From €8.90, £14.22 for the Tradicional; and €6.20, £14.40 for the Vatua!
It may be too late to buy these wines for the Easter weekend but they are such good value that you definitely don't need a special occasion to justify popping the cork – but they are sufficiently special to be worthy of one.
The Colet family have been growing grapes in Catalunya, north-east Spain, since the 1970s and began producing their own sparkling wines within the Cava appellation in 1987, although from 2004 they preferred the more flexible but geographically more specific Penedès DO. In 1992 Sergi Colet (on the left in the photo above, with his parents Luz and Josep), the current winemaker, finished his studies in oenology at the University of Tarragona and then went to 'finishing school' for traditional-method sparkling wine: Reims, one of the two main cities in the Champagne region. Sergi describes himself as 'only a farmer', adding that he does no 'special work in the cellar' but that their vineyards are in a special place – the source of the freshness in all their wines.
They now make their wines under the new (2014) Clàssic Penedès rubric since this allows them to use a wider range of varieties than is permitted for Cava but also imposes certain other conditions that they believe are conducive to quality:
- wines must be made from grapes that are organically grown (and certified as such) within the Penedès region (south of Barcelona and much smaller than the area in which Cava may be produced)
- processes in the winery must also be approved by the organic certification body (CCPAE)
- traditional method (ie second fermentation in the bottle)
- the wines must spend at least 15 months on the lees
- any grape varieties other than Macabeo, Parellada and Xarello must be indicated on the back label
- vintage and disgorgement date must be stated on the label (see Jancis's article tomorrow about the lack of information on most bottles of champagne).
Colet, Tradicional Extra Brut NV Clàssic Penedès is a blend of 55% Xarello, 35% Macabeu and 10% Parellada and spends a generous 24 months on the yeast lees (longer in some instances since the wine is disgorged in batches throughout the year) – generous in the sense that this is much longer than the officially required 15 months and because the longer you keep your wine tied up in the winemaking process, the longer it is before you get a return on your investment, which is especially laudable in a wine that is far less expensive than most champagnes and New World sparkling wines. The dosage is a low 2.5 g/l and the alcohol a modest 11.5%. Most helpfully, the back label states that this is from the 2012 vintage and was disgorged on 20 August 2014.
The 24 months on lees and the less aromatic varieties (compared with those in Vatua!), give this wine a gentle yeasty aroma as well as impressive depth and persistence on the palate – a glorious balance between the rich and creamy flavour that comes from the second fermentation in bottle and dazzling freshness. The style is on a tightrope between generous flavour and dry, refined elegance, making it not only versatile but also, I imagine, a pleasure for drinkers of many different persuasions. There's finesse and so much flavour but it's not simply fruit – there is the complexity that comes from great vineyards, older vines and very skilled farming and winemaking. Terrific value for money.
Colet, Vatua! (meaning 'What a surprise!') Extra Brut NV Clàssic Penedès is a more unusual mix of 50% Muscat, 40% Parellada and 10% Gewürztraminer, intended to be aromatic and floral but dry tasting (Extra Brut means that the residual sugar must be no more than 6 g/l). It also spends 24 months on the lees. Residual sugar is 3.5 g/l and the alcohol just 12%. The back label says the wine is from the 2012 vintage and was disgorged on 20 August 2014.
While Vatua! has a light but definite floral character, as well aromas of fresh lemon and a hint of grapes, it is subtle enough to be versatile, though it is probably best as an aperitif. The taste is more generous than you might expect from that gentle aroma – there's a depth of flavour and texture derived from the time on the lees and a richness of fruit, possibly even a touch of apple and just-ripe apricot, from these varieties and yet it finishes with a delicious, dry-tasting freshness that it not unlike the effect of quinine in tonic water. It tastes dry but avoids the austerity that can be overwhelming in some sparkling wines. It's crisp but not sharp.
I asked Sergi Colet why he had wanted to make such an unusual, aromatic blend. He replied that 'Muscat is a very typical variety in our area (Mediterranean). We grow Gewürz because my father, Josep Colet, was and remains a man with an open mind, who has traveled extensively to meet other visions of viticulture' so Josep planted the Gewürz on a cooler part of the farm. (Right: Sergi sampling, or perhaps eating, Gewürz in that vineyard.)
The fruit for all their wines – there are several others in the range including the excellent Grand Cuvée, which is predominantly Chardonnay – is entirely from their own estate of 24 ha (59 acres) in Pacs del Penedès and Sant Marti Sarroca, neighbouring communes next to the cellar, and the vines – over 80% of which are more than 30 years old – are planted on mostly calcareous soil, a bit sandy in places, in north-east facing sites at an elevation of 400 m (1,312 ft). Sergi Colet emphasises the fact that it is this site and not the winemaking that gives the wines their identity: 'The terroir and orientation are responsible for the personality and character of our wines. Our winemaking job in the winery is very protective of fruit. We do not like distorting, losing the fruit in the process of fermentation and ageing.'
Producers of Clàssic Penedès accept that many drinkers are still likely to refer to the wine erroneously as Cava, but the establishment of this specific category within the Penedès DO is a concerted effort by its 14 adherents to distance themselves from the oceans of cheap, nondescript Cava. (But see Ferran's Cava compendium for some worthy exceptions.)
UK importers Indigo Wine list the following stockists: for Vatua!, Bottle Apostle (Clapham), Fox's Knocker, Harper Wells, Hanging Ditch, St Andrews Wine Co; and for Tradicional, Bottle Apostle and Vinvixen. Colet's importer in the US is Eric Solomon's European Cellars.