Loxarel is a family winery set up by Josep Mitjans in 1985 when he was just 16 years old and made his first 1,000 bottles of Cava. This small production led to a real U-turn from the bulk wine traditionally made at his family’s farmhouse in Penedès towards quality wines.
Josep and his wife Teresa Nin, who happens to be the sister of Ester Nin, a well-known winemaker in Priorat, have joined their respective legacies and now own 20 hectares of vines surrounding the old farmhouse in Vilobí del Penedès (inherited from Josep’s grandmother) and 20 more from Teresa’s family in El Plà de Manlleu, one of the highest areas in the appellation. Soils are mainly limestone in Vilobí and richer in clay in El Plà de Manlleu. They switched to organics at the beginning of the 2000s and later became biodynamic. In fact, they are members of Terra Dinámica, a group of producers who get together every three months to make biodynamic preparations.
The winery was named after the indigenous Xarel.lo variety —more than half of the vineyards in Vilobí are planted with it. Loxarel currently produces around 320,000 bottles (half of them sparkling, the other half still wines) distributed in 24 different wines.
They left the Cava appellation three years ago and moved to Classic Penedès, a relatively new sparkling category within DO Penedès, because they weren’t allowed to produce extended-aging Cava without being disgorged before its sale. This is the idea behind the 109 Reserva Brut Nature (€68 in Spain), which is aged for 109 months in an old anti-aircraft shelter built during the Spanish Civil War. It is released with its original cork and staple, just as if had been directly taken from the cellar.
Besides several bone-dry Brut Nature made from the indigenous Xarel.lo, Macabeo and Parellada trio, the range of Cavas includes a rare Garnacha Blanca (around €10 in Spain), Refugi, a blend of Xarel.lo and Chardonnay (€13), and the classic Reserva Familiar (€42) which is aged for 42 to 48 months and is sold in a very traditional packaging. A blend of Xarel.lo Vermell —a red-coloured, late-ripening mutation of Xarel.lo— and Pinot Noir is used both for the rosé 999 (€9) and the more refined and vibrant MM (€18).
After Josep discovered amphorae at a wine fair in Italy, he pioneered its use in Catalonia and created a specific range of wines which are fermented and aged in these terracotta vessels. He particularly likes the way amphorae allow wine to breathe and respect the fruit keeping the wine fresh. To avoid oxidation, Loxarel’s amphorae are all coated with beeswax or pitch. Their size varies between 720 to 1,000 litres and all of them are sourced from an artisan producer based in Extremadura where earthenware jars have been crafted since the 18th century.
Josep’s nutty, well-defined Xarel.lo (€12) is a great introduction to this category. Skin-contact fermentation and the absence of sulfites make Xarel.lo-based A Pèl (€12) a little wilder, just like its red version (€12), a blend of Garnacha and Merlot with part of the wine aged in 500-litre oak barrels. On the pipeline is a third wine following this style: a pet-nat which starts fermentation with skins in amphorae and finishes it on the bottle. Finally, the red Ops (€11), a blend of Garnacha and Cariñena, is made in amphorae with some sulfites added.
Other noteworthy bottlings are two single-varietal Xarel.lo Vermell wines under the brand LXV in white (€13) and rosé (€12) versions; and a single-varietal Garnacha Blanca (€9). Some international red grapes are also vinified separately like Syrah (Eos, €11), Cabernet Sauvignon (Loxarel 790, €11) or Pinot Noir (Mas Cargols, €15).