It’s hot here in Spain, even though it’s only March. There hasn’t been much rain, and you can feel it all around. The rivers are dry, the air is dry, the vines are dry.
One critical observation about Spain is there is an inordinate amount of smog at atmospheric gunk. While I believe most of this is organic smog, it makes for a rough go for anyone that is used to clear skies and easy breathing. I myself am suffering after 3 days of heavy smog, where you can barely see the skyline of Barcelona and you can only make the outline of the breathtaking Montserret mountain formation . Even today, from my hotel room less than 1 mile away, the giatn Gaudi Masterpiece, the Segrada Famila, is barely visible in the haze.
When i was in Madrid and Rioja last year, I noticed a similar issue. With the constant burning of organic waste (and quite probably inorganic) I wonder how long this city can continue to manage this level of pollution. However, I see steps that are positive: the city busses are natural gas powdered; there are far more diesel fueled vehicles in Europe than anywhere else ( particular in gas guzzling US); Segura Viudas is making steps to become a green, closed ecosystem.
While in the vineyard in the Penedes region of Catalonia, we toured one of the old vineyards at the estate. Segura Viudas is a pioneer in the area, practicing sustainable agriculture, as operates as organically as possible with out being constrained to the organic rules of operation. Currently, they are experimenting with reusing the biomass created by pruning, as well as other vineyard activities, and selling this as fuel. Future plans include using the biomass fuel within the winery system to becoming a self contained ecosystem.
Additionally, the vineyard manager Sebastià Raventós has been working with cover crops such as hay and oats, to provide a nutrient balance. Of course, this also protects the vineyards from erosion during the rainy season, and also provides another attraction for insects and animals to build a sustainable ecosystem in the vineyard.
Sebastià was born and bred in this small wine growing region, and has the soil in his blood. His family has worked the vineyards in the area for generations. He believes that great cava or great wine begins in the vineyard, and that great wine cannot be made without great grapes. He is part of the landscape here, born and bred in this small wine growing region of Penedes, and has the soil in his blood. His family has worked the vineyards in the area for generations. He believes that great cava or great wine begins in the vineyard. To this point, he fiercely guards his vines, and has a particular reverence to the old, gnarly vines that are growing freely. While there are advantages to head trained, neat, trellised vineyards, they are also more prone to diseases and pests since they aren’t allowed to grow naturally. These old vines, planted 40+ years ago, producer less grapes, but grapes of an intensity that cannot be compared.
Sebastià is a lovable charmer, and his passion and love for the vines is clear. He is a fighter, and is dedicated to a more traditional way of growing grapes; this return to the past has a greater respect for the environment. Even though he claims not to speak English, there is a glint in his eye when we get excited about talking about green practices. He pulls out the seeds for the cover crop and grins when we recognize his efforts.
In effect, he is an ecologist who uses less invasive methods, and studies the history of the vineyards to predict future outcomes. With 19 years of experience on the same vines, he has been keeping track of weather patterns, including the global climate changes that are impacting all grape growers. with this knowledge, he can predict down to the day, when the grapes will be ready to harvest. Planning a trip on Tuesday? Nope! We harvest on Tuesday!
Using methods such as pheromone traps for moths, cover crops to stabilize the soil on erosion prone hillsides, and creating biomass from clippings, Segura Viudas has been a pioneer in these efforts. They have even gone so far as to create a nature train within one vineyard, which explains the natural habit and what they are doing to assist in rebuilding the environment.
Sebastià has such a passion for the vineyards that he has been taking care of for the last 19 years; it is clear that he is as much a part of them as they are him. The excitement he holds for creating the best possible fruit, and ensuring that every possible action can be taken to take care of these gems is clear.
Since it was hot and dusty outside, it was a welcome sight to come inside and taste some of the delicious Cava that the winery produces. Next up, a bit of history about the property, and some tasting!