#215 – May 19, 2012
This week’s newsletter discusses one of my all-time favorite wineries – Capcanes of Spain. Despite much love for this delightful winery, having enjoyed its kosher vintages starting with 1998; I have never dedicated a newsletter to the winery and its history (though I have reviewed and recommended their wines on a constant and consistent basis since this newsletter’s inception).
While many acclaimed non-kosher vineyards around the world make kosher cuvees of certain wines in limited runs, Capcanes is unique in that it was its kosher cuvee that initially put it on the map. Located in the village of Capcanes in Spain’s Montsant region (which Capcanes is helping put on the map as a serious wine-growing region), a close neighbor of Spain’s famed Priorat, the Capcanes winery was founded as a cooperative by five local wine-growing families in 1933. The cooperative was founded in order to pool the growers’ resources, protect their economic interests and ensure proper quality, pricing and distribution for their wines. For many years they crushed their own grapes and sold bulk wine at competitive prices to many wineries in the region, including the world-famous Torres Winery; however by 1991 they had given up selling bulk wine and were simply selling the grapes directly.
Around that time, Angel Teixido (the senior wine maker who is also in charge of the vineyards) decided to make a few thousand bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon wine on his own. By sheer happenstance, members of Barcelona’s small Jewish community tasted the wine in 1995 and found it delicious, leading them to ask the cooperative’s owner if Capcanes would produce a dry kosher table-wine for the community’s usage, promising to purchase the entire output of any such kosher wine. With Capcanes’ finances floundering and despite the not-insubstantial required capital outlay (for new kosher equipment and rabbinic supervision), the potential for an economic turnaround was recognized by the cooperative and they acquiesced to the request. The new equipment allowed the winemakers to isolate and vinify their best fruit, and the resulting wine – the Peraj Ha’Abib, Flor de Primavera – was born to instant acclaim, not only among the Jewish community but to wine lovers throughout the wine world. With this initial success in hand, the winery undertook more serious capital investments, procuring better equipment, technology, labor and talent and providing itself with the additional resources (it already had top-tier fruit) to become a winemaking powerhouse.
Within a relatively short period of time, Capcanes was transformed from a bulk wine producer to a serious winery with a respectable portfolio of, mostly non-kosher high-end, quality labels. The winery mainly produces wines from Garnacha (Grenache), Carinena (Carignan), Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. The ranks of the cooperative also grew and today include over 170 members of which nearly 80 are farmers/growers, raising grapes on over 600 acres of prime grape-growing land. While the winery produces approximately 600,000 bottles a year, the kosher production is only 25,000 – 30,000 bottles annually, equaling less than 2% of the winery’s total production. In addition to Angel, the team also includes Jürgen Wagner, a delightful young man whose talents are apparent in every drop of wine and who is also in charge of the wineries considerable export efforts. Beside by virtue of his considerable wine making talents, Jürgen is also partially responsible for putting Capcanes on the map by being among those who initially recognized the quality of the kosher wine while he was working at a neighboring winery, and introducing an impressed American importer to the wines, leading to the production of new, non-kosher wines that the importer sold out of with little efforts, putting in motion the move towards a large, mainly non-kosher and highly successful winery.
As would become such a special winery, even the name of its flagship wine has a twist to it. The first mashgiach (kosher supervisor) of the winery was of North African decent and confused his Hebrew and Arabic, translating the Spanish “Flor de Primavera (“Spring Flower”) into Peraj Ha’Abib (“Spring Lover”) instead of the correct Hebrew translation of “Perach HaAviv”. Given the voluptuous deliciousness of this wine, the “incorrect:” translation isn’t that far off…
I first encountered the Peraj Ha’Abib shortly after I moved to New York in 2004, where it was being sold at Manhattan’s PJ Wine in limited distribution and retailing for approximately $30-35 a bottle. Royal took over its distribution with the 2003 vintage, tacking on OU supervision, redesigning the label and utilizing its well-oiled distribution machine to get this incredible wine into as many wine loving kosher consumers as possible, which they did with great success. As a result, the price also jumped to around $50 a bottle, still worth it for such a terrific wine but no longer the previously tremendous bargain it was. Prior to Royal’s involvement nearly 80% of the kosher production was sold to the non-kosher market, whereas these days the split is closer to 50-50%, with 30% being sold in the United States and the balance distributed to 45 countries around the globe.
The winery’s second kosher wine, the Peraj Petita was introduced with the 2006 vintage as a fruit forward, ready to drink and mostly unoaked wine, evolving over the years into a slightly more serious wine, whose production levels are anticipated to continue rising slowly to meet increased demand (the La Flor and Peraj Ha’Abib are expected to maintain their limited levels of production). 2007 saw a new high-end release of a single varietal old-vine Grenache (from 100 year-old vines) – the Flor la Flor, whose second released vintage is the current 2010 one. I have reviewed a number of vintages for each of these wines below.
While every vintage of the Peraj Ha’Abib since 2000 is still drinking well and I have recently tasted every one of them, I included only three different vintages of the wine in this newsletter (see prior newsletters for recent notes for the majority of the other vintages and please feel free to contact me directly for any specific vintage). For whatever it’s worth and for those interested in scores, last year, Robert Parker’s [recently deposed] taster Jay Miller rated two of Capcanes’ wines, the 2009 Peraj HaAbib and the 2007 La Flor, giving them scores of 95 and 94 respectively.
Capçanes, La Flor de Flor, Montsant, 2007: The kosher version of the wineries acclaimed Cabrida wine can safely take its place among Capcanes’ best. Made from Grenache vines that are between 80-110 years old (see #186) and aged in new and old French oak for 18 months, this wine manages to be full-bodied, elegant and feminine in one fell swoop, remaining rich, deep and concentrated with nice hints of spicy wood. Well integrated, near-sweet and velvety tannins provide a solid backbone for layers of black cherries, raspberries, plums, violets and other flowers, spices and some dark chocolate, with hints of smoky oak and flinty minerals leading into a caressing finish of dark fruit, wood and spices that lingers delightfully. A long finish rounds out this wine that is finally drinking beautifully and should cellar nicely through 2016, potentially longer.
Capçanes, La Flor de Flor, Montsant, 2010: The second release of Capcanes’ top-tier wine (in my opinion the Peraj Ha’Abib is still the “Flagship”) and a worthy successor to the amazing 2007 vintage reviewed above. Surprisingly delicate given its family history, the wine is made with 100% old-vine Grenache grapes, is medium bodied with a nose of sweet crushed berries, hints of spiciness with some good earthy minerality that rounds things out. As with everything I have tasted from Capcanes, a beautiful elegance and perfect harmony between the fruit, wood and tannins makes this wine a real treat. As the varied components still need some time to settle down and meld together, I’d give this wine another 12-18 months before opening and then enjoy through 2018.
Capcanes, Peraj Ha’abib, Flor de Primavera, Monsant, 2000: I recently tasted the 2000 and 2001 vintages and the 2000 is doing better than the 2001 (which is still really good but should be drunk now) and probably has 1-2 years left (although I plan to check in on this one in a few months again to make sure). A blend of 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Garnacha, 20% Tempranillo and 20% Carinena grapes, this wine is a full bodied, complex, elegant and layered wine. A nose still loaded with blackberries, cassis, coffee, oak and vanilla with a palate of black fruit, cassis, and chocolate and near sweet oak with tannins completely integrated and good acidity keeping the whole package together all leading into an extremely long and slightly minty finish. An absolute and unmitigated pleasure but one that should be enjoyed now or over the next 12 months (I have had mixed success with the 2001 vintage, with some bottles drinking well and other seemingly over the hill. If you have any left – drink now).
Capcanes, Peraj Ha’abib, Flor de Primavera, Monsant, 2008: A full-bodied and supremely elegant blend of 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Grenache and 30% Carignan, with layers of black forest fruit, plums, cassis, hints of spicy oak and wonderful warm chocolate than envelopes you as you are hit with layer after layer of fruit, spice, wood and delicious depth, complexity and sexiness. A rich palate of fruit and wood is enhanced by tantalizing hints of tobacco leaf, coffee and dark chocolate, leading into a lingering finish that hangs on, seemingly forever. Great structure and nicely integrating tannins predict promise that this wine will continue in the steps of its forefathers and continue to develop and cellar comfortably for years to come. Give it another couple of months before enjoying and cellar through 2018.
Capcanes, Peraj Ha’abib, Flor de Primavera, Monsant, 2010: After a seemingly one-off more restrained profile (ala the La Flor) with the 2009 vintage (that had equal percentages of the three grapes, in a slight deviation from the 2008 and this vintage), the latest vintage of my favorite Spanish wine is once again big, bold and bombastic with its traditional extracted complexity and powerful elegance readily evident at first sip. A blend this year of 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Grenache and 30% Carignan with 14.8% alcohol and aged in French oak for 12 months, this is a blockbuster of a wine that needs time but will shine in the years to come. A somewhat muted nose of black forest fruit, delightful spices, rich oak and tannin with Capcanes’ traditional roasted espresso and dark chocolate overtones that takes some time in the glass top open up and reveal its charms. A tight and dense palate of ripe fruits, more toasty oak and mouth coating tannins shows graceful balance behind its robust bite, all of which hint at the pleasure to come. A lingering and near-sweet finish round out this treat. This wine needs another 12-18 months before it will be ready for prime time after which is should cellar nicely through 2020, likely longer.
Capçanes, Peraj Petita, Monsant, 2008: Until recently, I was not a fan of Capcanes’ entry level wine – the Petita. However, the 2008 vintage changed that for me and is drinking beautifully right now (Jancis Robinson certainly agreed with me on this one). A medium bodied blend of Grenache, Samsó and Tempranillo, with plenty of oak and tannin on the palate, reminding you that it’s a wine to be taken seriously despite its great entry-level price and status on the Capcanes totem-pole. As with its older and more regal brethren, the wine is incredibly well-balanced, with a palate of black fruits, cassis, lavender and wet earth with some chocolate and spice on the mid palate leading into a surprisingly long and minerally finish with more oak and chocolate.
Capcanes, Peraj Petita, Monsant, 2009: The Peraj Petita easily joins the mini-club of wines that are “second” labels in name only and not quality. Other members of this great QPR club include the Barkan Classic Pinot Noir, Gamla’s 2009 Syrah and Castel’s Petit Castel among others. Starting with the 2009 vintage, more of the Ha’Abib designated wine has been blended into the Petita, giving it a more robust mouthfeel. A medium bodied wine with a rich nose of ripe black fruit, tobacco, toasty oak and plenty of tannin that has already integrated a bit but still needs some time to settle down and play nice reflecting the 10 months partially spent in a combination of French and American oak. The mouth has more of the same with plenty of spicy wood, blackberries, cassis and cedar leading into a long and lingering finish. Given how nicely the 2008 is drinking, I would give this wine another 3-6 months to further come together and for its surprisingly robust tannins to settle a bit, and then enjoy through 2014. A decent price tag rounds out this 14.5% wine and earns it a YH Best Buy with approximately 15,000 bottles produced.