Artcava: A gem in the Penedes region crown
Instagram is a great tool to discover people who share the same passions as you do and also a great place to discover what cool things Catalan vineyards are doing. I had been following Ramon Masip Balague on Instagram for quite some time – loving his wine photos – but until he posted a photo by Marie Claire UK’s fashion editor Lucia Debieux, I hadn’t really investigated his connection to the incredible project known as Artcava.
It’s not surprising you might not have heard of Artcava before. As they themselves say on their website, they’re not known in most wine circles (yet), and they didn’t hire an internationally famous architect to design their winery building. This sentence alone should give you a pretty good idea of their sense of humour — Lettermanesque so to speak — and what their focus truly is. What is this focus? Their focus is making great cava, sharing this cava, sharing the story of cava with those who visit, and letting those visitors try their hand at making cava themselves.
The three musketeers of Artcava are, in no particular order, Eric the winemaker/taster, Ignasi the businessman/landowner, and the previously mentioned Ramon who is foodie/tour guide extraordinaire. The connection these three have with each other, and how they work together sharing their passion not only for the product, but for life in general is nothing short of spectacular.
Eric, the winemaker, was admittedly not the best academic student growing up, which meant is career choices went towards the more practical side of things. While looking at more craftsman-career paths, Eric luckily found his passion for wine. However, I seriously doubt this self-depracating commentary about his academic ability as the cava he creates is nothing short of tasty, vibrant, and definitely a reflection not only of their terroir, but the three musketeers’ relationship. You have to be a bit of an academic to do what Eric does, and finding your passion allows you to exceed your own self-imposed limitations.
Ignasi, the businessman/landowner, has a family which has been in the wine business since 1730, and a family masia which has been around since the 15th century. Not only has Ignasi managed the business side of things with Artcava since 2004, when Eric came to him and said they should make cava together, but he has also compiled a breathtaking museum of family artefacts, historical archeological artefacts from their family land, and also the well-preserved tools of the wine trade his family had used since 1730.
Ramon, the foodie/tour guide extraordinaire, brings the Artcava experience alive. Ramon hosts workshops for tourists far (lots of international people) and close (Barcelona daytrippers) where they can learn about Masia Can Batlle’s history, the history of cava in Penedes, AND get a hands on course to learn how to disgorge cava (the short course) or make their own cava from the beginning to its finish (the long course). Ramon’s passion for food and the region is infectious, as Michael and I both wanted to stay and drink cava with the team until the wee hours of the morning.
Artcava takes the enotourism aspect to an additional level beyond almost every other vineyard in the Penedes valley area. They have the ability to pick you up from the Lavern-Subirats station (on the R4 Line out of Barcelona) in their van they purchased due to the increasing demand for their tours. They’re also one of the few vineyards who utilise Trip Advisor, and focus on a great enotourism experience to help drive more visitors. Their commitment to this is more than evident, as before they had the van, Eric used to pick up people at the train station himself in his own vehicle, which made for some interesting stories he’ll share with you in person when you visit.
The three cavamen of Artcava put Michael through the disgorgement process while I filmed the episode. The results were so fun, well, let’s just say watch the video in this article. While many YouTubers and winemakers alike make it look easy, the first time it really isn’t. After the disgorgement, they walked us through the rest of the bottle preparation process in a great hands-on method, not offered at many places in Penedes.
And the cavas? Eric focuses on young cavas. He likes to show more personality and vibrancy in his results, and he feels the longer a cava ages the more it “hides” the personality. The cava is a reflection of his vibrant and demonstrative personality, and his passion for making cava certainly shows in the three varietals they produce labeled under Cava Palago: Seleccio Chardonnay, Seleccio D’Autor, and Seleccio Especial (sold out this year). Eric is proud to say their cavas go worldwide, as anyone who comes to ArtCava, becomes a fan and buyer for life. Their recommendations on Trip Advisor certainly attest to this with 79 reviews and five star ratings in 77 of the 79 (two were four star).
What’s the future for Artcava? As all three attest, they plan to keep sharing their love for cava, while keeping their production focused on quality over quantity, and giving this same quality in the enotourism experience for who come out to visit.
The trinity of Artcava’s FooFighteresque passion for life is certainly addicting. Lord knows not only will I be drinking their lovely trinity of cavas, but visiting over and over again with more friends every single time.