During our recent visit to Raventós i Blanc, we were captivated by the rich history of this family and their profound influence on the world of Cava. Not only have they played an essential role in shaping its trajectory, but they continue to redefine our perception of this sparkling wine. Our journey with Raventós i Blanc unveiled a fascinating narrative that challenged our preconceived notions and opened our eyes to a new era of Cava. This is what we learned and the story that unfolded before us, revealing the remarkable vision and passion that drives Raventós i Blanc's pursuit of excellence in winemaking.
Family Beginnings: A Legacy Unveiled
The Raventós family wine journey spans generations. However, their story truly takes off when their path intertwined with that of Codorníu, a neighboring winery. It was in the year 1681 when these two winemaking families became forever linked through marriage.
Now fast forward to 1872 when José Raventós Fatjó emerged as a pioneer. José shook things up in the Spanish winemaking scene with the brilliant idea of bringing the 'Champagnoise' method from France to Spain. He was the one who opened the doors to producing sparkling wines on Spanish soil. Such wines were a distant dream due to the absence of suitable techniques. Before this great moment, the family was busy exporting their wines to the Spanish colonies. They were all about those fortified wines, like Portos, which were a hit back in the day. But everything was about to change.
José María Raventós i Blanc: The Visionary
Enter José María Raventós i Blanc, the eldest of six siblings and, therefore, the heir of Codorníu and the Raventós estate. He actively contributed to the family's winemaking business for four decades, impacting its growth and success. Additionally, he became the driving force behind the creation of the DO Cava as well as Catalunya as a quality wine-growing region.
With Codorníu, Raventós envisioned creating a sparkling wine that could rival the esteemed Champagnes of the time. His vision was to make a Cava that put quality before quantity. However, José María's vision clashed with the commercial interests of his relatives, who favored a mass-production approach.
Founding Raventós i Blanc: Facing Adversity and Triumphs
Undeterred, the Raventós family set out to create something truly exceptional. José María sold his share of Codorníu and, in 1986, founded Raventós i Blanc, located on the Raventós family's hundred-year-old estate. For José María, it was all about going back to traditional winemaking methods, with a focus on quality and expressing the true essence of their land.
Unfortunately, soon after, tragedy struck. José María, the visionary behind it all, passed away. It was a devastating blow, but Manuel Raventós i Blanc, his son, stepped up to the challenge. Today, Pepe, Manuel's son, carries the family torch as the winery director and will be the heir of Raventós i Blanc.
Their journey wasn't easy, though. The Raventós family faced financial hardships and had to make tough choices. To keep their dream alive, they had to sell 30 hectares of their estate and their beloved Codorníu home. But their determination paid off. In 1999, they finally turned a profit, proving that perseverance and a deep love for winemaking can lead to success.
Breaking Away from Cava: Defining an Identity Beyond Cava
Another pivotal moment for this winery was in 2012 when Pepe came to a realization. Raventós' philosophy of prestige, emphasis on vintages, and commitment to local varieties did not fit under the Cava umbrella. This prompted a crucial question: What truly defines or what is Raventós if it's not a Cava? Pepe turned his attention to the world of Champagne, where he discovered two distinct categories: the renowned Champagne houses and the small grower Champagnes. As he explored a store in New York City, he noticed the prominent presence of these small-scale growers in reputable restaurants and shops, while Cavas seemed to be relegated to promotional offers at significantly reduced prices. This realization sparked a determination within him. He resolved not to compete in that crowded Cava market but instead to position Raventós i Blanc among the esteemed small growers adopting their mindset and practices deeply connected to their specific region.
Thus, he made the audacious decision to leave the DO Cava and disassociate themselves from the traditional image and expectations associated with Cava. By doing so, they aimed to create their own unique identity and establish a different direction for their wines.
Pepe's vision led to a new designation of origin (DO) called Conca del Riu Anoia. This initiative carried on his grandfather's legacy, aiming to produce vintage sparkling wines that beautifully reflected the region's unique terroir, particularly the captivating mineral essence derived from the sea. They pursued excellence, prioritizing the expression of the terroir in their wines, distinct from the traditional method-driven approach of Cava. For Raventos, Cava represented a method, not an origin, and they sought to redefine themselves.
When Raventós decided to leave the DO Cava, Pepe, and Manuel met with other like-minded winemakers to communicate their departure. However, at that time, these winemakers had a significant presence in the local market, and following Pepe's lead was seen as a risky move that wouldn't bring immediate value. They had experienced growth within the local market and had yet to venture into exports. Their brand was strongly associated with Cava, which had garnered recognition locally.
Leading by Example: Corpinnat's birth
Five years later, witnessing Raventós' international success in establishing themselves as a high-quality sparkling wine brand from Spain, other winemakers decided to follow suit. They, too, left the DO Cava and created a new designation called Corpinnat. They adopted the same rigorous quality standards proposed by Raventós in 2012, which are even higher than those required by Champagne. The original intention was for Corpinnat to be a subsection within the DO Cava, but influential Cava winemakers rejected the idea, fearing it would diminish the reputation of Cava. Consequently, Corpinnat decided to break away and establish themselves on their own.
The Essence of Raventós i Blanc: Vintage Expression and a Terroir-Driven Approach
Raventós exclusively produces vintage sparkling wines, unlike Champagne. The decision to create non-vintage sparkling wines in Champagne was driven by strategic and business considerations. Champagne's cooler and humid climate made it susceptible to variable weather conditions, potentially leading to significant production losses. To counter this, the Champagne appellation implemented the practice of reserving a portion of the wine in cellars. This ensured a consistent supply even during challenging years and positioned vintage Champagne as something exceptional. In Raventós' case, having vintage wines allows them to showcase the unique characteristics of each vintage and vineyard, adding prestige to their top-range offerings.
Requiring vintage production became one of the key criterias in the DO Conca del Riu Anoia.
Other requirements include:
- Wines must be made exclusively from 100% local grape varieties.
- Growing the grapes within the Valley of the Anoia River.
- Adhering to organic and biodynamic practices.
- A minimum of 80% of the grapes must be estate grown.
- Committing to a minimum price per kilogram of purchased grapes.
- Aging the wines for at least 18 months on lees.
- The wine must be 100% estate produced and bottled.
The Journey Ahead
While Conca del Riu Anoia has yet to be an official appellation, efforts are underway to achieve this status, albeit at a slow pace.
Raventós has a pioneering role and is a leader in the industry. They have paved the way and remain at the forefront of the sparkling wine movement in Catalunya.
Over the years, the family-owned estate has managed to diversify its offerings. One notable endeavor that showcases their passion for sustainable viticulture is their new project called 'Can Sumoi.' An integrated and abandoned estate, dating back to 1645, at 600m above sea level.
Can Sumoi represents a bold departure from the traditional sparkling wine production for which Raventós i Blanc is famous. It's a project that revolves around producing still, natural wines in a biodynamic and eco-conscious manner.
One of the key features and commitment of Can Sumoi is its focus on minimal intervention winemaking. 'The challenge for Can Sumoi is to make a great wine that reflects origin without intervention, not for the sake of being cool, but because, in my opinion, it’s the most difficult way to make wine. So, for me, it’s a challenge.' Pepe Raventós
With Can Sumoi, a new era for the family begins. Pepe aims to showcase the potential of the native grape varieties of Penedès and express the unique terroir of the region. The project is not only about producing exceptional wines but also about promoting sustainable agriculture and nurturing the land for future generations.
If this story sparked interest. Here are some of the wines we currently have in stock from this producer.
- Raventos i Blanc Conca del Riu Anoia Brut Blanc de Blancs 2020
- Raventos I Blanc Conca Del Riu Anoia Brut Rose De Nit 2020
- Can Sumoi - Sumoll Garnatxa 2021
- Can Sumoi - Xarel-lo 2021
- Can Sumoi - La Rosa 2021
Pictures from when we visited the estate back in June 2023.