Freixenet and Mia range looks to the younger market

Freixenet Mia Sparkling wine

I HAD a rotten day  the other day and  was in need of comfort.

I stood in a supermarket  aisle in front of something  which declared itself to be fresh and crisp. I wasn’t in the fruit and vegetable section. It also had  “sparkling”  on the label. I  certainly wasn’t near the   household cleaning  products.

Crikey no.

It goes without saying I was in the wine aisle; just as well as this column is about  wine and not furniture  polish or kiwi fruit.

After some pondering my  eyes drifted towards Mia  Light & Crisp (£9.75, Asda).

It’s  a very pretty bottle, but I’m not normally  tempted by girlie things.  I  was interested because a  couple of years ago I met  the ambassador of the  Mia range, Gloria Collell, when I visited the parent company Freixenet in the heart of cava country  near Barcelona.

At that point, Gloria  had been developing two simple fruity still wines, Mia – Signature  No.1 (red, tempranillo  grapes) and Mia –  Signature No.2  (white), a  blend of  the cava grapes  macabeo, xarel-lo  and parellada.

Gloria is a stylish,  classy  woman, with  a determination  clear for all to see, but also elegantly feminine, in that effortless way of    continental ladies. Gloria developed her Mia still wines with modern women in mind, but was also staying close to her roots Freixenet Mia Sparkling wineusing Spanish grapes.

It’s difficult not to be  won over by wines when the person who has created  them  is enthusing and  tasting alongside. So I saw the sparkling  Mia  on the supermarket shelf and thought “Gloria.  What’s she up to now?” Freixenet introduced two  sparklers to the Mia range to appeal to younger wine  drinkers after research   showed a  trend for  drinks  such as fruity ciders.

There’s  two sparkling  Mia wines,  Mia Light & Crisp (11.5%  abv, the one I bought) and  Mia Fruity & Sweet Moscato (7% abv).   Freixenet wants them to appeal to the “young  consumer’s palate”.

So my wine. It is a blend  of  macabeo and airen –  which, believe it or not, is  the world’s most widely  planted white grape.

There’s apples and pears   on the nose,   citrus  reminiscent of a cava, and a lemon  aftertaste.

I wasn’t  blown away, but I wasn’t  disappointed.  If Freixenet have laid claim to a  particular marketplace then  I can  see girlies drinking  this Mia.

So Freixenet will  have done their job.

Gloria Collell, Mia wines
Gloria Collell, Mia wines

But I had chatted over a  fascinating  lunch with  Gloria while tasting amazing cavas with style and depth;  they are the  kind of wines I  would love Gloria to  make for me.  I am, after  all, a modern woman.   (No sniggering at the  back please.)

 Also in my glass
By contrast, a  classy Champagne, and by  further  contrast, a dull  pinot noir.

Champagne  Bruno Paillard  Brut Premier  Cuvée (RRP   £44.99, Selfridges,  and   Bruno Paillard is considered by some to be “Champagne’s  best kept secret”. Only the finest  grapes (a classic blend of  pinot noir,  pinot meunier   and chardonnay)  are  selected. Brioche on the  nose, but with an understated  subtle  elegance; think Audrey  Hepburn. A fizz which fizzed longer than most and  apples to taste, cut through  with some minerality.

Morrisons Pinot Noir (£4.99) Sometimes I wonder if it’s  me. Described as  “brimming with fresh  raspberry and cherry  flavours” I found this  thin  on the fruit and dry and  dull on the palate, with not much of an after-taste.

If it is me, then by all  means let me know.

Published in the saturday extra magazine April 5, 2014

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, 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