Familia Ferrer

D.O. Cava

After many years of image decline and ridicule, Cava has been receiving something of a makeover of late, and currently in the process of re-establishing itself as a leading producer of quality sparkling wine.

Cava, as a wine style, was officially recognised in 1972, however, in 2020 the Cava Regulatory Council unanimously approved a new zoning and quality designation for the DO to protect authenticity and to improve traceability.

Whilst Cava may have had its origins in the Penèdes (now referred to as the Comtats de Barcelona, with the town of San Sadurnì d’Anoia recognised as its capital), there are, for historical reasons, three other areas in Spain where Cava can be produced:

  • Valle del Ebro (effectively the area around Rioja)
  • Zona de Levante (east of Valencia)
  • Viñedos de Almendralejo (an obscure appellation in the south-west, close to the Portuguese border, with just two existing producers)

The Comtats de Barcelona (which represents around 95% of Cava production) has also been subdivided into its own five regions, making it easier to determine provenance:

  • Valls d’Anoia-Foix
  • Serra de Mar
  • Conca del Gaià
  • Serra de Prades
  • Pla de Pontent

Permitted grape varieties:

These are split into two categories:

  • ‘Traditional varieties – which represent 82% of production:
  • Macabeo (14,000 hectares)
  • lo (10,000)
  • Parellada (7,000)


  • Other varieties – which represent the remaining 18% of production:
  • Chardonnay (2,700)
  • Garnacha Tinta (1,800)
  • Trepat (1,200)
  • Pinot Noir (800)
  • Subirat Parent (250)
  • Monastrell (80)

The new zoning regulations were followed, in 2022, with the introduction of updated Quality Seals which help to identify the different categories of Cava.

These official categories are now designated as Cava de Guarda and Cava de Guarda Superior. The new classification system clearly traces the origin and allows the consumer to understand the different styles and qualities on offer, according to their age and the time on their lees.

Cava de Guarda – The youngest style of Cava, aged in bottle for a minimum 9 months on the lees before release. Stating a vintage on the label is not obligatory.

Cava de Guarda Superior:
– a minimum of 18 months on the lees and with the vintage obligatorily declared on the label. In addition, the vines should be at least 10 years old and (from the 2025 vintage) be organically certified. Yields are limited to 10,000 kilos per hectare.

Gran Reserva
– As above, but with a minimum of 30 months on the lees before bottling.

Cava de Paraje Calificado – The name paraje calificado indicates which Cavas are from a single approved location. In addition, the wines must spend a minimum of 36 months on the lees. The vines need to be estate-grown and vinified and bottled on-site. Harvesting should be by hand and with a stricter maximum yield of 8,000 kilos per hectare. Production style is limited to Extra Brut, Brut and Brut Nature. Currently, it is understood that out of 345 registered producers of Cava there are only six wineries which conform to this standard.


The residual sugar content (or dosage) officially determines the final profile of the different Cavas:

  • 0-3g/l: Brut Nature
  • 0-6g/l: Extra Brut
  • 0-12g/l: Brut
  • 12-17g/l: Extra Seco
  • 17-32g/l: Seco
  • 32/50g/l: Semi Seco
  • +50g/l: Dulce


Familia Ferrer

Jose Maria Ferrer

The company of Familia Ferrer was established as recently as 2018 by José Maria Ferrer and his wife, Suzanna, although the family claim a long and well-documented existence in the region. Owners of the farm La Freixeneda since the 12th century, they have been making wine in Mediona within the Alt Penedès since 1616.

The story really started when José Maria’s maternal great-great-grandfather married into a family of barrel-makers in Sant Sadurnì d’Anoia. As part of the production process, the coopers would ‘condition’ the barrels with wine, which was then sold off, alongside the finished casks. Such was the wine’s popularity that the family decided to convert the cooperage into a winery and established 20 hectares of vineyards.

The firm of Can Sala (‘Can’ which translates as ‘house’ in Catalan) was created in 1861.

The relocation to Sant Quintì came about in the 1880s when José Maria’s great-grandfather, Juan Sala, purchased property in this hillside village and established a winery, literally at the rear of the family house. Around the same time, Juan entered into local politics and became, for several years, the mayor of Sant Sadurnì d’Anoya.

As table wine production started to fall at the end of the 19th century, many local wineries started to become more interested in the production of sparkling wine.

It was with the union of Juan Sala’s daughter, Dolores, to Pedro Ferrer in 1914 that the recently married couple decided to give their newly founded collective a single name. After building a dedicated sparkling wine cellar, they christened their brand Freixenet. It was good timing. The demand for Cava was starting to gain momentum.

Pedro and Dolores had two boys: Juan, the eldest and Josep the father of José Maria.

In 1936, sadly both Pedro and Juan, were killed during the Spanish Civil War. The family also lost control of the business during this period but regained it again in 1939 after the conflict had ended. Since the two children were too young to take any active role at this point (Josep was 14 just 14 at the time), it was the now widowed Dolores who drove the business forward (following a trend for veuve’s elsewhere to take control of a famous sparkling wine house…).

In 1958, Dolores stepped down, with Josep taking charge of the business’s commercial interests. The introduction of the now-famous Cordon Negro label in 1974 saw the company launch itself internationally.

By 1989, José Maria had become the third generation to enter the business and, by this stage, Freixenet had established itself as the market leader in the Cava market. Today, it remains the largest quality sparkling wine-producing company in the world.

Despite the scale of the Freixenet operation, Josep Ferrer had other ideas. In 2000, he decided to restore the original Can Sala cellar, located at the rear of the Sant Quintì property, with the objective of making wines from two plots of the family’s low-yielding old vines.

The winery, which is dedicated exclusively to the production of long-aged vintage Cava, resembles a museum piece, a testament to how these wines might have been produced well over a century ago.

Can Sala Champagne Press

The cellar is centred on the original wooden horizontal basket press, manufactured, in 1895, by the firm E. Dubois in Cumierès a commune in the Marne region of Champagne. Apparently, it was constructed, then dismantled and transported to its present location. Manually operated until in the 1920s, it was adapted to incorporate an early vehicle engine with which to apply pressure.

The press has a capacity of 6,000 kilos, but the large surface area ensures that the grapes almost crush themselves. One pressing takes eight hours to complete, with only around 50% of the potential (and finest) juice being extracted.

The must drains naturally by gravity into small tile-lined tanks where it is allowed to settle for 6 to 12 hours. Here it also undergoes some ‘controlled’ oxidative handling. The first fermentation occurs in stainless steel tanks (the only real concession to 20th century winemaking), employing only indigenous yeast. No malolactic fermentation occurs. The wines are then bottled using a selected yeast (something developed over many years by the family) before being bottled under a traditional natural cork closure in the spring following the harvest. The wines are left to mature sur latte until they are considered ready for release.

Both riddling and the disgorging are done (remarkably, at the time of an order being received) by hand, the process taking three weeks from start to the point of delivery.

The first vintage Cava to be released from the restored Can Sala cellar was the 2004 harvest, with production continuing until 2008. Understandably, all this small batch, high-investment winemaking was a completely alien concept to the existing Freixenet business, and there was an agreed halt in production.

However, in 2013, José Maria made the decision to extract the Can Sala name, existing stock and, ‘more importantly’, the unique yeast culture used in the second fermentation process from the rest of the company and started to resume the production of Cava designed for long ageing.

In 2018, several of the extended Freixenet lineage (the cousins of José Maria) decided to sell their shares in the business and 51% of the company was sold to the German sparkling wine giant, Henkell.

It was at this point that José Maria decided to step away from Freixenet, allowing him to dedicate himself to Vins Familia Ferrer instead. The Ferrer family still own shares in the business and has also retained places on the board of directors.

Familia Ferrer is split into three different ranges, each offering their own distinctive identity and originating from different regions. Each project shares the same winemaking talent in the form of Judit Llop who has worked with José Maria since 2003.

Can Sala

Can Sala is exclusively dedicated to the production of extended-aged, single-vintage Cavas, from grapes sourced from their own old, organically certified vineyards. As a result, Can Sala is just one of the handful of producers entitled to use the most distinguished category of Cava de Paraje Calificado.

The family own an impressive 200 hectares of vineyards which sit at an elevation of between 385 and 715 metres and where temperatures during the growing season are much cooler, ensuring the grapes are delicate in flavour and with higher levels of acidity.

Only Parellada and Xarel.lo grapes are used in the production of Can Sala, with Parellada representing at least 50% of the blend. Whilst Xarel-lo is considered by many to be the definitive Cava grape, José Maria believes that when Parellada is farmed well and on cooler sites, the grape is equally capable of retaining freshness, elegance, and acidity.

Prior to the concept of global warming being fully recognised, traditionally Parellada could only ripen grapes with an alcoholic degree of between 8-9%. With climate change, the alcohol levels are increasing to around 11.5%. Xarel.lo was used as a blending component primarily to add acidity, structure, and deliver a higher percentage of alcohol.

Although no Macabeo is used in Can Sala, it is understood that the variety is not responding well in its native Catalonia, due to the changing climate.

The grapes for Can Sala are harvested and vinified separately, with blending only occurring in the spring following the harvest, immediately before bottling. José Maria’s objective is to express and respect the style delivered by the conditions of the year. Total production is between 8-14,000 bottles per year, although not all vintages are released commercially.

Even the most basic cuvée, Vinyes de Can Sala spends at least six years on the lees before it is disgorged.

The signature wine, Can Sala Brut Nature, is released even later. The current 2013 Vintage was launched in November 2023. Production for this wine stands at 56,000 bottles and disgorged according to demand. José Maria, along with many other Cava producers, believes that there is no real benefit to ageing Cava on the final cork, since the character of the wine is derived from its extended lees contact whilst in the cellar.

What makes Can Sala especially unique is the commercial availability of its Historical Vintages: Cavas which date back to the vintages first produced after the Sant Quintì cellar was reinstated in the early 2000s.

These vintages include:

2004 – the inaugural vintage, produced from a ‘hot’ growing season. Unique by the fact that the usual blend is reversed: 75% Xarelo.lo and 25% Parellada.

2005 – José Maria’s personal favourite from the Historical Vintage releases, despite being a ‘cold and rainy’ year. 75% Parellada and 25% Xarelo.lo.

2006 – An excellent Cava vintage. The blend here is 50/50% Parellada and Xarel.lo.

2007 – 60% Parellada and 40% Xarelo.lo. (This vintage has since sold out).

2008 – This was the last vintage to be produced in the first decade of the 21st century. Not being one to quote the press, but the Can Sala 2008 was once declared ‘Best Sparkling Wine in the World’ by The Drinks Business magazine.

La Freixeneda

The place where it all started. This is a range of Catalunya table wines produced in the original 1616 homestead and has its own dedicated cellar. The farm extends over 200 hectares and includes forest as well as vineyards. Most of the crop is sold off to other producers, leaving José Maria to concentrate on the best possible source of fruit for the Josep Ferrer range of table wines.

There are currently six (three white and three red) wines in the range, all receiving the same care and attention consistent with the Ferrer philosophy. Production is small. With one exception, there are less than 3,000 bottles made of each cuvée. All are reassuringly expensive, with label designs all derived from illustrations by Gustave Doré (1832-1883) depicting Dante’s Divine Comedy which was first published in 1861.

Macabeu ‘Granit’ 2019 – from two hectares of 100-year-old vines. According to José Maria, the vines are so large that ‘they resemble trees…’ Fermented in an egg-shaped amphora hewn out of a single piece of granite, the wine spends its first year in the same vessel before being bottled. The wine has the texture of an Alsatian Pinot Gris, but with a distinct wet pebble-like minerality. Already with some bottle age, there is a sense that this still has potential to age further.

Macabeu ‘Cau Dels Pentitents’ 2019 – from the same two-hectare vineyard, but this example is fermented and aged in 500 litre Vicard coopered acacia barrels. It is then aged a further two years in bottle before release.

Xarel.lo ‘Camì de Sagraments’ 2018 – from a single hectare of 15-year-old vines. The fermentation takes place on its skins in stainless steel before being transferred to 500 litre clay amphoras. The wine shares the same nutty, autolytic character as the Can Sala Cavas, with a pithy texture – presumably derived from the skin contact during fermentation.

Pinot Noir ‘Costers de l’Ànima’ 2019 – There are 40 hectares of Pinot Noir grown within the estate, yet all but half a hectare of grapes from this 16-year-old vineyard is sold off to other producers. Fermentation is in 1,000 litre stainless steel tanks before being transferred to new 500 litre French oak barrels where the wine ages for 12 months. The wine is as plush as any North American Pinot Noir I’ve tasted.

Garnacha ‘Gloria Noguer’ 2019 – an homage to José Maria’s mother. This comes from a two-hectare parcel of 35-year-old vines. Fermentation takes place in a 1,500-litre egg made of Galician granite.

Cabernet Sauvignon/Garnacha ‘Josep Ferrer’ 2015 – This is the first wine ‘designed’ by Josep and so shares his name. It’s a 50/50% blend from 50-year-old Cabernet and 35-year-old Garnacha, both planted by José Maria’s father. The first vintage was 2011. The Garnacha element is crushed and then enjoys a cold soak for 2-3 days before undergoing a long, slow fermentation in tank, with around one-third of the grapes left as whole bunches – effectively a semi-carbonic method of vinification.

The Cabernet, however, is managed completely differently, with around half the grapes being subjected to Ripasso-like handling. Individual berries are placed on trays and then frozen to concentrate by way of evaporation. After fermentation, the wines are blended and aged in 1,200 litre foudre for up to five years. Production rests at 6,000 bottles.

Autosuggestion immediately leads one to compare the nose with great examples from the Veneto. The palate, however, has a structure more resembling a wine from Piedmont. It’s a remarkable wine.

Priorat Collection

Thirteen hectares, planted to Cariñena and Garnacha, are augmented with a little Macabeo and Grenache Blanc (a variety not necessarily associated with Priorat). All are certified organic.

The vineyard was originally part of the Freixenet portfolio but excluded from the sale to Henkell in 2018.

There are two tiers of wines: Prior Terrae representing the premium and traditional Priorat style, whilst Vol de l’Àliga (Flight of the Eagle) is designed for earlier drinking.

Prior Terrae Tinto – is a blend of 50% Garnacha and Cariñena. Some of the vines here are over 80 years old. After fermentation in stainless steel, the wine is aged in fine grained new 300 litre French oak barrels for a period of between 9 and 12 months.

Vol de l’Àliga Tinto – Shares the same blend as the above, although after fermentation and malolactic in tank, the wine is aged for 5 months in amphora.

Vol de l’Àliga Blanco – This is 100% Grenache Blanc, aged for 6 months in amphora.


Can Sala Brut Nature 2013 pack shot
Can Sala Brut Nature 2008 pack shot
Can Sala 2006 pack shot
Can Sala 2005 pack shot
Can Sala 2004 pack shot
Macabeu ‘Granit’ 2019 2019 pack shot
Xarel.lo ‘Camì de Sagraments’ pack shot
Pinot Noir ‘Costers de l’Ànima’ pack shot
Garnacha ‘Gloria Noguer’ 2019 pack shot
Cabernet Sauvignon/Garnacha ‘Josep Ferrer’ 2014 pack shot
Prior Terrae Blanco 2020 2020 pack shot
Prior Terrae Tinto 2019 2019 pack shot
Vol de l’Àliga Blanco 2020 2020 pack shot
Vol de l’Àliga Tinto 2019 2019 pack shot