In 1878, as the wine blight ravaged the vineyards of France, one industrious family upped their Alsatian stakes and set off on the road to Spain. These winemakers were the founders of Casa Berger, whose descendants brought the blush beauty that is the Martí Serdá Masia d’Or Brut Rosé Cava in February’s Bubble Box.
A few hour’s drive outside of Barcelona is the mountain range of Montserrat, its saw-like ridges casting shadows on the neat rows of grapes growing at its feet. Called the Alt Penedès, this wine region is known for its low yield and high quality – comparatively few wines come out of this Spanish sub-region, but those that do are worth paying attention to.
The winemakers of Casa Berger, the winery behind the Masia d’Or rosé in February’s Bubble Box, settled in this region, widely recognised as one of Spain’s finest, in 1878. Originally, this family of winemakers were French – but their home country’s vineyards were being ravaged by a mysterious disease, destroying the once-lauded grape vines, and the economy was on shaky ground. Like many winemakers, they had decided that the only way forward was to leave.
In all, the French wine blight would cause £10m of damage to the French economy, and its repercussions would be felt for decades to come as winemakers turned out substandard wines to stay afloat. But one country benefitted from the havoc wreaked by the wine blight: Spain.
With no grapes of their own to press, French winemakers starting importing Spanish wines. So when the founders of Casa Berger decided to join the exodus of winemakers leaving for greener pastures, they headed for the Alt Penedès.
In a happy coincidence, they arrived just two years after Spain’s own style of sparkling wine – Cava –was to be invented. So when the Casa Berger put down roots in the shade of the Penedès, they were perfectly placed to take advantage of the winemaking revolution happening around them.
From Bigger to Better
At first, the founders of Casa Berger followed a common tactic of Spanish winemakers: produce wine in bulk and export it for low profit margins. It’s a business plan that many Spanish winemakers still subscribe to – in 2014 Spain was the world’s largest exporter of wine, mainly to France.
But when the newest generation of Casa Berger took over – the Virgili brothers – they had different plans. It was their dream to use Casa Berger, the family winery that was both their inheritance and their legacy, to inspire other young people to love wine as much as they did. So they refocused their resources from big batches of wine for export to delicious, beautifully branded bottles of wine that show off everything that their amazing region has to offer.
The Masia d’Or Rosé Cava in February’s Bubble Box is part of this new wave of Casa Berger wines. It’s a blend of Garnacha and Monastrell grapes, both classic Spanish varieties of red grape that grow alongside the traditional Cava varieties of Xarel.lo, Macabeo and Parellada on the Casa Berger vineyards. With more than 70% of Catalan vineyard space dedicated to growing white grapes, these two red varieties are increasingly rare links to the long history of the region.
In fact, the land in the foothills of the Penedés range has been used for winemaking since the Phoenicians brought their viticulture knowledge to the area, several hundred years before the Romans ever arrived. Catalan wines were once considered high quality, but so strong and dense that they had to be watered down; after Cava came on the scene, the stunning Spanish sparkler took centre stage and the winemakers of the Penedès never looked back.
These days, Casa Berger makes a number of Cavas. The beautiful rosé in this month’s Bubble Box, with its classic Cava aromas of pastry, is just one of a strong range of lovely sparklers numbering seven in total. Under the brand Martí Serdà the Virgili brothers also turn out a whole range of still wines, including ruby rich reds, brilliantly pink rosés and delicious Spanish whites.
And all of these wines have the fun and fascinating branding that make Masia d’Or rosé – with its little house perched, as if on the foothills of the Penedès, on the insweep of the bottle – stand out from the crowd.
Sipping Masia d’Or Rosé Cava, you can notice the beautifully pale pink shade of the wine and how the bursting bubbles show off the wine’s aromas of pastry, apples and pears. A smooth, refreshing and crisp Cava, this is an ideal way to kick off an evening with someone special or close friends. It is, after all, a wine to fall in love with!