“As we’ve boasted on many an occasion, the Penedes is an unlimited geyser of native grapes. From our beloved Xarel.lo, a white chameleon grape capable of displaying intense tropical fruit and mineral aromas, to Samso, a vivacious and precocious red grape, the Penedes is a multifaceted palette of flavors. Yet, despite our undying support for this treasure trove of gorgeous fruit, it’s uncommon to find a winery equally dedicated to preserving its native resources.
Over the years, wineries have eagerly ripped up their perfectly disorganized vineyards, chock full of native grapes, to plant internationally renowned grapes. Though varieties such as Chardonnay, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Gewurztraminer have crafted some impressive wines of both personality and quality in Spain, it must also be said that part of what makes Spanish wine unique is their plethora of auctonomous grapes. So when you find a few wineries willing to not only preserve their native grapes, but also work to bring back ancient ones, you can’t help but raise a glass in appreciation.
One such winery is situated in the ruggedly quaint town of Les Gunyoles in Avinyonet del Penedès, located approximately 2 hours southwest of Barcelona. Founded in 2006 by four young, enthusiastic viticulture and enology students, who gained invaluable wine making experience in Burgundy, Mas Candi has carved out a reputation for dedicating itself to both land and grape preservation.
According to viticulturalist, Toni Carbo, a young, sincere looking fellow with ruffled brown hair and killer smile, dedication to the land is what makes their wines not only unique, but expressive.
“We are committed to finding the natural expression of each grape. We want the grape to show the herbs that grow wild at the foot of each vine, the minerals that infuse the earth, the cool winds that sweep past their leaves and the fruit that make each and every grape unique. And because we adore these vines like children, as vinitculture is a laborious act of love, we choose not to use chemicals when simple natural solutions can easily remedy any imbalance.”
Like many wineries in Europe – choosing to go green by devoting their enthusiasm to nature – Mas Candi is a little different in that their passion to ecology has been fueled in large from their inheritance – a large plot of vines that were passed down from their ancestors. Hence, they choose to avoid chemical fertilizers and shun antifungal treatments or pesticides in their vineyards. Instead, they prop Mother Nature on their shoulders by motivating the natural ground cover to blanket the soils, and use the brightly colored grape leaves that delicately fall to the ground in a natural compost along with any additional vegetal waste. If the planets and stars align, and no malicious little bugger has usurped their natural remedies, they will have naturally motivated their vines to grow vigorously and prosperously.
Of equal interest is the fact that Mas Candi is diligently trying to bring back to life a wide range of traditional Catalan auctonomous grapes such as: Mandó, Monica, Cannonnau and Roigenc. Now, you may be familiar with one of these grapes from Jay Miller’s healthy score of the 2004 Celler del Roure Maduresa, a wine that was blended with Mandó, but very few producers in Spain have reinvigorated this grape. The varietal Monica and Cannonnau have garnered popularity in Sardinia, but again, not in Spain, while Roigenc has seen little to no press; hence I’m clueless about its use or origins. If someone has more information on this grape, do tell.
We tasted through their entire range of wines, both while nibbling upon Fuet on their veranda overlooking a swatch of vineyards, and while dining at an extraordinary restaurant for lunch (more on this later). Mas Candi produces 7 wines of which 4 are whites, 2 are reds and 1 is a brut nature cava. Of particular interest to me was their 2009 Mas Candi QX. The “QX” is meant to express the wines creation from 4 different parcels of Xarel.lo (Quatro Xarel.los) in 4 different vineyards (located in Les Gunyoles, Font-Rubí, el Pla del Penedès and Subirats) and aged in 4 types of oak (Chestnut, French, American and Acacia – also known as a Thorntree and primarily native to Africa, South America and Australia). Having tasted the 2009 QX, as well as 2 of the 4 wines aged in their respective barrels, the difference was incredible. The wine aged in the acacia barrel should a considerable amount of hazelnut, mineral and lemon flavors with an ample amount of acidity, while the wine aged in the medium toasted French oak showed bolder flavors of smoke, honey and spices. And when the individual notes came together to build a full, harmonious orchestra, the wine showed ripe cantaloupe and reduced lemon aromas over a base of honeysuckle and mineral. In short, a fabulous little wine.
If you have a chance to get your hands on any of their wines, it’s worth your while. Feel free to email Mas Candi in English with any questions regarding either availability and/or distribution. And if you just happen to be their neck of the woods, just south of Barcelona, don’t hesitate to give them a ring and request a visit. Capable of speaking in more than one language, I trust your visit will be very well spent!”