Eudald Massana Noya: biodynamic wines
Eudald was proudly showing us a muddy patch in the ground, a bit like a UK puddle gone bad. “Wild boar wallow” he explained, “they do their thing and we let them be, if they snack on a few grapes, that’s fine, so long as they leave the melons for us!”
Eudald’s is a biodynamic farm and respect for the natural environment is at the top of everything he believes in. He has 30ha of vines of both traditional and international varieties, as well as woodland and other crops such as wheat and olives. His current project is the culmination of a lifetime of winemaking and his enthusiasm is infectious. Visiting “La Maset” is great fun.
Nine generations of the Massana family have made wine in Sant Pau d’Ordal and Eudald himself was born in the farmhouse. His goal was to go back to basics - to take the best practices from the past and to combine them with modern winemaking knowhow. So the traditional Catalan practice of farming by the phases of the moon has been married with classic biodynamics and rigorous practice in the cellar. Everything, from planting, pruning and harvesting, to bottling and tasting, is carried out according to how the day falls on the calendar. On our last visit, there was some anxiety that we’d hit a root day and that tasting would be problematic but Rubén and I weren’t worried as we know from experience that everything Eudald makes is a delight.
Out in the vineyards Eudald darts about, fizzing with enthusiasm, occasionally sidetracked by a tweak to a vine here or a quick tug on a weed there. “Other people have sheep” he says “but I have vines”. They must be amongst the most pampered vines in the world. Going way beyond his encyclopaedic knowledge of the soils and microclimates on his farm, Eudald monitors all the vines individually to keep each one happy. If the season is wet, he leaves the weed cover and the ground unploughed to encourage evaporation. If dry, then shallow ploughing breaks the surface crust and prevents evaporation from below.
We passed rows of new wooden posts that are replacing older ones. Eudald pointed out that they’re made of untreated acacia wood and that he’s comparing them with posts made from sweet chestnut. His attention to detail is phenomenal. Previous vine supports were treated with preservatives but he wants to avoid any kind of soil contamination. Iron is another possible material, he says, as it’s recyclable. It’s because he never stops innovating that Eudald has been in demand as a consultant in Andorra, a new area for winemaking, where increasingly “mountain vines” are being planted. On the other hand, going against the grain can bring unexpected bother. When Eudald lit fires from prunings to prevent early morning frost damage to his beloved vines a fleet of fire engines and the police turned up at the farm. “Youngsters, they know nothing”.
The farmhouse and cellar are beautiful and a deservedly popular venue for vineyard visits. Under the house itself and down a flight of steep steps is the original (or “grandad’s”) cellar, where the family keep their archive of past wines. Sleeping in the steady coolness are rows and rows of past Massana family wines and cavas, the changing labels a social history in themselves.
The winery produces both young wines made and bottled from the previous vintage and wines aged in oak and bottle before release. The youngsters are mainly the “Cepells” (a word meaning the gnarly old bark which develops on old vines) in white, rosé and red styles, fresh and fruity yet complex enough to make great food wines. “El Primer” is a little bit different and reflects Eudald’s love of experimentation. This 100% Ull de Llebre is so light and fresh it’s beautiful lightly chilled by the glass and doesn’t easily fit into any pigeon-hole - other than delicious!
Eudald uses, xarel·lo, the “queen” of local grapes, to make his oak aged Avi Ton (in homage to his grandfather). This is a real treat, smooth and rounded with tropical fruits, honey and fennel. The grapes are all from a single vineyard planted in 1945. His aged red, “La Creueta” is named for the “little cross” made of decorative ironwork to be found in the vineyard where the Cabernet Sauvignon used in the blend grows. La Creueta spends a year in oak before further bottle ageing before release. A superb smooth, rounded food wine: all blackberry, elderberry, cinnamon, pepper and vanilla.
However, Eudald’s biggest range of wines lies in his expertise in cava, from the “Familia” range in a choice of semi-sec to brut nature styles all the way to the awesome ‘Mil·leni”’ a chardonnay/macabeu/xarel·lo blend aged for 40-48 months. He’s been very excited to produce his first zero sulphite cava, “Innat”, (xarel·lo/macabeu) which we were lucky enough to taste before its release. We’ve never tasted anything quite like this, delicate and fresh, slightly floral and toasty.
We love visiting La Maset. Eudald and his family are generous and enthusiastic hosts and we always leave with so much more understanding than when we arrived. Thank you Eudald, Ester, Oriol and Karina.