He grabs my arm and holds it tight. It’s a firm grip for an old man, surprising given his small stature. The grandfather of cava, Agustí Torelló Mata, looks up at me, eyes twinkling, ready to divulge all the secrets of his prestigious bubbly. But first, a tour is in order.
It’s full verema (harvest) in el Penedès, and there’s plenty of action happening on the grounds of Agustí Torelló Mata, one of the region’s most prominent producers. The bottling machine is going at full tilt, a shuddering cacophony that shakes the underside of my skin. We peer down into the lethal looking press, a massive metal corkscrew tangled with the juicy remnants of its last round with the Xarello. Men move about, checking gauges, tasting most. I’m given a pull from one of the large fermentation tanks so I too can sip on the percolating juice. It’s grapey and floral and pure. The first tastes bode very well for the harvest, they tell me.
I’ve come to investigate the Kripta, which caught my eye for its unusual, ovoid shape. Its bottle sports the rounded base of an old Roman amphora, a tribute to times past, though not ones we can remember. Nevertheless, there’s something nostalgic about it. The bottle is an elegant expression of the delicate, aged cava inside.
We descend into the cellar for a break from the noise. It’s quiet down here, a zen pocket far from the hustle upstairs. There’s jazz piping through the room, blasting through the bubbles quietly percolating in the dim light. I like to imagine them dancing.
What to try: If you’re splurging try the Kripta Gran Reserva 2008 (€53), if for no other reason than being served a bottle with its very own stand. The Reserva Barrica 2010 (€21) offers a similar taste, though, without breaking the bank. It has an elegant creaminess with flavors of cooked apple, notes of toasted vanilla and brioche, and subtle balsamics that reveal its complexity and balance. For a fresher option, try the Brut Nature Gran Reserva 2011 (€14). It’s clean and fruity, with notes of apple and caramel against a backdrop of fresh herbs and minty balsamic.
Where to find it in Barcelona:
El Petit Celler • Carrer de Beethoven, 8, Sarrià
Vila Viniteca • Carrer dels Agullers, 7, El Born
Quimet & Quimet • Carrer del Poeta Cabanyes, 25, Poble Sec