What is Corpinnat: Cava? No, better!
UNDERSTANDING THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN CORPINNAT VS CAVA
Sparkling wine is the result of a still wine that goes through a second fermentation producing gaz bubbles inside. According to the legend, it was the French monk Dom Perignon who figured out how to keep the bubbles inside the bottles and prevent them from exploding due to the gaz pressure. A different cork design and thicker glass bottles allowed him to “drink the stars”. Nowadays the most famous sparkling wine is that from the region of Champagne (France), and other regions aren’t allowed to use the word “champagne” to refer to their own sparkling.
In Spain sparkling wines are called “cava”, the Catalan word also used for the underground cellar where wines area aged. And it’s a Catalan word because it was in Catalonia where the first Spanish sparkling wines were produced in the late 1800’s, and because it’s in Catalonia where 90% of the sparkling wine of Spain is produced. However, the word Cava has now a competitor: Corpinnat, a label born to designate and protect high quality sparkling wines. Sounds great but there’s a downside: Corpinnat wines are not allowed to call themselves cava anymore. Let’s see why!
Why corpinnat producers left the Cava DO
Much has changed in Spain and Catalonia since the old times when farmers were happy to grow grapes to sell them to big wine corporations or to make cheap table wines. In the last 30 years the new generations of farmers and wine producers don't want a grey career anymore. They are passionate about what they do, and they are committed to their land, their family heritage, their community and the environment. And they want all this to be expressed in their wines.
They’ve also studied abroad and are happy to experiment with rare local varieties as well as fancy imported grapes, and try innovative techniques or dare aging their wines longer than usual to obtain precious wines. However, in the early 2000’s certain producers started feeling that the DO Cava (a national Origin Denomination label designed to promote and protect Spanish sparkling wine) was not helping them to shine.
The DO Cava standards were low, and the domination of large corporations such as Codorniu and Freixenet was blocking the evolution towards high quality products. The international market considered Cava a cheap champagne, and that hurt the small cellars trying to enter the luxury market with spectacular wines. The negotiations to create a special label for high quality cava wines within the DO Cava failed, so a group of 6 Penedes producers decided to take action and Corpinnat was born.
Corpinnat is a made-up word that comes from “Cor” (heart in Catalan) and “Pinnat”, from “Pinnae” – the latin origin of the word Penedes (the region where cava is produced). So Corpinnat are wines “born in the heart of Penedes”. And that is important, because one of the main goals of Corpinnat as a label is to identify their wines as attached to a certain territory, with its own particular qualities and flavors – as opposed to Cava wines, that can come from anywhere else in Spain. But that’s not the only difference.
The high standards of Corpinnat rules
Rules about grape farming and harvesting
- Grapes must be grown within the Penedes wine district – a specific area Corpinnat has defined not by man-made borders but according to geographic and geological characteristics.
- Grapes must be farmed following 100% organic principles.
- When the grapes are grown by farmers other than the wine maker, the producer must agree on fair guaranteed minimum prices. Long-term collaborations (at least for 3 years) are encouraged, while shorter collaborations with the farmers are restricted to maximum a 25% of the grapes used.
- Vinyards must guarantee a sustainable use of their water resources.
- Harvest must be done by hand.
Rules about wine making
- 100% of the winemaking process must be made within the house premises. It’s not allowed to purchase must or base wine.
- The cellars where Corpinnat wines are aged can’t be shared with other producers.
- Wines must be aged for at least 18 months.
- At least 90% of the grapes will belong to one of the 9 historical variety of Penedes: Macabeo, Parellada, Xarel·lo, Subirat Parent, Grenache, Monastrell, Sumoll and Rosé Xarel·lo. 4 more foreign varieties are authorized but only for a maximum of 10% of the final product: Chardonnay, Malvasia de Sitges, Pinot Noir and Trepat.
Corpinnat vs Cava vs Classic Penedes
|Farming type||Organic or Biodynamic||All types||Organic or Biodynamic|
|Aging time||Mínimum 18 months||Minimum 9 months (then 18 for Reserve, 30 for Grand Reserve and 36 for Paraje Calificado)||Minimum 15 months|
|Area||Penedes Wine Country||All over Spain||Penedes DO|
|Harvest||100% Manual||Not regulated||Not regulated|
|Local grapes||Macabeu, Xarel·lo, Parellada, Subirat Parent, Grenache, Monastrell, Sumoll, Rosé Xarel·lo.||Macabeu, Xarel·lo, Parellada, Subirat Parent, Grenache, Monastrell.||Macabeu, Xarel·lo, Parellada, Grenache, Monastrell, Samso, Tempranillo.|
|Foreign grapes||Chardonnay, Malvasia de Sitges, Pinot Noir and Trepat.||Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Trepat.||Chardonnay, Malvasia de Sitges, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Alexandria Muscat, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon.|
Recommended Corpinnat wines and producers
Gramona is one of the 6 founders of Corpinnat. This cellar is run by the 5th generation of the same family, and they grow their grapes following biodynamic principles. But what makes their spakling wines special is that (except for brut nature, that has no added sugars), their expedition liqueur is a unique decades-old brandy they ellaborate inhouse following a solera system. It is also one of the only two cellars in Sant Sadurní d'Anoia where they degorge their bottles by hand (everyone else does it by freezing their necks).
The Torelló family has owned the same state since 1395, and they have records of wine making there already from those old times. Torelló was also one of the six original founders of Corpinnat, which is remarkable since one of the current owners had been for years one of the leaders of the local Cava societies but had to quit when he felt powerless trying to introduce changes towards higher quality standards. They do organic farming.
Another of the 6 Corpinnat founders, Recaredo is a biodynnamic winery that specilizes in Brut Nature sparklings and only utilizes their own local grapes. Together with Gramona, they are the only to degorge their bottles by hand - although Gramona only does that for their premium wines, and Recaredo does it for their entire production.
Llopart makes also part of the 6 founders of Corpinnat. There's records of the Llopart family owning vineyards in Penedes already in 1395, and their first sparkling wine was released in 1887. Their cellar is located on the hills overlooking the Penedes plane, and now their production is all organic.They specialize in long aging sparkling wines, their oldest one being 108 months old.
Also Corpinnat founders, the Nadal family is documented to have been making wine in the same estate of Penedes since 1510, and commercializing sparkling since 1943. Organic farmers, the company has had nature and sustainability since Ramon Nadal recovered the lands that had been used as a military airport during the Spanish Civil war to create their current underground cellar.
Sabate i Coca
Sabate i Coca is the smallest of the original founders of Corpinnat. What makes this winery special is the fact that their state is divided in many small vineyards with very distinct characteristics. And they take advantage of that to create an appealing range of different wines, each one with a unique personality that speaks of the territory.
Huguet de Can Feixes
In October 2018, Can Feixes was the first cellar to join Corpinnat, only six months after the original founders created it. The Huguet family purchased in the early 1900's the state that where Feixas family had made wine since 1768. Their organic farming integrates seamlessly with the rich landscape around the cellars where Mediterranean woods and local crops mix together.
Do they also produce still wine? Yes.
How many Corpinnat products do they have? 2 (same wine, versions brut and brut nature)
Aging period: 7 years
Name of the product: Huguet Reserva (around $15)
Júlia Bernet entered Corpinnat in December 2018. They are a small family-owned company that started producing their own wines in the early 2000's. The personality of their wines lies in the location of their vineyards, up in the hills of the Ordal range. They do organic farming.
Mas Candí also joined Corpinnat in 2018, almost at the same time as Júlia Bernet. They are a group of youg but trained wine makers that farmed their grandparents vineyards and in 2005 got together to created their own brand. Organic farmers, this winery is proud to focus on local varieties and recovering ancient and almost lost types of grapes.
Can Descregut was the 10th member to enter Corpinnat, in 2020. They are a small family-owned cellar since 1992 produced base wine they sold to cava makers, but in 2005 they decided to start their own wine making brand. Their sparkling express the minerality of the chalky soils of their vineyards. They do organic farming, and were pioneers recovering the local variety known as Red Xarel·lo.
Pardas is the last member to enter Corpinnat when this post is written (but you can check here the updated list anytime), with their first Corpinnat wine released in 2022, a year after they joined.
Do they also produce still wine? Yes
How many Corpinnat products do they sell? 1
Aging period: Over 35 months
Name of the product: Hermos (around $20)
Tours to Corpinnat wineries
There are plenty of tour operators organizing wine tours to the Penedes district, but most of them don’t let you choose to visit a Corpinnat cellar. Here at ForeverBarcelona we do all kind of wine tours and we have contacts with most Corpinnat wineries. And since all our tours are 100% private tours, we can completely customize your itinerary to visit Corpinnat cellars if that’s your request. Here are some ideas:
What is your favorite Corpinnat sparkling wine?
Marta is the founder of ForeverBarcelona. She is a passionate tour guide that loves Barcelona and loves writing too. She is the main author of our Blog, and is committed to sharing her knowledge about Barcelona and her best tips with our readers.
RESEARCHING FOR A TRIP IS TIME-CONSUMING...
Need more inspiration?
Our 100% FREE Barcelona Collection will give you everything you need to organize the trip of your lifetime to Barcelona.
BEST INSIDER TIPS FROM THE PROS!