Most interesting about this change in consumerism is that we, the public, have been willing to believe that smaller producers equal higher quality products. While I am all for small business and agree the thousands of small wineries have created an extremely dynamic level of variety, competition and innovation in an industry that is dominated by large multinational companies, unfortunately just being small is no guarantee of quality.
Detail, Quality and Terroir
The primary idea behind boutique wineries is that because they produce small amounts of wine, their attention to detail and quality will be greater. In addition because they are handling smaller parcels of grapes from specific sites, the wines will have unique terroir. The wines will be made with love, and although not always, will be better.
For many dedicated small wine companies this is true, but there are also, I would say, just as many small wineries producing sub-standard or even faulty wines. As the saying goes, “The best way to make a small fortune in the wine business is to start with a large one”. All too often a lack of resources are to blame for the woes of small producers.
Now I am not championing big business here, but I have to say that I was really surprised when I tasted the cava (Spanish sparkling wine) of Freixenet last month. I had not tried this wine for about 10 years, and while I knew it was great value fizz, I was really amazed at how tasty it was.
Freixenet is the largest producer of bubbles in the world with 200 million bottles produced annually. What is even more remarkable is that all their cavas are produced in the traditional method, like champagne, with the second fermentation taking place in the bottle. The primary grapes used are the traditional native Spanish varieties, macabeo, parellada and xarel-lo, but the truly amazing thing is that quality andconsistency are maintained with such a huge production. Freixenet has kept its family-owned character while remaining faithful to its roots and tzraditions.It obsessively focuses on innovation, improving quality and progress.
Small producers are the lifeblood, heart and soul of the wine industry, and while they are not always the best, neither are the big multinationals. Be open-minded, taste without prejudice, and you will find that both small and large-scale producers are capable of wines of real quality and finesse.
Freixenet ‘Cordon Negro’ Brut N.V.
Made from the traditional cava varieties parellada (40%), macabeo (35%) and xarel-lo (25%), all of which are hand picked. This is a very modern style of cava; clean, fruity and fresh with a very fine bead and a long dry finish. Fresh green apple and pear fruit dominates with a hint of citrus. It’s hard to believe that Freixenet produce 60 million bottles of this particular wine every year.
Jim Cawood has been working in the wine industry for over two decades. He is presently man-at-the-helm at his District 2 restaurant, Lubu