New! Napa Trip Planner

Armchair Sommelier Logo

13 Things I Learned from Grupo Codorníu

The right wine for you- 6 bottles for just $34.99!

Every bottle of wine is an opportunity to learn something.

This is why I enjoy participating in #WineStudio, a live, 4-week long, wine tasting and education series that takes place each Tuesday evening from 9-10pm EST on Twitter.  We discuss things like terroir, winemaking, grape varieties, culture, pairings, and occasionally (OK, often), there’s a smattering of tomfoolery.  It’s hosted by Protocol Wine Studio, and usually focuses on a singular theme, but wines and/or wineries change each week.  If you haven’t already, please join in the conversation!

Part of the #WineStudio experience is the opportunity to taste some sample wines from the guest wineries.  And in return, participants are asked to write-up their impressions of both the wines and the evening.  With so many of my fellow bloggers writing keenly about the very same thing, I wanted to come up with an angle that’s at least a little bit different.  So, I decided to make a list of the 13 things I learned.  (Why 13?  Why not?)

Our #WineStudio guest last month was Grupo Codorníu.  Based in Barcelona, Spain (the heart of Cava Country), Grupo Codorníu owns seven other wineries around the globe.  Over the course of four weeks, we chatted specifically with Anna Codorníu Cavas, Viña Zaco of Bodegas Bilbaínas in Rioja, Spain, and Bodega Septima in Mendoza, Argentina.

So, what did I learn?

  1. No matter how many times I try, I still cannot say Codorníu without messing it up.
  2. Codorníu was founded in Catalonia, Spain in 1551.  To give you the historical context, by the mid-1500s, the Renaissance was really starting to gain some momentum in Europe. Christopher Columbus had “discovered” America, Leonardo di Vinci had painted the Mona Lisa, Martin Luther nailed his Theses to a church door, Copernicus proposed his crazy idea that the earth revolves around the sun, and . . . Jaume Codorníu started making wine in Spain.
  3. Codorníu’s marketing slogan is brilliant:  We are not organized, we are passionate and spontaneous.  We are the ones who will celebrate anything.  We are not Champagne.  We are Codorníu.  (Dammit!  I still can’t say it.)
  4. Codorníu is the world’s oldest producer of Cava (you’ll nail that question when it comes up on Jeopardy now), and the first Spanish winery to produce sparkling wine using the traditional method (in 1872).
  5. Codorníu was also the first to introduce the Chardonnay grape into the traditional Cava grape blend of Parellada, Xarel-lo and Macabeo.
  6. Bodega Bilbaínas is one of Rioja Alta’s oldest wine estates, founded in 1859.  Historical context?  This would have been during the reign of Queen Isabella II, who was mostly a figure-head monarch (the army ran the real show) who preferred galavanting around Europe to the practical headaches of ruling a nation.  Queen Isabella was, however, very interested in wine, especially the Sherries of Jerez.
  7. Viña Zaco is a new, modernized brand (aimed at a young, hip, millennial audience) for Bodegas Bilbaínas.
  8. Viña Zaco does not use a Crianza or Reserva designation for its Rioja.  The grapes for Viña Zaco are sourced from some of the oldest Tempranillo vineyards in Rioja Alta, but after that, it’s all modern, all the time.  Viña Zaco spends only 9-12 months in oak, at the discretion of the winemaker.
  9. The presence of dill is a “tell” for the use of American oak.  This is where I admit I feel like I’ve had my head stuck in the terroir, because this came as a surprise to me.  I don’t think I’ve ever put my nose into a glass of wine and thought . . . dill.  And I’d notice dill (because I don’t like dill).  But I’m going to be on the lookout for it now!
  10. Septima means seventh in Spanish (OK, I knew that), but it was also the seventh winery introduced by the Codorníu Group (which I did not know), founded in 1999.
  11. Bodega Septima was built with natural stones from the Andes mountains, piled in the Pirca tradition of the Huarpe People, an ancient (nearly extinct) population indigenous to the Uco Valley.
  12. The Huarpe people developed primitive irrigation channels in the Uco Valley, laying the foundations for successful viticulture in the area.  So the next time you’re sipping a Mendoza Malbec, say a little thank you to the Huarpe.
  13. Bodega Septima has a 3,000,000 (yes, six zeros) bottle wine cellar.

Here are the three wines we tasted:

Codorníu Anna Brut NV 
The woman you see in the photo is Anna de Codorníu, and this drawing was modeled after the 1659 wedding bust of Anna de Codorníu and Miquel Raventós.  Anna was the first Cava to introduce Chardonnay into the traditional Cava grape blend of Parellada, Xarel-lo and Macabeo.  Anna is 70% Chardonnay, 15% Parellada, and 15% Xarel-lo and Macabeo.  I actually had my act together for #winestudio last month, and paired Anna with a José Andrés recipe, Cold Tomato Soup with Boiled Egg and Serrano Ham.  Killer pairing.  That said, Anna also pairs perfectly with Tuesday.  Reminds me of an almond brioche with a side of green apple slices.  I don’t find it as complex or mineral driven as Champagne, but hey, it’s $13 bucks. Winner.

Here are some of the pairings we enjoyed (virtually) with Anna:

  • My entry:  Cold Tomato Soup with Boiled Egg and Serrano Ham
  • Herb Rubbed Roasted Chicken with Gingered Leeks and Fried Rice
  • Linguini with Cream Sauce
  • Shrimp, Corn and Red Peppers
  • Pecorino Cheese, Ham & Blueberries
  • Crabckaes and Spicy Remoulade
  • Anna Cordorníu Cava suggests Buffalo Wings . . . must try!

Bodegas Bilbaínas Viña Zaco Rioja 2012 ⭐⭐⭐/87
Calling itself the “rebellious wine from Bodegas Bilbaínas”, Viña Zaca is stressing a shift toward the contemporary.  100% Tempranillo, from some of the oldest vineyards in Rioja Alta.  But after that, winemaking takes a decidedly modern bend.  Viña Zaco does not use a Crianza or Reserva designation for its Rioja, and spends only 9-12 months in oak, at the discretion of the winemaker.  The 2012 vintage spent only 9 months in 50% American and 50% French oak.

I’ll admit I was a little skeptical (I love my Old World Rioja), and at first sip, this wine tasted much more New World than Old.  However, the the longer it sat in my glass, the more its OW origins showed — a glorious bowl of cherries, sprinkled with tobacco, leather, and dust. By design, this wine is meant to be consumed young — it’s not terribly complex, but did I mention it’s $10?!?  It’s tough to squeeze more out of a wine at that price point.  And I love the sleek, modern label design — the tilda on the N/Z reminds me of a mustache!

Here are some of the pairings we enjoyed (virtually) with Viña Zaco:

  • My entry:  Chicken Marbella (Chicken with Prunes and Green Olives) — I make this all the time in the fall and winter months.
  • Charcuterie Plate
  • Pulled Pork
  • There were more, but I forgot to write them down (bad blogger!)

So, I found you a bonus . . . this fantastic, and slightly curious, Bodegas Bilbaínas marketing poster from 1913.  (I guess if you leave the “e” off of Champagne, you aren’t technically violating the 1891 Madrid Agreement, which gave France protection of the term Champagne??)

Septima Malbec 2014 ⭐⭐/83
100% Malbec, aged for 6 months in “third-use” American oak.  This is Septima’s entry-level Malbec, and (if I’m being honest — after all, my credibility goes out the window if I gush over every wine I taste for #winestudio) it tastes like an entry-level Malbec.  Now, that doesn’t mean it was a bad wine, but for my palate, it was a little pedestrian.  I prefer a more rustic and complicated style of Malbec — it’s part of the variety’s charm and allure for me.  This one is extremely fruit-forward (I felt like I was hit by a wall of blueberries), and after that, it just left me hanging.  But I have no doubt the young, urban-chic set in Buenos Aires loves this wine (it came as no surprise to me to learn this is Bodega Septima’s bestselling wine in Argentina).  Myself, I’d love to taste some of Septima’s higher-end (more complex) reserva entries.  $15.

Here are some of the pairings we enjoyed (virtually) with Bodega Septima:

  • My entry:  Roasted Chicken with Mashed Potatoes & Grandma’s Milk Gravy (I forgot to take a picture, but really, this is just a plate of beige comfort food, it’s not a very attractive photo).
  • Chicken Wrapped in Prosciutto
  • Cheesy Ravioli & Meatballs
  • Umami-Laden Bolognaise
  • Truffled Cheeses & Charcuterie
  • Churrasco & Grilled Provolone

Until next time.  Salud!

Armchair Sommelier Wine Tasting Guide

Spice up your next party with our FREE wine tasting guide! Learn what to look, smell, and taste for while appreciating your favorite bottle. We’ve also included a printable tasting notes template and a tasting wheel.