Vins El Cep, a story of vineyards and friendship
Forty years ago, four winemaking families joined forces to add value to their work and close the circle of cava and wine production. They are the first producers of biodynamic cava in the world.
Vins El Cep winery is located in the northern part of the Alt Penedès region, within the DO Cava for sparkling wines and the DO Penedès for still wines. The winery is located at Can Llopart de les Alzines estate in the Espiells area of Sant Sadurní d’Anoia. Theirs, is a story of neighbourliness, friendship and vindication of the work of the farmer, the winegrower who wants to add value to its work, and who wants to close the circle of cava and wine production.
Maite Esteve, partner and manager of Vins El Cep, represents one of the four families that founded Vins El Cep in 1980. They are now the second generation (three daughters of three different founding partners, plus one of the original founders). Maite defines the project as “a story of vineyards, wine and friendship”.
The four families have a long winemaking history, and one of them has documents dating back to 1448 that already mention vineyards on their property. “We come from viticulture. Forty years ago, the four friends decided to give value to their work, as grapes were not valued and the efforts made in the vineyard did not have an impact on the price paid for grapes. In fact,” she adds with concern, “this still hasn’t changed much”.
Caring for people and the environment
Maite proudly tells us that their innovative ways, always seeking natural balance, led them to introduce biodynamic techniques in the vineyard: “We were the first in the area to practice biodynamics and to bring out Claror, the first biodynamic cava in the world“. Although they were not the first to practise organic farming, they have been doing it for many years on their four estates, and she tells us that they did it for three reasons: “First, thinking about people who work the land and the vineyards; second, thinking about land and plants, to recover balance in nature, the biodiversity; and third, to obtain a quality product, as natural as possible”.
The introduction of organic crops is part of their philosophy of doing their bit in the face of the climate emergency which, she states, worries them. That is why a few years ago, they introduced the use of photovoltaic energy. “We have adapted our operation to the solar schedule. We live in a rural area, and we don’t have a very good electricity service, so we decided to use photovoltaic energy instead of a transformer. We produce all the energy we consume ourselves,” she says.
Great defenders of the territory
“We are from Espiells. The territory defines the product, and it is necessary to look after it, protect it and actively defend it”, says Maite Esteve, while she tells us that she is now president of the Associació Espiells Terra de Vi, which brings together 14 wineries, 32 inhabited historic farmhouses and a total of 3,000 hectares of vineyards, 80% of which are organically farmed. They created it to organise themselves and fight against the destruction of the territory.
Proximity to the metropolitan area means that the territory is under constant pressure from companies and infrastructures. “There are plans for the Quart Cinturó to come close. They want to install large industrial estates. We have to be on constant alert. The territory, the land of this area is what gives us our product, which we want, and we work for, to ensure that it is of the highest quality”, she claims. In fact, such defence of the territory seems to be gaining recognition as they will be part of the first specific agricultural plan in Catalonia.
The DO Cava has divided all areas where cava is made into zones and sub-zones. According to these divisions, Vins El Cep has its lands in the Valls Anoia-Foix sub-zone of the Barcelona Counties area. Maite Esteve describes how a bottle of Vins El Cep cava reflects all elements provided by the microclimate of the Espiells area, located between the Ordal and Montserrat massifs.
“The terroirs, small vineyards, hilly terrain, forests, streams, form a mosaic of different elements, which, together with small productions give us the quality products we are looking for. We are in an area that is one of the pearls of the Penedès”, she adds. The main variety they grow is Xarel-lo, one of the most traditional and identifiable within this area, which together with Macabeo and Parellada, are the base product of cava, although they have also been working for years with foreign varieties, such as pinot noir.
The landscape, what visitors value
“The landscape is one of the elements that tourists who visit the cellars value the most. In recent years, farmers in the area have been doing an exceptional job and we have got beautiful vineyards, which form part of this extraordinary landscape with the image of Montserrat mountain in the background”, Esteve asserts. Recently, Vins El Cep has introduced wine tourism and organises tours and activities. “Wine tourism is a way of making people know about our work first hand”. It is also a way for them to make their product be known by local customers, as 85% of their cava and wines are exported.
Vins El Cep was born out of some neighbours’ friendship and love for the work they did in the vineyards and which, over the last forty years, has been reflected in the cava and wines that come out from the cellar of Can Llopart de les Alzines.
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