We caught up with Eva Plazas, irrepressible head winemaker at Vilarnau, to get the lowdown on all there is to know about Vilarnau and its delicious cava. We also got to find out what she got up to when she wasn’t busy in the winery, fulfilling our cava needs. Have a read below to find out what she dared to share!
What was the first thing that sparked your interest in wine?
I was born in Sant Sadurní d’Anoia, the capital of cava. In this area it is traditional, on the day of your baptism, to have your dummy dipped in cava. From the day of my baptism my whole childhood has been linked to the world of wine and sparkling wine. If I wanted to earn some money, I would work in the wineries or serve cava at parties.
How did you start out in the wine business and why?
I was always interested in agriculture, so I started to study agricultural engineering at the Polytechnic in Barcelona, but when I was in my second year I realised that it was viticulture and winemaking that I was more interested in as it was what I was surrounded with at home. I then decided to do a masters in viticulture and winemaking.
Which of your wines are you most likely to be found drinking at home?
If I was looking for a particular wine to drink over the course of a meal, I would choose the Vilarnau Organic Brut Nature Reserva but when I’m with friends at a BBQ or eating tapas, I prefer to drink the Vilarnau Brut Organic Rosado Reserva.
If you could work in any other winemaking regions, which would it be and why?
In Champagne. I am passionate about sparkling wines and….until now…they produce the best fizz there.
What green practices do you follow in the vineyards and winery?
At Vilarnau we have opted to carry out a global sustainability and environmental project, which has been granted the WFCP certification (Wineries For Climate Protection). In 2006 our vineyard was certified organic, after 3 years of working hard to convert our vineyard. We installed a biomass boiler that works with vine shoots, reduced to zero diesel consumption, monitored our water and electric consumption and reduced the amount of waste we produced.
Is winemaking an art or science?
Winemaking is a science – during the process of making wine you can intervene with biology and chemistry to model the type of grape and wine that you want to obtain, depending on the climate, soil and the place. It is a science in that each terroir and each oenologist can create different products. Without these sciences there would be no winemaking.
Favourite local food/recipe?
I love a paella prepared by my grandfather, made with rice, rabbit and snails (in this area snails are called “viñalas”, since they are found in the vineyards). I know this dish can be a little difficult for some English people to stomach, especially when it’s made with rabbit and snails!!
Who, dead or alive, would be your 5 chosen dinner companions?
This is extremely difficult…
Bruce Springsteen (my favourite singer)
Richard Gere (my favourite actor)
Sarah Lark (I love her novels)
Pere Casaldàliga (religious guru, writer & defender of human rights)
Sarah Janes Evans MW (Master of Wine)
What advice would you give your younger self?
To travel more. I’d love to be able to travel a lot more than I do – to meet new people and learn about new cultures in other countries and share with them their knowledge and history.
If you weren’t a winemaker, what would you be?
I’d be a teacher because I adore teaching and communicating. Or I’d be a TV presenter, reading the news. I’d have loved to do that!
In your professional life, what is the most exciting development in winemaking you have seen and what do you think the future holds?
The most exciting development for us in winemaking is that we can make top quality cavas with a capacity to age. In the Penedes, it has always been thought that cavas can’t be aged for a long time due to the levels of acidity in our grapes, but if we pamper the vineyard, we look for the optimum ripening point, selection etc. … we can manage to make cavas that will last up to 10 years or more. For example, in the cellar we have bottles of our top cava, Albert de Vilarnau, which have been there since 2000. We have been tasting them regularly over the past 20 years and the evolution has been spectacular. There’s no reason why we can’t make cavas with the capacity to age.
When you are not working, what do you like to do?
I love sport! In winter I always find some time to go skiing and in summer I trek through the Pyrenees and swim in the Mediterranean Sea. I go to Zumba and spinning classing on a regular basis as well.