Vinya del Noguer: natural Xarel.lo wines from Pepe Raventós

Pepe Raventós was in town promoting his new natural wines, so naturally I was keen to hear all about them.

‘Xarel.lo is world class,’ says Pepe, ‘and In my opinion it can rival any noble grape in the world. The area has suffered a lot of confusions, with too many grapes and too many styles, searching for its soul. The dream I have for Penedes with Xarel.lo is a little Burgundy inspired.’

‘This project started when we were living in America, and we started to become exposed to so-called “natural” wine,’ he says. ‘We started to taste wines in northern Chicago at Rootstock.’ Pepe cites Bornard and Overnoy as some of the influences on him: this was back in 2010/2011 when you could still get these wines quite easily. ‘We were lucky enough to spend some time in the Jura and lose the fear of the classic enology that you have to know. We decided that when we came back from America to live in Spain, we’d come back to the farm and live there.’

They moved back in June 2016, and refurbished their home. ‘In the garage we decided to have no cars, but instead we wanted to do wines without any protection. We chose a vineyard, called Vinya del Noguer. It is half a hectare of 50+ year old vines of Xarel.lo. It is very interesting because the soil profile is a combination of clay and limestone. The limestone is fossilized limestone, because this was covered by the sea for 3 million years about 18 million years ago.’

‘Noguer is in the middle of the slope where you find a balance of the limestone and the clay. This is about 80 m from the garage, so we thought this idea of proximity is important.’ The first vintage they crushed with their feet and put it into two amphorae and a fuder.

‘Xarel.lo is the king of the white grapes,’ says Pepe. ‘It concentrates flavour. It maintains an immense of acidity: we are harvesting at 11 Baume and a pH below 3. It is naturally low yielding, and it has survived the greed of the people because of this quality potential, while Parellada and Macabeo cannot compare at this level of quality. They are there because of their high yields.’

He adds, ‘Spain is a paradise for old vineyards, and Penedes is one of the biggest paradises because there are plenty of old vineyards.’ But the issue is that it isn’t possible to farm old vineyards well when the prices for grapes is so low. Something has to change. ‘In Raventos we are paying 1€ per kilo for our sparkling wines. It is the highest price, and we have beautiful farmers. We can’t be the future for all Penedes.’

Noguer translates as walnut. In addition to this very special wine, much larger quantities of an excellent natural Xarel.lo called Can Sumoi are made.


Pepe Raventós Mostres Noguer Xarel.lo 2021 Penedès, Spain
This has a beautiful citrus nose, with some seashell and spice characters. The palate is concentrated, mineral and fine with more citrus characters and a slightly saline chalky character. There’s real precision to this wine, which is a beautiful minerally expression of Xarel.lo. 95/100

Pepe Raventós Vinya del Noguer 2019 Penedès, Spain
This is lively and intense with spicy detail and notes of pear, peach and lime, with some saline notes. Very fine and pure with a salty twist to the fruit. Layered and fine. 95/100

Pepe Raventós Vinya del Noguer Xarel-lo Àmfora 2018 Penedès, Spain
Slightly cloudy and mineral-smelling, this has a hint of fibre glass on the nose. Nice depth and richness on the palate with precision, too. Distinctive stuff, finishing with a savoury twist. 92/100

Pepe Raventós Vinya del Noguer Xarel-lo 2017 Penedès
Very fresh and aromatic with lime, lemon and a hint of wax, as well as some richer pear fruit. The palate is fresh and intense with spicy, saline notes. So precise, mineral and energetic. 95/100

Pepe Raventós Vinya del Noguer Alt Xarel-lo 2015 Penedès
Deeper in colour than the others, but so textural, mineral and fresh, with some fine spices as well as pear, peach and lemon fruit. Such precision here. 96/100

Older notes:

Can Sumoi Xarel.lo 2017 Penedès, Spain
12.5% alcohol. This is intense and structured showing lovely pure, vibrant fruit. Citrus, green apple, some spice and some pithy notes, with good density. It’s a really vibrant, delicious white with a lot of intensity and a mineral dimension on the finish. 92/100 (09/20)

Can Sumoi Xarel.lo 2019 Penedès, Spain
12% alcohol. This is bright, delicate, linear and pure with crisp citrus fruit. It’s really poised with a nice saline streak and some mineral characters. Good acidity here: all about the texture and the integration of the acidity, with amazing purity. Very fine and expressive. 94/100 (09/20)

Pepe Raventos Vinya del Noguer Xarel.lo 2017 Spain
12.5% alcohol. This is a natural wine made from 1.48 hectares of vines planted in 1970. Slightly cloudy, this is pure, focused and really mineral with some green apple, spice and citrus notes. The main quality is the texture and length: this is finely-grained and has a long, expanding, saline finish. So distinctive with a nice umami savoury edge to the palate, covering the whole spectrum of tones, from bass to treble, with plenty of middle too. So much to like about this. 93/100 (09/20)

Pepe Raventos Vinya del Noguer Xarel.lo 2016 Spain
13% alcohol. This is a natural wine made from 1.48 hectares of vines planted in 1970. It’s a cloudy yellow colour. The nose is spicy and vivid, with some really interesting yellow fruit and spice notes, as well as a touch of apple. The palate has really vivid acidity, with a sharpness and crunch, as well as a touch of acid sweetness. It’s grainy, vivid and has a lot of detail. This tastes very natural: I really like the complexity, but if you like your wines conventional, this isn’t for you. It’s a wonderful walk on the wild side. 93/100 (09/20)

Pepe Raventos Vinya del Nouger Xarel.lo 2015 Spain
Raised in concrete and ceramic vessels with no additions. Slightly cloudy. Tangy and intensely mineral with crystalline lemon fruit and a saline twist. Very brisk linear acidity on the finish. This is intriguing, bright and extremely mineral. Has a slight hint of apple and pear richness, but very fresh and quite delicate with high but well integrated acidity, and an appley twist on the finish. 93/100 (01/20)

Pepe Raventos Vinya del Mas Ancestral 2015
12% alcohol. 0.57 hectares, planted in 1970. This is undisgorged methode ancestral, and it didn’t gush. It’s totally natural, so it has spent five years on lees. This has lovely density, with rich pear and peach fruit, as well as some baked apple and spice character. It’s complex and savoury, with some yeasty, spicy warmth. There’s a slight honeyed warmth, too. Such a distinctive natural wine, with real depth. Very natural, but quite lovely. Very hard to rate a wine like this. 91/100 (09/20)

UK agent: Keeling Andrew