For some time now producers from Penedès in Catalonia have been paying attention to their terroirs and to indigenous grapes with wineries like Celler Pardas leading this new approach.
The project was set up in 1996 by local wine growers Ramón Parera and Jordi Arnan in the Can Comas estate. Located in the Bitlles river valley (Alt Penedés), the property comprises 60 hectares of Mediterranean forest, cereal crops, pasture and barren land around a farmhouse of medieval origin. They also grow some very old Sumoll and Xarel.lo vines in the Anoia Valley, four kilometers north. Soils are mostly clay-lime with some stony and chalky parts on petrocalcic rocks, which explains the distinctive mineral, salty character of the wines.
They started planting in the late 1990s using cuttings form old, indigenous vines. Some years later the farmhouse was restored and the first estate wines were launched with the 2004 vintage.
Unirrigated land is the norm at Can Comas. They don’t plough the vineyards in order to avoid erosion and regularly use ground vegetation. Fermentations are made with indigenous yeasts and the wines are not clarified.
The wines can be divided into three categories in terms of grape varieties. The first one is based on local white Xarel.lo and comprises three wines. The unoaked Rupestris includes 15% Malvasía and 10% Xarel.lo Vermell in the blend and offers amazing minerality and tightness at an absurd price (€7-8). Pardas Xarello (around €18 in Spain, slightly over 6,000 bottles) is richer and develops nicely with time. It is fermented and aged in oak barrels except for a small part in concrete vats. Finally, Pardas Aspriu (around €33, 1,500 bottles) comes from a specific spot in the estate with its own microclimate. Just over half of the wine is fermented and aged in egg-shaped concrete vats while the rest is aged in oak barrels.
In terms of reds, Sumoll is the star. This indigenous, rustic grape variety has high acidity and harsh tannins but given its long ripening cycle it seems an obvious choice in the face of climate change. At Pardas they have been extracting less and less over the past few years to achieve one of the finest Sumoll wines in Catalonia. Their trio of wines in this category includes a rosé, which retails at around €7 (9,000 bottles), the young red Sus Scrofa (wild boar in Latin, €9) and the outstanding Collita Roja (4,000 bottles, €20) which also combines oak and concrete vats.
The rest of the reds are blends of foreign grapes. Negre Franc (€11) used to be a single-varietal Cabernet Franc, but it currently includes some Sumoll in the blend. The single-vineyard Pardas Aspriu (around €28, 1,500 bottles) is a blend of roughly 60% Cabernet Franc and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon.
Visitors are welcomed at Celler Pardas. The estate has a small country cottage located next to the winery which can accommodate five people. The website offers detailed information about the project, its vineyards, winemaking philosophy and wines.