[The interior of one of the main buildings at Codorniu Winery]
In July 2010, I was in Barcelona, Spain, for one week. During those seven days I tried to see and learn as much as I could, and that meant trying to find a good balance between going on tours and giving myself downtime to explore the city on my own.
One of the tours I’m incredibly glad I made time for was the Codorniu Winery, located about 40 minutes east of Barcelona. The property is impressive — the cellars there were completed in 1915 after 20 years of construction and with the help of Josep Puig i Cadafalch, considered one of the greatest Catalan architects in history and a contemporary of the legendary Antoni Gaudi.
The Codorniu family, now named Raventos, has been making wine since 1551, and champagne according to the traditional “French” method since the 1880s. Of course, because only champagne made in France can be called champagne, the Catalonians call their sparkling wine “cava.” But no matter what you call the bubbly beverage, Codorniu is the largest maker of it in the world, producing tens of millions of bottles every year.
The products are excellent, and I think it’s safe to say the family has become exceptional at what they do, so it’s no wonder the Codorniu Winery has been visited by many famous and important guests over the decades, including royalty not just from Spain, but from all over the world. In fact, since 1897, Codorniu has been the official supplier of wine for Spain’s royal family — every year they produce a special reserve exclusively for them and their royal residences.
If you have the opportunity to visit the winery in Catalonia, I highly recommend it. Not only will you get to see the winemaking process in effect if you’re there when the grapes are being harvested, but you’ll also be taken a few miles underground into the dark labyrinth of tunnels to see where all the different bottles are kept to age properly in their respective cellars. The number of crates and bottles being stores underground there will most definitely boggle your mind.
In the states, Codorniu takes shape in the form of Artesa Winery in Napa, California. I’ve personally never been, so no word on whether they have cava on hand for you to try. But if you come across any cava made by the Codorniu Winery that’s available in the states (and you can find it), buy it and try it! Whether you’ve had cava before or not, I think you’ll be pleased.
After the tour of the winery, our guide, Cesar, gave our group a recipe for sangria made with cava, telling us that if we liked the cava we had tried on the tour that day, then we would love Catalan sangria made with it. “The sangria made with cava is not to die for … it is to kill for,” he joked.