Catalan winery kicks off annual European grape harvest
Raimat began picking grapes on Monday night, starting a season that promises wines of ‘excellent quality’
The Raimat winery - part of the Codorniu Group, the world’s oldest producer of cava - on Monday became the first wine-maker in Europe to begin this year’s grape harvest. Working at night and harvesting the grapes by hand, the 2017 harvest promises to be the most organic in the winery’s history, thanks to the introduction of organic varieties of ‘Xarel·lo’, Grenache and Muscat grapes. The winery, whose products come under the Protected Geographical Status of DO Costers del Segre, in Lleida province, aim for all the wine it produces to be organic within three years, according to head of viticulture at the firm, Xavier Farré.
Thanks to the “balanced” climatic conditions in the local area this year, Raimat forecasts that the 2017 harvest will be 10% smaller than last year, but “of excellent quality”. The Chardonnay grapes gathered on the first night of the harvest will be used to make cava, which will reach store shelves in about 18 months.
Raimat was opened by Manuel Raventós in 1914 and today it is a European leader in sustainable wine-making. With over 200 hectares under cultivation, the firm is also one of the largest wineries in Spain. Raimat picks all of its grapes by hand and generally at night, as the lower temperatures after the sun has gone down help preserve the aromas of the grapes and help avoid undesired fermentation, says Farré.
"The climatic conditions have been very favorable, as they have been in the past few years,” says the expert, who adds, "we had a very hot June, but July has been typically normal with hot days but cooler nights." This, says Ferré, means that “the grapes are healthy and have ripened very well,” ensuring a top quality harvest. Raimat estimates it will pick some six million kilos of grapes this season, 10% less than last year.
With the company aiming for its production to be entirely organic in the next three years, Raimat has spent the past few years adapting its terrain, facilities and harvesting processes to make the transformation possible. “It is our way of offering the consumer quality wines with attitude, which express our respect for the environment,” insists Farré.
The firm became a pioneer in the application of sustainable wine-making systems when in 2011 it became the first winery to voluntarily join the emission reduction program of the Catalan Climate Change Office. In that same year, it also became one of three wineries to take part in the global pilot initiative, Wineries for Climate Protection. An active participant in European projects from the Life initiative since 2012, the Lleida winery this year began the Association of Vegetal Defense, aimed at improving the monitoring of pests.