Tradition meets innovation
For a cellar such as Freixenet, there could hardly be any better location than Sant Sadurní d’Anoia. “With its varied soils - ranging from sand to limestone - and its Mediterranean climate, the Penedès region offer ideal conditions for viticulture,” Gloria Collell, International Wine Manager at Freixenet, explains before starting the tour of the traditional winery. Annually, up to 400,000 visitors from across the world explore the cava producer’s headquarters, whose origins date back to 1889. What initially started out as love between Pedro Ferrer Bosch – referred to as “el Freixenet” – and Dolores Sala Vivé, has grown into the world’s leading supplier of cava today. The son of Pedro and Dolores, Josep Ferrer, laid the foundation for international success when he joined the company in 1959. With him, cava production was professionalised and expanded further, however without sacrificing the product quality.
“TO THIS VERY DAY, FREIXENET RELIES ON THE TRADITIONAL PRODUCTION OF CAVA. THIS INCLUDES HAND-PICKED GRAPES AND FERMENTATION IN THE BOTTLE”,
says Gloria Collell. "We cultivate our grapes - primarily Macabeo, Xarel.lo and Parellada - on about 300 hectares of land belonging to the family.
In addition, we source from almost 1,200 regional winegrowers. We know we can fully rely on them as we can look back at longstanding relationships with these suppliers that date back to our founding. ” The cellar, which was once carved into the chalk cliffs by hand, digs itself into the depths, floor by floor. Here, countless bottles are stored in the dark for at least nine months, until the so-called “second fermentation” is completed in the bottle. The yeast then settles in the neck of the bottle in a three-day, automated shaking process. Once the yeast has settled, it’s frozen in the bottleneck and removed by opening the bottle. Before corking, the bottle is filled with the shipping amount, which decides on brut, seco or semi-seco. Up to 120 million bottles are stored on the shelves of the Freixenet cellars – including the two bestsellers Cordón Negro and Carta Nevada.
“WHILE CORDÓN NEGRO IS VERY POPULAR IN SPAIN, THE USA AND GREAT BRITAIN, IN GERMANY, CARTA NEVADA SELLS PARTICULARLY WELL IN THE CHARACTERISTIC FROSTED GLASS BOTTLE”,
Gloria Collell reports. In addition to the Carta and Cordón lines, the Freixenet portfolio also includes premium products from the Elyssia and Reserva lines, as well as Mederaño and Mia wine brands. In addition, Freixenet owns 21 wineries all over the world, where other wines and sparkling wines are produced. The brand enjoys great popularity; for example, the Spanish royal family is part of the loyal customer base and, for decades, Hollywood greats, ranging from Paul Newman to Penélope Cruz, have already appeared in the annual Spanish Christmas commercial. The guided tour through the cellars in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia impressively visualises the transition and development of the company over the course of time and makes it visible and tangible for visitors. While thousands and thousands of bottles are stored in historical cellars in absolute quiet and darkness, forklifts and robot arms are buzzing around on the next floor, transporting the bottles to the vibrating device and to the final processing stage in a last step. All of this is carried out completely automatically.
“AS SOON AS THE BOTTLE HAS BEEN FILLED, AND THE SECOND FERMENTATION BEGINS, IT’S NO LONGER TOUCHED BY HAND IN OUR HOUSE”,
Gloria Collell explains the process. She goes on to add: “Here, everything is done just-in-time. When we receive an order, our cellar masters organise everything in such a manner as to ensure that it arrives at the customer on time. In this way we ensure that the product isn't stored unnecessarily long at our cellars. Our system can handle up to 18,000 bottles per hour – seven days a week, 24 hours a day, in consistently-high cava quality.”
At first glance? Sant Sadurní d’anoia might appear to be one of these typical, little north spanish cities. But at second glance? The exciting story of a family business slumbers just beneath the surface, driven by a passion for good taste, special pleasures and the finest cava. With the capital of Catalonia behind it, and the coast, the sea and the mountains in close proximity. And for those arriving from Barcelona: with a small train station right in front of the door to the winery.