Discover the revolutionary movement that defends that terroir-driven sparkling wine can be crafted in Spain ✊🍾
We, Spaniards, like to complicate things. First, we ask you to stop drinking Champagne and drink Cava instead; and now, we recommend you to drink Corpinnat thus forgetting about Cava. Then you wonder why we are horrible at marketing our wines... 🤔
Despite its tedious name, Corpinnat is nothing else than a schism where 12 winemakers cut off relations with DO Cava to create their own wine movement. What sounds like a rebellious cause, actually arises from the necessity to prioritize quality and terroir to the detriment of the industrialization and commercialization of their wine industry.
If we want to understand how we got here, first, we need to bear in mind that the cradle of both wines (Cava & Corpinnat) is Penedés, which is the place where the greatest Sparkling wines in Spain are made.
Because of this fact, several winemakers started to gather in order to express their concerns. They asked DO Cava in order to open a more inclusive way to regulate, where they could map their vineyards and also run away from the concept of industrialization. They tried to convince their colleagues in Cava to pursue this idea and also improve their ways of production, but they only found a negative response.
Cava wasn't ready to accept this request so, in 2017, 7 producers (Gramona, Llopart, Nadal, Recaredo, Sabaté i Coca i Torelló) left the DO Cava and created Corpinnat, which is a European Collective Brand. What started with those 7 wineries, now embraces 12 of them (with the addition of Can Feixes, Júlia Bernet, Mas Candí, Can Descregut, Pardas, and Bufadors).
Corpinnat is an idea, the idea that top Sparkling wines can be made in Penedés, putting emphasis on the origin. As we saw, Cava can be produced in many places in Spain under the same name. What does Catalonia have to do with Extremadura, Valencia or Rioja? That's why Corpinnat means "born in the heart of Penedés", because it is there where everything happens. Those 12 producers want to show this piece of the world through the wine they bottle.
Being part of Corpinnat means fulfilling a series of commitments to ensure not only the quality of the wines but also the sustainability of their industry because they want to promote the wealth and added value of their territory.
As wine is made in the vineyard, the measures applied call for 100% organic or biodynamic viticulture, they cannot buy must but they can buy the grapes from other vinegrowers (who need to be within the territorial limits of Corpinnat) at a decent price (be generous with your land) and establishing long-term contracts with them (minimum length of the contract being 3 years). The regulations also favor traditional and autochthonous varieties over foreign ones (only up to 10% of non-local varieties can be used).
That quality of the fruit needs to be translated into the wines, and the way of doing so is by also cutting off with the industrial mentality. This way, Corpinnat wines have to undertake, at least, 18 months of aging on the lees, and each producer has to produce a wine that reaches a minimum of 30 months of aging, and another that ages for a minimum of 60.
As you can see, the entire process is controlled from the vineyard to the cellar, guided by that historical romanticism of working the land and valuing the products it gives us in return.
The historical background is also important. In Penedés, sparkling wine was born "by accident". Let me explain this, when Champagne's vineyards were severely affected by phylloxera, some of their producers started to buy white wine from Penedés to be able to keep producing their iconic bubbles (in the 1970s, 1880s, and 1890s), so, when Champagne recovered, the locals in Penedés understood that they could make some sparkling wines with their grapes, and that's how they started to develop the industry in the early days of the XXth century.
As you can see, the historical background and commitments of this movement are the initial pieces of a puzzle which is completed with other factors that contribute to make of Penedés a unique region in the world for the production of high-end sparkling wines like its Queen the Xarel.lo variety. A unique grape that is the most antioxidant grape you can find amongst sparkling wine grapes (even more than Chardonnay and Pinot Noir). This means that this variety can be aged for a very long time keeping its freshness.
A grape that it's able to speak of its soils vividly. In the Tertiary, the Penedés was covered under the sea, so its soils are of calcareous origin (salty mineral character), and, depending on the subzone, there is a balance between sand (fruit enhancer) and clay (wider texture).
Freshness and complexity are two key factors, and for that reason, many winemakers choose to age their sparkling wines with natural cork instead of using crown caps as this allows a small amount of oxygen to escape, preventing the autolytic profile from dominating the bouquet of the wines after long agings inside the bottle, being able to preserve a lot of its fruit character too once disgorged.
Although comparisons are tedious, and each region in the world offers us unique attributes, it is impossible not to compare the quality of Corpinnat wines with their counterparts made in Champagne. At the price point offered by the entry levels made by Champagne's Grand Marques, Corpinnat offers us some top-notch cuvées, being, therefore, a better way to spend your money if you want to drink quality bubbles.
Director at Fìon, Edinburgh
#14 Harper's 25 Top Sommeliers UK 2023
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