|Driving to the heart of the story in Penedès|
might be the best-known wine in the world. The Spanish company makes more than 100 million bottles of Cava each year, with more than half of it in the familiar black bottle of Cordon Negro Brut.
Most wine companies of its size are corporate. But Freixenet
-- which owns 17 other wineries worldwide -- is still owned by the Ferrer family and run as a family business. I recently visited the company headquarters in Penedès, Spain, but I'm not going to try to tell you the Freixenet
story per se. I'm just going to share 10 things I found interesting.
1. In the 1930s, company president Pedro Ferrer was executed in the Spanish civil war by Republican forces. Like most industrialists, Ferrer sided with Franco; had he not, he risked having his property seized. Instead, his execution order was signed by the short-lived president of Catalunya, who was later executed himself.
|Freixenet decides which grapes to plant by elevation|
uses only one type of yeast to ferment all of three of the Spanish white grapes (Macabeo, Parellada and Xarello) that it uses for Cava. Freixenet
F5 yeast was isolated in 1987, and has as much as anything to do with keeping 60 million bottles of Cordon Negro (which means "black ribbon") consistent every year.
3. "Cava" is, in my opinion, the worst-defined wine region in the world. It looks like an archipelago, or a rash, across far eastern Spain, with legal areas wherever big producers were making Cava when the name was passed in the 1980s. That happened because Spanish producers like Freixenet
had been calling their wine "Champagne," but had to change when Spain joined the European Union in 1982. Producers eventually settled on the name "cava" because the wine is made in caves, but nobody wanted to tell existing big producers that they couldn't use the Cava designation for their wines from elsewhere. The great majority of Freixenet
's wines come from Penedès, the main district of Cava, but they cannot use any subdesignation such as Cava-Penedès for political reasons.