Wine review: Guillem Carol Millenium 2005 Gran Reseva Brut

With snow piling up and temperatures hitting minus degrees in the Nordics, who wants to read about Thailand all the time? No one! Luckily I saved up a few juicy wine reviews for posting in between the sunny reads. Cellers Carol Valles is a producer we checked up on in Cavatast last October. They were recommended to us by some friends who live in Barcelona (and are serious about cava), and they did not disappoint. So we picked up a few bottles from the Cavatast store to enjoy home in Sweden at a later date. One of these bottles, Guillem Carol Millenium 2005 Gran Reserva Brut was opened with friends over Christmas holidays and rated by the Winecurious.

The cava is a mix of the familiar grape-trio: Xarello, Parellada and Macabeo plus Chardonnay. It is said to be aged minimum 60 months and the dosage (how much sugar is added) is 5g. I am a fan of zero-dosage wines as I feel sugar is often added to hide something in the taste. But hey, sometimes thats what is needed for perfecting the taste. So I will not be prejudice.

The look of the bottle was not something I would necessarily go for, if I would just look solely at the label. Perhaps the aim was to make it look classic or traditional, but to me it looks a bit cheap, it just does not scream quality. However, its what is inside that counts. The color of the wine is intense gold and the bubbles are very small. The wine has a scent of cinnamon, honey and apple, almost like an apple pie or cake. Mmmm! The taste is of yellow apples and cinnamon with some yeast and sherry. Sounds a bit weird for a cava, but it was not at all overly sweet. It was actually a perfect winter cava. Or I could just skip dessert some day and have this instead.

Quality-wise I would give this wine 3.5 points. It’s not for every occasion, but correctly matched it can be a wonderful companion for a dinner. Value for money takes the score a tiny notch down to 3 points. The price in Spain was around €16-18 at Cavatast. It isn’t very expensive, but not a real “bargain” either. I tasted a few other wines from Carol Valles and I actually thought they were much better (note that the tasting took place at Cavatast after several glasses of wine), or at least more my style. So I am intrigued to taste the other bottle we have waiting in the fridge and comparing it to this one. Anyhow, if you run across wines from this producer, give them a try. I doubt you will be disappointed.

Wine Review: Cava Vilarnau Gran Reserva 2010

When I start writing a review, I try to do some research on the wine and on the producer to get a feel for a the story. I love a good wine combined with a good story. And I think I am not alone with this as almost every producer, old and young, have some lines on where they have come from and what their philosophy is on their website. Yes, it’s more interesting to buy a wine that has been picked, pressed and mixed by a person/ persons than, let’s say, comes from a mass production line. Who would say: this bottle is one of millions produced, mixed for the taste of the mass consumers and a pair of hands has barely touched the product before it is lifted on the boutique shelves. No, at least to me, wine should have a story; a passionate winemaker or a well thought out production. For me it’s a part of the experience of drinking wine. I don’t like blind tastings either, so what can I say, I’m a sucker for good marketing.

About Vilarnau: I set out to do my research and to my disappointment, the web pages, that were supposed to be in English, were not. Well some pages were, like the ones with facts about the wines. But not the ones introducing the producer. But thank’s to Google Translate, everyone is a linguist these days. The house of Vilarnau is located in Sant Sadurni de Anoia, the capital of Cava. There is a family history, but I must say, google translate does not produce 100% reliable text, and it all sounded pretty boring so I’m not going to write about it. Today Vilarnau is owned by the Gonzales Byass Group, one of Spains most known Sherry producers. They own 20 hectares of vineyards growing Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and the cava trio: Xarello, Parellada and Macabeo. They also grow some Trepat that is often used for making Rose Cava. Sounds pretty standard but that of course doesn’t mean that the wines themselves wouldn’t be great. My impression from Cavatast, where I tasted Vilarnau cavas the first time, was pretty good.

The Gran Reserva 2010 is the premium product from the Vilarnau family of Cavas. It is a Brut Nature (less than 6g of residual sugar per liter), 35% Macabeo, 35% Parellada and 30% Chardonnay, and it is aged for 36 months.  On the Vilarnau website it is described as golden yellow, but I must say the color looked pretty pale yellow to me (I cannot argue what it looks like under the Spanish sun, as Sweden has not seen the sun in months). We started of tasting the wine at 11 degrees (as that is the temperature of our wine fridge), but soon discovered that the instructions recommend a clearly cooler temperature, 6-8 C. So into the ice bucket it went, and my oh my did that make a difference. I am used to a warmer temperature contributing to the taste, but this time the wine gained body with cooling. The nose of the wine was of peaches and apricots and the taste very dry, even slightly sour, with yeast and high acidity of fruit. After a marathon of champagnes over Christmas, I was refreshed by the familiar taste of a good, well made Cava.

This particular Gran Reserva is not available in Sweden (we brought this bottle from Barcelona), and I am not sure if it’s value for money with a price of 20,85 € in Spain. Yes, I liked the Cava but I can get a better bottle for 30% cheaper. However, I noticed that the Monopoly has the Vilarnau “standard” Brut in their special order selection for 79 SEK (equivalent to around 10 EUR). Perhaps that could be something to try, as one can see from the Gran Reserva that the House of Vilarnau do know how to make a good Cava.

All in all, I will probably be visiting the Vilarnau stall again next October when it is time for Cavatast again. They are an interesting producer to follow. I give this wine 4 stars for overall quality (excluding the influence of price) and 2.5 stars for “value for money”.(4/2.5). That is a pretty steep drop, but I really think that over 20 € in Spain is overpriced. Spain is a pretty cheap country when it comes to wine, so I don’t even want to imagine what the Monopoly would charge for it.