Bernardus Leopardi was granted vineyards located in what is now the Llopart de Subirats estate, located just outside the cava centre of the world, Sant Sadurni d’Anoia. So when did this occur? Based on my past experiences here in Catalunya, I’d figure somewhere between 1500 or 1600, or after 1835. However, Leopard’s roots are documented in 1385, making it one of the older viticulture estates still in the hands of descendants (we’ve visited two others – Abadal and Marco Abella). The document, written in Latin, and preserved in the Llopart family archive, is one of the oldest records of family wine heritage in Penedes. It was one of many unexpected surprises in our journey to the winery.
Virgil Simons, otherwise known as half of the V&A morning show on 106.9 FM in Barcelona, joined me on this jaunt to Penedes. Virgil is a big wine fan, and after several joint wine tasting events together, he wanted to experience first hand some of the special places where I go. Suffice to say, Virgil was just flabbergasted by how incredible the experience was, and while I’ve been to over 80 vineyards in two years, I was just as flabbergasted.
I met Roger, the winemaker at Llopart, at several events during the past 18 months. We’ve begun to develop a friendship through our interactions, and also our social media interactions, but never did I have the chance to go visit the winery. Roger extended an invite to visit through Cristina, their head of enotourism, and I was hotly anticipating my arrival. I mean, after tasting Leopardi, Microcosmos, Integral, and the Reserva Brut Nature, I could only imagine what kind of place produces such incredible wines.
I was not expecting what greeted us upon arrival. At all. I think flabbergasted was used twice above already.
There’s several vineyards I’ve been to in Sant Sadurni d’Anoia, and on the other side of the hill from Llopart, so I’ve seen their new main building several times going up and down the hill where the estate is located. But inside is nothing short of impressive. They’ve set up a visitor centre, with a huge main room suitable for large groups and a several artfully done displays, including a 20 metre high wall filled with cava, and their motto. Behind the visitor centre is the “cave” for ageing the cava, and lines for disgorgement and bottling after first fermentation.
Llopart has done a fantastic job of showing and preserving their history of cava in their enotourism experience, demonstrated by another display (adjacent to the theatre area) showing how cava was aged from early times to modern. It’s one thing to have it described to you, but another to see and touch the evolution with your own hands. From this area, tourists are led through what seems to be miles of Reserva and Grand Reserva cavas, still turned by hand today, to a fantastically illuminated display of their current vintages. All of this was surrounded by walls of cava. I give Llopart full marks for instead of shoving racks of cava in a warehouse and letting them sit, they’ve used cava to create a maze of sights and sounds visitors can walk through.
However, the experience wasn’t nearly finished. What’s great about Llopart is their vineyards are on the terraces surround the newly built building, including 70 year old Xarel·lo vines located directly behind. Cristina Soler, and Jesi Llopart, our guides for the day, gave us a great perspective of their entire operation, including a session on how they prune the vines in preparation for the 2016 growing season.
One thing, though, was something I’d never seen in person before. In their old Xarel·lo vineyard, Llopart has started a practice of creating “children” vines of the 70 year old vines. This is achieved by taking one of the branches, and burying it beside the vine to create a new stock. This is done when an older vine dies, leaving a gap in the line of these bush vines producing their top in cavas, including their top-end Ex-Vite. However, the concern for Llopart is their lifespan has the potential to be greatly reduced, due to the fact the new vines are not grafted onto American root stock, and therefore are susceptible to phylloxera.
Llopart has preserved the long history of the estate and their tradition in the form of the original masia located above the aforementioned vineyard and the new winery building. This masia goes back 500 years (or more), and still contains the original equipment and even the original bottles of the first cava produced by Lllopart in 1887, Espumos. In fact, Llopart today produces Espumos, using the same methods and varietals their ancestors did. Virgil and I had the fortune of seeing, touching and tasting in the cellar of the masia where some of the original tools are also displayed, and I must say, having Espumos in the same place where it was first produced was a romantic experience indeed.
Our day ended in another iconic vineyard of Llopart, about half a kilometre east of the winery, where amongst the old growth vines of Xarel·lo, Virgil and I were treated to a lovely picnic lunch. There’s nothing quite like having Leopardi, Microcosmos cavas and their Nectar Terrenal semi-sweet wine on the hills overlooking Penedes, with an iconic view of the Montserrat mountain range in the distance.
So what about the cavas? I don’t have a enough similes for fantastic, sublime, beautiful, gripping, vibrant to describe them all. Roger and the team do an amazing job producing sparkling wines, and probably the best compliment came from Virgil who is not a fan of Rosé cavas at all. You can hear and see his comments about Microcosmos in the video above. My favourite? A tie between Espumos and Leopardi, pending the opening of the Ex Vite I took home with me.
Llopart is great for visits as they are set up beautifully to welcome and tour guests to the winery. They have several options for excursions, including a lunch offering, if one is so inclined. The fact they’re located a short distance from Barcelona, and a 5 minute drive from Sant Sadurni d’Anoia makes it a great stop for those looking for an authentic experience full of quality cavas and deep history in a breathtaking location. You can call or email to set up a tour, and Llopart’s customer service in this department is top notch.
Their motto “Ex Vite Vita” literally means “Life comes from the grapevine”. Based on what we experience during our visit, and our Lazenne luggage loaded full of cava, it is certainly a fabulous life from their grapevines, indeed.