Getting off the plane in Palma I quickly googled for a natural wine bar. I knew my chances of stocking up on some natural wine for my stay in Mallorca and discovering the local natural winemakers lay in the arms of someone who had chosen to curate some of the best!
Fortunately, I found Bar La Sang owned and run by the utterly intoxicatingly positively happy chap Lukas. Driving directly there in my rented silver grey fiat 500 I managed to find a car space right outside the door. Later I would discover what good fortune I had in finding a car space in Palma!
Lukas is one of the happiest natural wine bar owners I have ever met! When I told him I wanted to taste the finest Mallorca natural wines he had, he eagerly and excitedly put together one of the strongest boxes of wine I’ve ever bought! To see him scurrying around his room quickly talking through options was a total joy! I had found my tribe mere moments after stepping onto Mallorca soil.
An evening later opening one of the whites to go with a salt cod supper I couldn’t believe my luck. What touched my lips, went into my mouth and down my throat was sublime. It felt effortless and hard won in each sip. I could taste the winemaker’s vision. Each sip increasing my appreciation I just had to reach for my phone and google more about the winemaker. Fortunately I stumbled upon an interview she did here. Definitely worth reading!
Two nights later I opened one of her reds to go with a chickpea and chorizo stew. MIND BLOWINGLY GOOD. Falling head over heels in love with Cati Ribot I reached out to her on instagram to see if I could pay her a visit. Bearing in mind this is the busiest time of the year for winemakers as they press and bottle wine she replied a heartfelt yes! I was beside myself.
We met today and I am currently drinking an (Argamussa) experiment she made in 2018 watching the sun go down from my little place up in the mountains of Deià. I breathe. I sigh. I just take a moment to remember this moment of pure pleasure. The 2018 Argamussa experiment is a triumph!
So let me tell you about Cati Ribot. Why you should get to know her. Why you should drink her wines.
Today was a big day for Cati. It was her daughter’s first day of school and Cati was understandably nervous as this time of year is so busy for her and her team. One of her employees had been sick and was tested for covid. Today, the day I meet her the test results come back negative. She is both relieved but also nervous. Her business depends on her team pulling together. All their livelihood is based on them being able to bottle the wine they have worked and fought so hard to make and resurrect. I ask her is her husband in the business with her. What a silly question! Up until this moment I am the only alone person I’ve seen on this incredible island. I see couples and families everywhere and I assume this woman who has worked her butt off has not done so alone.
She has. She says to me “No, I am alone.” Those words penetrated through me so so so hard. I say back to her “I am alone too.” It’s as though I’ve been faced with, I don’t know, a version of myself I guess if I’m to tell the total truth. Cati goes on to tell me about how she adopted her little girl from Delhi. She was 2 when she was able to bring her home. Now she is 4. Cati had to go for meetings every 3 months in Palma with a psychologist so that they could ensure she is being the best mother she can be. This year, year 2 the meetings are every 6 months and for the following years, once a year. She tells me her daughter loves the winery and proudly admits that “she has a good nose. She is always smelling.”. My heart at this point is leaping with joy. I myself spent 5 months in India 14 years ago and my time there solidified an idea in me that had been around a long time - that I wanted to adopt children over giving birth. Later in Ethiopia that yearning to adopt grew fiercer. Today after meeting Cati it is fiercer still. She tells me about friends who have to wait 6 years for a girl from India. We talk about adoption for a bit, two women in arms who are trying to appreciate why it is so difficult to get orphans a home.
And so in the past two years Cati has become a single mother and is currently the only female natural wine producer in Mallorca.
Let me type that sentence again because I love saying it. Cati is a single mother and is currently the only female natural wine maker in Mallorca.
She has fought hard to be just one of 3 wineries on this island making wine naturally.
She is an inspiration. I tell her of course but she doesn’t know it.
I can see her impatience. I can see her passion. I can see her vulnerability. But most of all, I can see her work. It is all around me and it is purposeful and excellent.
She wants to be a small wine producer. She wants to make lots of local varieties in small barrels. She my friends is what the world needs more of.
She started changing the plantation to local varieties in 2006. When I say she is impatient, you realise there is a scale… she is impatient with herself.
She explains to me that in Mallorca because of the heat the international varieties make for high alcohol wines. The indigenous grapes are fresher and lower in alcohol. She wants to make fresher wines.
Cati succeeds in doing something quite rare. Most natural wines need to be drunk quickly. Otherwise they kind of odour. Cati's wines can be drunk over a period of days. That says a lot about the winemaker and her grapes.
Cati is a third generation wine grower, the daughter of a winemaker who believes in doing things big. She is the granddaughter of a wine grower who grew table grapes. For a long time the family vineyard has been growing international grapes. But Cati’s journey with wine was different to that of her family. She wanted to go back to growing local Mallorca varieties naturally. As she said to me today “It is easy to build something new from scratch. It is difficult to change old ways.”
Last year, 2019 was the first year that Cati bottled her own natural wine under the name AVIOR. The white I had Son LLebre has the best natural wine label I’ve ever seen. You actually learn something from looking at the label unlike a lot of natural wine bottles. Education is necessary in helping people to understand what the natural wine movement is all about. The designer Maggie Adrover is wife of Eloi Cedó (Bodega Sistema Vinari) a legend in the natural wine scene in Mallorca and a man Cati shares her winery with. He was the first person in Mallorca to make natural wine. When Cati first tasted Eloi’s wine she bought a lot! He is at the winery when I visit, child in his arms as he works.
Cati kindly sticks her pipette into ceramic barrels for me to taste some of her new wines still fermenting. To be honest, Cati could have sat on the floor the whole time I was there and just discussed her approach to wine making and I would have been like a pig in shit but she enthusiastically brought me through each barrel. In the voice recording that I am listening to now, Cati sounds so busy going from barrel to barrel wondering what to give me next!
Cati puts the Callet in ceramic. This accounts for 20% of the wine. Then the full mix goes into barrels to ferment for 4 months. Much fresher than big wine.
She pronounces the varieties clearly for me so that I can remember - Callet, Negrella and Escursac.
I taste a Son Llebre fermenting in its barrel. It is exquisite!
Son LLebre is now the name of the finca as she had to change the name from Avior due to a Berlin distributor who sells rioja from Spain going under the name Avior. She’s not disappointed by this though.
We go on to chat about her wine making… “the international wine, for me is a little boring”. I say to her that with her wine you taste Mallorca. She says “it’s alive!”
She tells me about going to her friends house for dinner…
“I bring different bottles of ancestral wine and we were three people and we drank three bottles of wine. The husband of my friend says to me “I think tomorrow I’m not going to be able to get up early”. He gets up at 4 every morning to work in Palma. He Whatsapp’s me at 7am to say “I am perfect! I am so happy! I had such a lovely evening!”
She goes on to say…
“If you are at a dinner with natural wines the meal is enjoyable. The conversation is fun! If you are at a dinner with conventional wines the conversation is sad.”
“If you are at a dinner with conventional wines the conversation is sad.” Amen sister! What a quote!
Cati tells me about how they lost 70% of their grapes last year to mildew. Gosh I was gutted for her.
Today Cati does not have a distributor in the UK. She asks me who I think is the best natural wine distributor in the UK and I tell her.
Leaving a tired yet energetic and hopeful Cati today I feel all sorts of emotion. We talked a little about what I do. She looks at The Happy Tummy Co instagram in front of me and smiles very happily, heart’ing the images she likes. She talks about a feast we will have in Mallorca with her wines and my bread. She makes me feel so special and happy.
She sends me away with a bottle of Son Llebre and Eusarac and an experiment she made in 2018. I am simply delira! We talk about food and where to eat. She recommends a restaurant 20 minutes away and I go there for lunch. The bill for 3 courses and a glass of Eloi’s wine comes to 18:60 euro!
Cati Ribot has had a big impact on me. As we would say in Ireland “She’s some woman for one woman.”
And if I may leave you with one more thing. It is one of the last questions from her interview with Travel Hidden Places -
BASICS. What music, book or element do you use for inspiration and creation?
Silence, I love silence: shutting myself up in the cellar alone and putting everything in order, it is the best time to make decisions when only silence accompanies you.
I couldn’t agree more Cati.
Cati Ribot. A name to get to know.