Friday, February 24, 2012

Codorniu Cava Factory Tour

About 30 minutes or so via train outside of Barcelona is a wine-growing region that's famous for Spain's version of Champagne, which is called Cava. I've wanted to go since I first came here about two years ago but just really haven't had the chance. It wasn't until my friends Lena and Toni, who I met on CouchSurfing, went to visit the Codorniu Cava factory with their Spanish class a couple of months ago that I decided that I had to go.

The small town of Sant Sadurni d'Anoia is a quick train ride from the city and is home to not only Codorniu but also the world-famous Freixenet Cava factory among others. The Freixenet factory is right next to the train station and, I imagine, the most popular to visit. (Side note: growing up in Philadelphia, we'd buy Freixenet "champagne" each New Years to celebrate.) This is the bus stop across from the train station and just outside the door of Freixenet. I like that the bus and directional signs have images of corks on them.

To get to Codorniu, you have to walk about 20 minutes or so through the town. Even though it's still late winter, I could see people starting to get the fields ready for this year's crop:

When Lena and Toni went to visit Codorniu, they had told me about how beautiful the buildings and grounds were. You can read about their visit here (in Swedish but way better than my version). The reception building at Codorniu was designed by a contemporary of Antoni Gaudi named Josep Puig i Cadafalch. Cadafalch is another famous Catalan architect who designed many beautiful Modernist-style buildings in and around Barcelona including the Amateller house and the Casaramona factory (now known as the CaixaForum), which is similar in style to the Codorniu building:

The photo above doesn't really do the building justice because of the crappy, late-afternoon and cloudy-day lighting. The inside photo of the waiting area is a little bit better and, I think, shows the amazing architecture:

One of the things that I like to do when I visit and/or audit factories is see their bathrooms. I believe that you can learn a lot about how a company treats its employees and customers by how they take care of the bathrooms. Well, not only was this probably the most beautiful bathroom I've ever been in but you could eat off the floor:

The tour started with a quick ten-or-15 minute video about the company and its history. I was surprised to learn that they've been around since 1551! After the movie, the small group walked over to see the main production, processing, and storage buildings. We didn't get to go inside this one but it's worth showing because of how nice looking it is:

The next building houses a small museum and the access to the underground area where the Cava is stored:

Inside the museum area of the building:

After a brief visit to the museum area, we went down about four flights of stairs to the first below-ground level of the wine-cave structure. It was here that I saw the modern method of how they store the bottles. The bottles are packed tightly on pallets and stored in the multi-level underground structure:

The scale of the spaces is difficult to communicate. The storage space resembled a very-large under-gound parking structure. It's tough to see in this photo but Cava bottles are stored off into the distance as far as the eye can see:

The tour was very informative and our guide was really great. The only bummer is that you don't get to visit the production facility during the tour. It'd have been super interesting to see them making the Cava and filling the bottles but oh well...

The final part of the tour involved getting on a small, open-air, train-like vehicle and getting pulled through some of the older parts of the wine caves. In this area, the bottles are still stored using the old method where they are stuck through holes in sheets of wood, which allows the bottles to be turned regularly (in the modern method, the pallets are turned by machines). I tried to take some photos during the ride but almost everyone of them were so blurry that they could have qualified for excellent big-foot photos. The only photo that turned out half decently was this one, which reminds me of the scene in Star Wars where they make the jump to light speed in the Millennium Falcon:

After our trip through hyperspace, we were led to the combined tasting area and shop. Of course, I took advantage of the generous "tastings" and managed to buy a couple of bottles to take home. Yummy, yummy, yummy!


  1. Darren -i luv yr blog - thanks for keeping it going!
    If you (or anyone that reads this) wanna try something awesome, put a teaspoon full of orange sherbet (or similar) into a champagne glass, fill with cavalry, accent with orange peel - to live for!! Cheers, Sean!

  2. @Sean - Thanks for reading! I have a cold bottle of cava and will definitely try your recipe. Thanks!

  3. Nice usual! (But I think your version is better..)

  4. @barcelena - No, yours is better! :-)


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