celebrate something or simply to accompany the Sunday desserts.


But if I would ask my family about the origin of Cava, its history or characteristics of this king of wine. I can imagine the answer would be the same as mine; not too much information about it. It would probably be something they have seen on television about the most mainstream brands! 

Catalonian Ancestral Sparkling Wine Joan Vendrell Olivella. Photography Sara Larsson
Catalonian Ancestral Sparkling Wine – L’Alba al Turó

Everything changed, for me, when life led me to the wine glass, learned the way to uncork a bottle of wine and know how to serve it. And one day… the ancestral sparkling wine appeared in front of me.

What The Fuck?

In the same natural way, I met L’Alba al Turó – I fell in love, and as well with its winemaker Joan Vendrell, co-owner of the family business located in El Penedés, an awesome wine area close to Barcelona. Suddenly they became the protagonists of my first Wine article on Appetite and Other Stories.

The Vendrell family produce Organic Sparkling Wines, with a very precise and artisanal technical elaboration. Which is the way that they feel most comfortable using for both wines made with the Traditional or the Ancestral method.

To summarize: Find here some of the most relevant differences within the two most important methods to elaborate sparkling wine

Traditional Method vs. Ancestral Method:

The Traditional Method (also known as Chapanoise) was an invention of the Romans. After a first fermentation of the wine, the disgorging of the bottles is carried out and before the second fermentation (in the bottle) the expedition liqueur and the sugar is added (not as such, a must is added to the wine, an action called chapitalization) finally placing the cork in the bottle.

The Ancestral Method (known in other countries as Pet-Nat or Pétillant) adds no sugar or must. It is not disgorged and it is not aged, it will always be a young sparkling wine.

I am not sure if the habits of the world change or we simply add new ones to our way of life to drink or celebrate. But after talking to Joan about this Catalan Sparkling Wine, some of its characteristics [ Ñamy, Ñamy ] comes to mind about tasting it with my friend and sommelier Camila Espinoza. About its beautiful yellow colour, pale and sexy in this golden bottle; in which we do not see that upward movement of the bubbles, as in other sparkling wines.

The running bubbles, I am almost sure, as a newcomer of the Ancestral movement, that will be the first difference you will find. At first, contact, don’t think that it’s an old Cava or a bottle of sparkling wine that has been opened too long…

If you like one… You don’t have to dislike the other one -Joan told me- one being the Sparkling and the other one, the Ancestral. 

Always have in mind, that the ancestral has a finer bubble and a less strong structure; points to know in case you have never tried it and are used to associating all sparkling wines with the Champanoise method. Although -whether by habit or taste, it is inevitable to be more or less a fan of one or the other one. The aroma of pear and quince (from l’Alba to Turó) and that subtle sensation in the mouth, as if you had eaten something with honey… It drives me crazy! 

That makes me travel to a pleasant place of peace in body and mind… Similar to thinking of an autumn day… And at the same time as if you push the spring button! Do you know what I mean?

Joan Vendrell Olivella,  L'Alba al Turó - Metode Ancestral. Photography Sara Larsson
L’Alba al Turó – Metode Ancestral

Dear: Let me tell you that, if you didn’t know Ancestral and you decided to try it, there is one thing even more important than my experience in words.

Which is, what it does to you? Because it’s true that professionals and connoisseurs work their way fast through a tasting. With all the pros I spoke to, they agree that it all comes down to your personal taste and experiences of the wine.

How important it is that a wine-analphabets feels free to find or not find subtleties and enjoy it in its own way!

Freedom to drink wine!

I am pretty sure that if I had tasted the ancestral wine earlier… At my parents’ house, we wouldn’t have waited for the desserts, on Sundays to start drinking sparkling white wine, I am sure it would have reigned at the table already at the aperitif, giving it the funniest, hottest and most punkish point. Not to mention one of the characteristics that many of the ancestral wines have, which is that it looks like still wines.

We can say, also, about these wines that «It would be between wine and sparkling wine (always with nuances).» What do you think of this concept?  I love it. Imagine me as if I were naked in front of you, with my hand on my heart [Of course!], I will declare myself a wine analphabet… The world of wine, the great unknown for me, but so close at the same time. One could also describe me as a wine lover. I like it, and I pay a lot of attention to it and try to understand it. I learn a little more every day with pleasure.

Which leads me to the initial question… I’m used to something I don’t know too much about!?

Catalonian Ancestral Sparkling Wine Joan Vendrell Olivella,  L'Alba al Turó - Metode Ancestral. Photography Sara Larsson
Wine producer Joan Vendrell chatting with Carles Grau about Catalonian Ancestral Sparkling Wine

When Joan Vendrell told me that – even though they are 5th generation vineyards owns – they have only been on the market since 2013. Which surprised me!
You could say that he and his father are the second generation who make and sell wines. More than a conflict between the past, the present and the future. A synergy between the known and what will be learned. 

At this point… Could you identify yourself with this artisan, manual work, done with love, that absorbs you and involves you without it being a drama? Not wanting to compare it with a romantic movie… I could understand that situation as a small grocery store, that passes from parents to sons and in which the whole family devotes all their time.

Catalonian Ancestral Sparkling Wine

To grow up with the production and elaboration of wine makes a winemaker able to affirm that these experiences bring a series of values. That, in my opinion, are common points between «young people» and great artisan winemakers; capturing them in so many of these wines from small wineries -whether in their debut or reinventing themselves- that they are the future: Great products from small companies.

The Mas Gomar organic farm has a small production of natural wine, which is located on limestone soil that gives the wines salinity and mineral notes. It is a value to be exploited with the local varieties, which express well this type of terroir. The pride of saying that an area has native varieties and the importance of getting all the primary notes, both of the fruit, the variety, the soil …

A goal that the winery was looking for in this fresh product, was a heavy fruit explosion, notes of white and green fruits, with good acidity and sweet notes. The search for the notes of the vine and the variety (Macabeu) and of course, made in a manual and artisanal way… from old vineyards.

Oh, God… Call me romantic if you want! But this is something that has made me fall even more in love with l’Alba al Turó. I have always thought that wine is not only made of grapes, either of areas, or of types of production, not only of the land where the vines grow, Nor even the place and the company with we drink it. I believe, without beating about the bush, that wine is nourished -from deep down- by history, by everything that is hidden behind it, and is not always visible the first time you sip it. If you allow me to tell you something, my advice from a Wine analphabet to Wine analphabets is:

If you have the opportunity to repeat it… Repeat it!

As there are no added sugars, the must can be more noticed, the roll more vinous… vinous?
Because you can call it Ancestral, sparkling wine, sparkling wine that is not cava, similar to. In the end, it’s wine, don’t forget that. It’s a delicacy that can be different every year, in which factors as unpredictable as temperatures, rains, change with the season…

Joan himself describes it as an Ancestral non-radical, that his tastes do not go too far into orbit at the level of flavours… Which makes it easy to drink. And not… there’s nothing pejorative about describing the Ancestral like that. On the contrary… Everything has its moment and its time! In the words of the protagonist – it is ideal for an aperitif, to drink by the glass, to accompany some cheese, with starters or a dish that is not too strong. For stronger flavour dishes or more consistent, he would marinate them with a long-aged Cava.
With our whole conversation at the back of my mind, and with the clear ideas that everyone should own their individual sensations, tastes and aromas in each of the glasses of wine, in each of the bottles, in each of the Denominations of Origin, in each of the varieties of the grape.

I am looking for a tag or a category where I can put this jewel, if you are a Wine Lover and at the same time a Wine Alphabet.

Joan Vendrell Olivella,  L'Alba al Turó - Metode Ancestral. Photography Sara Larsson
Catalonian Ancestral Sparkling Wine – L’alba al turó, Penedés

An Indie sparkling wine?

When it comes to tasting an Ancestral, one must have an open mind, trust in our sensations, try to notice aromas and tastes to remember them, forget about any prejudice and take a leap of faith.

A Hipster Wine?

Joan believes The Ancestral Method is here to stay, as in many countries like France, Germany, Canada, where they are more known as Pet-Nat orPétillant.
And although it seems more for a younger audience, perhaps it will be the one that breaks with the established custom!

What does it matter? Who cares about the tags?

The Ancestral Wine is an anti-snobbish product. People are becoming more and more natural… Like wine itself. And we should take advantage of the fact that there are people, sommeliers and connoisseurs in restaurants or specialized shops who can advise and explain what we are going to find in that bottle… Or that we are simply receptive to our desire to try new things. Great advice, dear Joan Vendrell.

Joan Vendrell Olivella and Carles Grau - Catalonian Ancestral Sparkling Wine. Photography Sara Larsson.
Joan Vendrell and Carles Grau – Catalonian Ancestral Sparkling Wine

Because Wine is a Philosophy of Life.

Carles Grau is a freelance Social Media & Community Manager at Slow Communication, find him on FB or instagram

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