Huge swathes of fields planted with Cabernet, Tempanillo, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Plus smaller plots of Albarino, Xarel-lo, Syrah. Production is huge, the largest in Costers del Segre resulting in bottles of sparkling, value-packed reds (Raimat Abadia) and stylish whites. And all the 2,245 hectares of vines are family owned, making it the largest family owned single estate in Europe.
The vineyards are sustainable and fully irrigated. Raimat established the first weather station in a European vineyard and was also the first Spanish vineyard to use satellite imaging and GPS technology to aid its vine management and harvesting. Over-seeing the wine making is Australian Mark Nairn. But a viticulturist overseas every metre of its vineyards and is able to manage irrigation, inputs, vine management and harvesting at micro level. Between the vines grow wheat, poppies and other plants while overhead swifts dart between the vines and far overhead feeding on the insects. For an ‘industrial’ plantation these signs of the balance, of the sustainability, that Raimat has installed in the land are welcome.
The winery is as mammoth as the vineyards. Combining the old architecture – the estate was founded in 1914 – with the new (underground facilities topped with a cabernet vineyard), there are stainless steel tanks, a full cooperage and an entrance way lifted straight from one of those American sci-fi TV series – all glass, columns and perfect ponds.
The vineyard tour inevitably followed by a multi-bottle tasting. I won’t bore you with my dry tasting scribbles but should point out a couple of ‘faves’. Hitting the UK shelves in a few months is the Raimat Gran Brut – a sparkling wine that they can’t lable as Cava. A Chardonnay-Pinot Noir blend (60%/40%) that offers a lovely array of flavours and different nuances to the Codorniu sparklers. Should be available for around £14.99. Also ‘coming soon’, although you’ll have to wait for the 2011 vintage, is the Raimat Terra Chardonnay. Here a fresh, sweetly fruited, slightly herbaceous palate makes for a full but lively Chardonnay. While they are not touting the credentials as a major marketing aspect the grapes used for the Terra are ‘in conversion’ to being organic.
A different style of Chardonnay – Raimat Castell de Raimat Chardonnay Barrica 2010 – should be available from independent merchants about now, at £9.99. Here 30% of the wine is barrel fermented, and has great texture from “plenty of leas stirring”. That oak is subtly manifested leaving the lemon-lime core to shine. “Commercial aspects dictate a little sweetness”.
Perhaps though you are more of a red wine peep. The Raimat Vina 43 Tempranillo 2009, an ‘as yet to be released vintage’ I believe, has a delicious meaty edged (that ebbs away with bottle age) but beautifully drinkable with a refreshing bank of acidity. (Comparing this 2009 vintage alongside the 2008 to the 2007 was interesting. The latter, where Mark Narin and his team had only been in place for 3 months, is markidly simple and straightforward).
Limited quantities of a 100% Syrah are also shortly being released. With a retail tag of £8.99 the 2008 vintage has a littlemore richness, a touch more power and a more balanced oak sweetness to the ‘blackcurrant crumble’ 2007…
This last photograph shows the new visitor reception entrance. Reflected in the glass you can just see the stainless steel tanks; the grassy bank on the right host the Cabernet vineyard on its summit. More photos from this Spanish trip on flickr. On SpittoonExtra are a few pictures of Raimat’s Castle.