Harvest Diary: Raventós i Blanc

Ben in an amphorae at pepe raventos

Ben Brown

Ben Brown shares his inspiring harvest experience with leading Spanish sparkling wine producer Raventós i Blanc, as part of the Liberty Wines Apprentice scheme.

Launched in 2007, the Liberty Wines Apprentice scheme is a diverse and challenging two-year programme, which comprises working across, and within, all aspects of one of the UK’s leading wine distributors. Since its launch in 2007, we have seen a phenomenal response to the scheme and some outstanding candidates.

As part of the experience, our Apprentices work two vintages in both the northern and southern hemispheres. What better way to learn about wine than by jumping into a fermentation tank to foot-tread some grapes?

This year, Ben Brown shares his fantastic experience with leading Spanish sparkling wine producer Raventós i Blanc.

Would you like to be a Liberty Wines Apprentice? Learn more about our Apprentice Scheme and the application process online here

My vintage experience at Raventós i Blanc was incredible.

Raventós i Blanc is a sparkling producer based in the heart of Penedès. They are prized for producing the highest quality traditional-method sparkling wine to come out of Spain and have their roots in the first Spanish Champagne-style wines. It was a privilege to learn from those who make the winery tick. Pepe Raventós, the current family member in charge of the Finca, describes the estate as ‘a working farm’ which perfectly encompasses the values and feeling of Raventós with all the animals and way of maintaining the vines.

My first day began with picking the Mas de Serral plot on the estate. This small parcel of Xarel-lo (the local prized grape variety) produces the very top wine from Raventós i Blanc. It was an incredible way to immerse myself in the Bodega’s culture and meet my fellow team members who I would be working with for the next month.

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My first two weeks followed a similar pattern. In the morning I spent time in the vineyards around Penedès taking samples from grower plots with one of the Bodega team members, Arnou. This was fantastic as I was able to learn all about the region and Raventós through endless conversations with Arnou and was able to see and get a sense of Penedès as a whole. In the afternoons I would be in the lab analysing the grape samples taken in the morning for their acidity, weight, pH and potential alcohol, to determine if they had the correct levels of each.

We tasted grapes throughout the vineyards to make sure all the flavours had developed and that they were ready for picking. I also began learning how to be a cellar hand at the height of the harvest season! This involves many jobs throughout the winery, including racking, battonage, must transfers, press work and a lot of cleaning.

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During my second two weeks, I spent much more time in the winery, as the grapes were coming in every day in high volumes. It was all hands on deck while also looking after the fermentations that had already started. We also incorporated several new fermentation vessels, including clay amphora and qvevri, an oak barrique, other oak barrels and stainless-steel tanks of different sizes. With this came more new tasks including punching down and pumping over, a bit of foot treading (I didn't need much convincing to hop in!) and hand pressing.

These new processes were needed to produce the other two labels which the Raventós produce. The first is Can Sumoi, low-intervention still wines made from grapes produced in Penedes Baix, a high-altitude area in the South of Penedès. It is a very exciting project for the team as they aim to revive this abandoned estate and celebrate Penedès indigenous varietals. The second label is Vins Pepe Raventós, which produces natural wines from estate-grown grapes. These wines are made in small batches and are closely watched over by Pepe himself, producing fantastic results (I was lucky enough to taste a few of the back vintages).

Raventós is an incredibly special place with people and its ethos at its heart. The estate thrives on biodiversity, with every decision meticulously implemented through Pepe’s vision of winemaking being harmonious with the nature surrounding the vines. It was a very inspiring environment for my first experience of winemaking and one that I will never forget.

Would you like to be a Liberty Wines Apprentice? Learn more about our Apprentice Scheme and the application process online here