Freixenet cava is so much more than iconic Cordon Negro

PRETTY in pink … a glass of rose. Can it be beaten? Well it can if it’s sparkling and is sitting alongside tapas of marinated salmon and Iberian ham. A veritable feast with pink hues; but by no means girlie.

I was in Barcelona drinking Cordon Rosado, the pink sister of stablemate Freixenet’s famous Cordon Negro. Its classy, sassy, sexy-bottled cousin, Elyssia Pinot Noir was alongside and fizzed splendidly away with salted scallops and a traditional dish of coca d’escalivada – grilled aubergine, peppers and tomato-topped bread.

Earlier in the day I had explored Freixenet’s winery in the village of Sant Sadurni d’Anoia at the heart of Penedes on the outskirts of Barcelona and the main capital of cava.

The winery’s villa-like exterior belies the cavernous expansion of multi-storey floors within, each containing cava at various stages of production.

Damian Clark, UK MD of Freixenet, Freixenet cava
Damian Clark

Family-owned Freixenet is the world’s largest producer of cava – 102.5 million of bottles are produced per year – that’s 69,187,500 litres which would fill about 28 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Its iconic black Cordon Negro is as likely to tease you from your local supermarket shelves as it is to sit on tables across the world.

In 2010/2011 Freixenet cava had 56 per cent of the export market with almost half of that business going to Germany, which receives nearly four million 12-bottle cases. The UK has just short of 900,000 cases.

So does Freixenet cava have a secret? Jose Ferrer Sala, son of the company’s founders, said: “There isn’t one. The land and the vines give us their best, while we contribute all our skills of refinement, along with experience and ingenuity.”

I sipped Elyssia Gran Cuvee with Damian Clarke, the MD for Freixenet UK, and he told me: “Consumers are becoming much more curious and adventurous and are looking for something a little different. Everybody has probably seen our famous Cordon Negro bottle, but we offer so many more styles of cava.

“Some people probably don’t realise that cava is made in exactly the same traditional way as Champagne, but we can offer better value and some superb drinking experiences.”

Freixenet Elyssia cava
Freixenet cava, Elyssia

Cordon Negro (RSP £9.49, all major retailers and good off licences) is a blend of the Catalan grapes parellada, macabeo and xarel-lo. It has a good balance of green fruit aromas, slightly toasty, and on the palate is long and elegant with lemon and pear.

Cordon Rosado (price and stockists as above) is bright strawberry pink from its blend of trepat and grenache grapes. Red fruits are strong on the palate but it is not overly-sweet, and aromas include strawberry and even hints of dates.

Freixenet Elyssia Pinot Noir (from £14.99 – Waitrose, Tesco.com and Matthew Clark Wines in selected bars and restaurants) is exactly what it says on the tin: 100 per cent pinot noir grown high in the Penedes. The grapes are harvested at night to preserve the aroma. It shouts summer, summer, summer with its lively raspberry colour, aroma and ice cream-topping fruitiness.

Freixenet Elyssia Gran Cuvee (price and stockists as above) is a blend of chardonnay, pinot noir and native macabeo and parellada. Interesting but balanced aromas of light honey and flowers open up to peach and pineapple, then on the palate its tingly clean ripe fruit crispness has good acidity and a lingering give-me-more finish.

 This article first appeared in the Liverpool Post on  May 3 2012