The Freixenet Story – A Sparkling History of Cava

Sitges is not only full of enthralling, exciting and entertaining attractions, but it is also close to some spectacular sites of interest.  One of these is Freixenet, a world leader in the production of sparkling wines.  Their winery is just a 30-minute drive from the town and is a fascinating way to spend a few hours.  Tour the vineyards, visit underground cellars, see rows of oak barrels, sample the wines and learn about the traditions and history of a leading Cava producer.

Freixenet Family Ties

The roots of the sparkling wine producer lie in the middle of the 19th century with the union of two winemaking families.  They were the Ferrers who owned La Freixeneda, a 12th-century farming estate, and the Sala family who had been exporting wine to South America since 1830.

The joining together of the two families came about when Dolores Sala, the granddaughter of the founder of the Casa Sala wine exporting company married Pedro Ferrer of La Freixeneda.  The company they formed took the name Freixenet, which was Pedro’s boyhood nickname.

The move into sparkling wines that are known and enjoyed all over the world came about as a result of two incidences: the loss of the Spanish colonies on the South American continent and the phylloxera plague that devastated red grape vines in vineyards across Europe.

Pedro and Dolores were an ideal match, both personally and professionally.  She had unrivalled expertise in winemaking and he was an entrepreneur.  As a result of the plague, they switched to growing white grape varieties, and inspired by the popularity of Champagne, decided to start production of sparkling wine.  The land and climate in this part of Spain provide excellent grape growing conditions and the grape varieties they selected are still used to make today’s popular beverage. They include Macabeu and Xarel.

Success, Cellars and Expansion

Success came relatively quickly and on the back of this, the young couple decided to build new cellars in San Sadurni de Noya, the building you will visit during a tour of the estate.  It was designed by the Catalan modernist architect Josep Ros i Ros.

Following World War I, the family decided to expand its operations overseas and in markets such as the United Kingdom and the United States. Pedro travelled to the US and a subsidiary was opened there in the 1930s.  However, tragedy struck when he returned to Spain and lost his life in the Spanish Civil War. That left his wife and children to run the winery.

In 1941, they launched Carta Nevada in green frosted bottles.  It is known for bridging the gap between dry and sweet sparkling wine and has been one of the company’s biggest success stories.

A New Generation Adds Some Fizz

The business environment was tough, especially in the aftermath of World War II, but when Dolores’ youngest son, José Ferrer took the reins, the company embarked on its greatest expansion.  The young, visionary winemaker fulfilled his parent’s dreams of opening up Freixenet to the world.

In the 1970s, Freixenet exported its first bottles to the United States and in 1974 Jose introduced Freixenet Cordon Negro in the distinctive dark frosted bottle.  This has earned it the sobriquet of the Black Bottle Bubbly.

The company sold its very first Cava in 1914, and 100 years later it is still going from strength to strength.  In addition to its own vineyards, Freixenet relies on the production of more than 2,000 wine growers.  Other grapes now used in Cava production are Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Subirat.

Freixenet Today

Today, Freixenet is still a family owned and family run business, with the grandchildren of the founders taking the reins.  They are continuing with the passions and traditions that have made Freixenet’s Cava one of the most famous and popular sparkling wines in the world.  Now that is something that Dolores and Pedro would no doubt be proud of.

A visit to the Freixenet cellars is a great day out from Sitges. It’s an easy 30-minute drive from Sitges and the entrance fee is very reasonable at just 7 Euros for Adults and 4.20 Euros for kids. Under 8s are free. There are also discounts for groups.

Sitges Hills Villas can arrange discounted entrance fees and transport if necessary. Just contact our service team at [email protected] for more information. ¡Salud!