This is a beautiful amphitheatre-shaped property overlooking the sea. It is located in Serralada de Marina Natural Park, just 19 kilometres from Barcelona. Winemaker Josep María Pujol-Busquets and his wife Cristina Guillén founded this family-owned estate in 1991 and since then, they have managed the vineyards organically. Their daughter Mireia is fully committed to the project.
Alta Alella produces around 300,000 bottles a year including Cava and organic and natural wines. Exports account for 55% of the total sales.
In March 2017, the family sold the brand Privat to Perelada and invested the money in the purchase of vineyards to focus on producing terroir-driven still and sparkling wines. With 50 hectares under vine, they now rely exclusively on their own grapes. Since the 2015 vintage, all of their Cavas come under the premium Gran Reserva (+30 months of ageing) and Paraje Calificado (single-vineyard) categories.
Vines are planted on decomposed granite soils commonly found in the area. Known locally as sauló, these soils with no lime or organic matter help to give acidity to the wines. Alta Alella are fully committed to recover the local Pansa Blanca (Xarel.lo) and Mataró (Monastrell or Mourvèdre) varieties, and to works experimentally with disease-resistant plants to minimise intervention both in the vineyard and in the winery. Other varieties grown in the estate are Macabeo, Parellada, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay (white) and Syrah, Petit Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Garnacha (red). There’s also a 1950s vineyard planted with Pansa Rosada on a slope (coster, in Catalan).
Mirgin is their Cava brand -the result of joining the names of daughters Mireia and Georgina. The style features a fine linear palate with citrus notes a a long finish. The range starts with AA Mirgin Gran Reserva (€13), a blend of the three Cava varieties Xarel.lo, Macabeo and Parellada, and continues with a range of elongated bottles -a tribute to the Rhine-shaped format which was common in the area. Their shape is also useful against counterfeiting.
Among them are Laietà Gran Reserva (€19), made as a white blend and as a Monastrell-based rosé, and two Cava de Paraje Calificado wines: Opus (€32) and Exeo (€52). Grapes for both Opus and Exeo are sourced from the Vallcirera vineyard, but the styles are different. While Opus is a blend of 60% barrel-fermented Chardonnay and 40% unoaked Xarel.lo, in Exeo the percentage of each variety is reversed and both are fermented in oak.
All Cavas made by Alta Alella are bone-dry, zero dosage sparkling wines. According to Josep María Pujol-Busquets, “a big revolution will take place in the sparkling category when fizz is seen as wine.” In his opinion, “for Cava to become really international, we must get rid of dosage, which is just the tool used by the big maisons to homogenise their fizz.” The Catalan producer insists on the distinctive character of his Cavas given their proximity to the sea.
The range of organic, still wines combines international and indigenous grape varieties. Consumers can choose between Lanius (Chardonnay, €17), Orbus (Syrah, €26), Xtrem (Monastrell, €17) or Cau d’en Genís (Pansa blanca, €13) and the sweet wines Dolç de Neu (Pansa Blanca) and Mataró (Monastrell). The last two are sold at around €18 (37.5 cl. bottle).
Natural wines are produced in separate facilities within the property. At Celler de les Aus (the birds’ winery), all wines are named after local bird species. The range include several pet-nats sold as DO Cava (the Capsigrany Pansa Rosa is really original), and still wines made with indigenous grapes: Tallarol (Pansa Blanca, €13), Tallareta (Pansa Rosada), Merla (Monastrell, €17), Gafarró (Pansa Blanca, €17). There is also a sweet wine called Puput Monastrell (€19, 37.5 cl. bottle).
Alta Alella has a wide offers of tourist activities. Anyone visiting the winery will notice how lucky Josep María and his family are to live in the 1900s manor house standing right in the centre of the property, and how generously they share such a privileged spot with visitors. Activities include yoga sessions by the vineyards, painting classes for kids using wine instead of crayons, tastings in English, and a wide range of cultural events. The icing on the cake is the helicopter trip from Barcelona to enjoy some terrific views of the coast.