Monday, January 24

The wines of Can Ràfols dels Caus, the estate that fought against a quarry to preserve “the invisible”

If there are wines that identify with the way of being who makes them, they are Can Ràfols dels Caus and Carlos Esteva. They have their elegance, their marked sensitivity and their shy and complex character.

Can Ràfols dels Caus is one of the most attractive estates on the Spanish wine scene. Although administratively it belongs to the Penedès and they have this Denomination of Origin, from the geographical and climatic point of view it is part of El Garraf. This Catalan region delimits to the east with the Baix Llobregat, to the north with the Alt Penedès, to the south with the Baix Penedès and to the east with the Mediterranean Sea.

It is an area full of low reliefs, rounded peaks, deep and steep valleys and gray-whitish rocky walls, very different from neighboring Penedès. From the road that connects Vilafranca del Penedès with Barcelona you can see perfectly the fault that originates El Garraf and the differences in soil between one place and another. Some hills reach an altitude of 500 meters, with slopes of 30 or even 50%.

A 15th century farmhouse on a farm crossed by a Roman road

There is already information about the farm in 992 and it can be proven that in 1478 it already belonged to the Caus family. It is crossed by the Roman road from Narbonne, which came from the coast through the mountains of El Garraf to later join the Via Augusta. Presiding over the farm is a beautiful farmhouse, which Carlos Esteva has restored with elegance and care. The origins of the house date back to the 15th century and the stones in the building’s arches are dated 1634. The house’s coat of arms announces its history, as it contains a plow, a hoe and the falqueta, a tool that is used used to cut grapes at harvest time.

The farmhouse was inhabited by the Ràfols family until the beginning of the 20th century. In 1930 Jacinto Esteva, Carlos’s grandfather, bought the property he used to go to in the summer. In 1979 Carlos Esteva decided to live on the farm and, after buying his brothers’ part, began the rehabilitation of the houses that were almost in ruins. After studying the best plots, he plants new vineyards.

In 2004, a plan to build a quarry that threatened the vegetation in the area sparked numerous neighborhood protests.

The original farm had 480 hectares, to which must be added the 250 of the nearby plot that Carlos Esteva buys in 2004 to prevent a quarry from being built there that would destroy the plant balance of the area. Carlos led a neighborhood movement against the quarry and, despite numerous protests, the city council and the Generalitat continued with the crazy project. To prevent its construction, Carlos Esteva resorted to the right of first refusal and withdrawal that it had as an adjoining one and bought the farm, saving the area from that environmental disaster.

The fight for “the invisible”

All the cultivation is rainfed, without any contribution of water. The culture is also biological. The few fertilizers that are made, and only in cases of need, are organic. The grass is left in the vineyard to promote water competition and favor the presence of worms, insects and other fauna. The pruning is short and a green pruning is done at the end of spring and a stripping at the end of summer. 25% of the vineyard is in glass and the rest in high trellis, in order to expose the maximum foliar surface to the sun.

Carlos Esteva, owner and thinker to the millimeter of the estate, sums it up easily: “To make a great wine you need good grapes, wisdom and grace. My philosophy of wine is the philosophy of the obvious: things are as they are. We do not seek maximum physiological maturity, nor do we force polyphenolic or sugar ripening, we want to harvest balanced bunches. A great wine always expresses, in addition to its terroir, also the individuality of its maker. Which, of course, is not true for wines made with profit in mind. The true quality of a wine is manifested in the differentiated effect it arouses. Exceptional wines have that something that goes far beyond what we are capable of perceiving with the eyes, the nose and the palate. You have to fight for the invisible. ”

The personal style that Carlos Esteva gives to his wines is based on respect for the characteristics of the grapes and the land from which they come. Flee from easy fashions and look for the best expression of its “terroir”. Everything is done by hand, enjoying every moment, with love and respect.

Exceptional wines have that something that goes far beyond what we are capable of perceiving with the eyes, the nose and the palate. You have to fight for the invisible.

Carlos Esteva

Aromas of rosemary and rockrose swayed by the sea

The vineyard occupies 90 hectares in which there are 28 different grape varieties planted, although some with an almost experimental character. The largest vineyard plot is 2 hectares and the smallest 0.15.

The flora is very diverse, full of low shrubs, with rosemary, thyme, juniper, heather, rockrose, pennyroyal, rock tea or marjoram. There are also margalló (palm hearts), holm oaks and oaks. Olive trees, almond trees and vineyards make their way through forests of scrub and trees.

The hills that surround the vineyard make it enjoy a very special microclimate and protect it from the hail that comes from the port of Ordal and the pre-coastline.

The effect of the nearby sea, is barely 15 kilometers away and can be seen from the highest vineyards such as La Calma or El Rocallís, it is noticeable in the sea breezes that blow especially after noon, which cool and provide humidity. The rains are scarce, about 350 liters, and they focus on spring and autumn.

During the ripening period of the grape there are thermal fluctuations of up to 24ºC, going from 38ºC in the hottest hours to 14ºC at night.

The soils are made up of dolomite limestone settled on a subsoil of dolomite rocks and white, blue and pink clays. It is a very shallow soil, about 40 centimeters, and with active lime content of up to 40%. Due to the marine origin it is easy to find different types of fossils, which provide a great wealth in trace elements and minerals absorbable by the plant.