Josep M. i Toni Albet i Noya, started this ambitios project in 1998 collecting 7 lost grapes varieties.
The aim of the project is to test seven ancient grape vaieties, both from a point of view of vineyard management and of winemaking potential. The grape varieties have been recovered from old and abandoned vineyards, including one found in Albet i Noya's estate. The search for old varieties has been so successful that we are now planning a second phase of the project with seven more varieties that will start in 2012 and last until 2020.
We believe some of these varieties to date from before the phylloxera plague. When Phylloxera hit Europe's vineyards, the price of grapes and wine in the Penedès went sky high. As a result a lot of the less productive varieties were abandoned in favour of higher yielding ones. In the Penedès we believe there were some 30 varieties more than are currently cultivated. As we now know that often these lower yielding plants produce more concentrated fruit, these could be excellent candidate for winemaking.
Once the seven varieties (four whites and three reds) were selected, we grafted 500 vines of each, 250 with vigorous rootstock (Richter 110) and the other half with a less vigorous strain (41-B). The idea is to pick and vinify each strain separately.
.The wines are made in a small cellar, specifically designed for micro-vinifications with small 500 litre tanks, but all the technological advances of our main cellar.
To make the project as parcipitative as possible, and to get a feel for the real potential of these varieties, every year we send samples of the wines to 165 people in 24 countries: importers, distributors, somelliers, wine critics, renowned winemakers, as well as the Consell Regulador de la DO. Penedès and the Institut Català de la Vinya i el Vi (INCAVI). The participants then return their tasting notes and impressions of each wine.
With this feedback, and our own internal data over five years, we decide which of the varieties have the potential to be planted more extensively to produce wine on a commercial scale.
To date we can announce that after the fifth vintage in 2006, we finished the first phase of the project with two white varieties (Marina Rión and Vidal) and one red (Belat) that show both excellent quality and good farming potential. We plan to plant a hectare of each and officially request their approval by the Denominació d'Origen Penedès.
We are particularly grateful for the assistance of INCAVI in helping to identify each variety with DNA analysis and the support of the Swiss company DELINAT who are especially interested in the resistance of these varieties to the various diseases that can affect the vineyards, recovering varieties that are well adapted and resistant to fungi, thus allowing a healthier, more natural viticulture and hence their potential for organic wines.
In the coming years we will work to encourage the official organisms to accelerate the process of approving these three authoctonous varieties that we consider to be important to the future of the Penedès