The Spanish Llopart Winery is known for its production of sparkling wine. During our visit, we understood how climate change affects the production process. We spoke with Tina Domingo Dorado, PR manager, and Jesi Llopart, family member and export manager about the winery, its sparkling wine, and climate change effects.
In the region of Catalonia, wine growing has been a long tradition for hundreds of years. In September, we visited the winery Llopart, which also has a long family tradition. It is a 40-minute drive from Barcelona and it is located in Penedés, which is the most important wine region of Catalonia. Over the last few kilometres of the trip, we drove higher and higher. When we arrived at the Llopart vineyard we had a fantastic view as far as the mountains of Montserrat on the horizon.
At the front of the entrance, there are two rows, each with single vines for all the varieties of grapes growing in Llopart. Luckily for us, it was September, which means that the grapes were ripe, sweet, and juicy. We had the pleasure to taste most of them and experience the differences between each grape variety – a fascinating experience.
The family Llopart has been making wine since 1385. In 1887, they decided to focus on quality sparkling wines. Today, they are still family-managed and have been for the last 26 generations. The whole family estate comprises 102 hectares of vineyards, 500 hectares of mountain fields, and 375 hectares of Mediterranean forests. The yields at the estate are pretty low, due to the age of the vines. The vineyards are very old, some of them were planted long ago in 1934. Other effects of the low yield are the type of soil and the orography.
Grape Varieties and wines
The Llopart Winery has a diverse mosaic of grape types. Having many different grapes makes it possible to test out new combinations for wines. Some bring in a bit more acidity and others help with the floral taste or the sweetness. Each year affects various grapes differently. This creates pleasant surprises which all the vintages. However, the main focus is on Macabeu, Xarel·lo, Parellada, Chardonnay, Subirat Parent and Muscat when it comes to white grapes. For red wines, we can find Garnatxa, Monastrell, Pinot Noir and Sumoll planted in the vineyards.
Once the grapes are inside the bottle, the important part begins. The second fermentation process inside the bottle requires constant surveillance. After the second fermentation, the wine starts ageing. The bottles age quietly in darkness at a constant temperature and humidity. After ageing for a minimum of 18 months, the bottles are riddled (turned every day an eight of a turn) and prepared for disgorgement, the procedure that will remove the lees that have remained in the bottle after the fermentation.
Llopart sells a total of 550,000 bottles per year. 20% are exported to 40 different countries, including the United States, England, Japan, and Sweden. However, the main focus of sales is in the domestic market with 80%.
Inside the showroom, Llopart Winery offers different wine tastings. We tasted two sparkling wines and one still wine. The product variety brings forward a wide range of aromas reflecting the different grape varieties. There is a wine or sparkling wine for every occasion. The first sparkling wine was easily drinkable while the other one had a more delicate acidity and perlage – a bottle that could easily be stored and opened for anniversaries or other special occasions.
Corpinnat – Born in the heart of Penedés
We all know Champagne from France. But have you ever heard of Corpinnat from Spain? It is a brand for sparkling wines from vineyards that press their wines at very high quality under organic standards. For sure, 100 % of the organic grapes must be grown in the Corpinnat area, harvested by hand, and entirely vinified on the premises of the winery. Llopart is a cofounder of Corpinnat and works together with ten other winery members of the collective brand. Corpinnat was established to add prestige to the sparkling wines made in the heart of the Penedès region.
Corpinnats are long-ageing sparkling wines with a minimum storage of 18 months. At Llopart they have a minimum of 20 months. Fun fact, the storage time of champagne only has a minimum of 15 months!
Fighting against the effects of climate change
Climate change has affected the way the family manages their vineyards. The estate is located in an area that is very much protected from some of the most severe effects. The mountain vineyards, north-oriented, experiment with lower temperatures than the average of the area. Moreover, they are influenced by the sea breeze that helps prevent both touches of frost in winter and humidity in summer. They have documented changes in the temperature, the ripening phase of the grapes, and the amount of water the vines receive throughout the season.
One of the differences they have registered is that, although bud breaking has not changed, the fruit setting and ripening are faster. Compared to the 1950s, harvest is now a month earlier. As a result, the whole cycle is compressing, it is shrinking.
This year was the earliest harvest they have ever registered. That was due to the severe drought during the growing season and some heat waves in the summer. Therefore, they started picking the grapes sooner because they look for the perfect balance between the sugar and the acidity levels in the grapes. It was also a shorter vintage, with the vines producing fewer grapes, with higher concentrations of acidity levels.
Also, other works have been adapted because of climate change:
- Green pruning: more leaves are left, to protect the grapes from the sun, and to create shadow areas
- Green covert and green compost: plant them and integrate them earlier
- Compost: applied on the surface rather than buried, to help retain humidity in the soil
- Planting: when planting new vineyards, search for certain American rootstocks that are more drought-resistant.
Our visit to the Llopart Winery taught us a lot about how climate change affects wineries in different regions. Also, it showed us how the winery Llopart deals with the new climate conditions. When you are in or around the area of Barcelona, we can highly recommend the guided tour of the winery with the wine tasting.
We thank Tina and Jesi for the very warm welcome at Llopart and the insights.