Josep María Raventós i Blanc

Josep Maria Raventós was born at Can Codorniu on 20 March 1922, the son of Manuel Raventós i Fatjó and Montserrat Blanc i Tintoré. He was the eldest of six brothers and sisters: Josep María, Montserrat, Nuria, Mercè, Manuel and Ramon, and therefore the heir to Can Codorniu. He left Can Codorniu as a teenager due to the Spanish Civil War, continuing his studies in Italy, San Sebastián, Zaragoza and Barcelona. He graduated in chemistry from the IQS in Sarrià. He lost his mother at the age of 17 when she died giving birth to his youngest brother, Ramon.

In 1946 he married Isabel Negra i Valls, who immediately became the “mistress” of Can Codorniu, returning the warmth of a real home to the house. In 1947, Manuel Raventós i Negra, the new heir to Can Codorniu, was born. In October 1949, Josep María took over the management of Codorniu S.A. at a very early age, after his father Manuel suffered a serious stroke.

From that moment on, Codorniu and cava were the fundamental goals of his professional life. Under his leadership, Codorniu S.A. underwent its enormous expansion in the seventies. His goal was never growth for its own sake. He wanted Codorniu to be the premier brand in a prestige sector. He admired the French and had good friends in Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne. He was always interested in learning why these denominations enjoyed prestige as well as quality. He was not seeking to copy, but to find out what needed to be done in the Penedès to acquire prestige and personality as well as quality. He made a determined commitment to the méthode champenoise. His constant concern was mechanization: making it possible to keep the method going, despite the developments in labor costs, all in a harmonious way.

The incorporation of the latest technology never meant sacking people. He never put machines before people. This process, which began with tartaric stabilization and yeast selection, led to Unit 504, the Pack and full mechanization. In the 1970s, world prototypes were tested in Sant Sadurní. Another of his obsessions: prestige and personality. This ties in with Cava and all that it represents. He fought for cava all his life.

At the same time, he played a part in the organization of the sector, with roles in the National Wine and Vine Trade Union (Sindicato Nacional de la Vid) and later the UCEVE (the sparkling wine producers’ association), as well as a host of working committees. It is important to emphasize his work in the OIV, the International Organization of Wine and Vine, where he sat on the executive committee and was offered the presidency shortly before his death.

In his crusade for quality, and as a wine grower and heir to Can Codorniu, he made a considerable contribution to bringing wine growers and winemakers together. He was convinced that without quality grapes there would be no good cava, while without profitable winemaking there would be no investment, no new vines, no quality and no future.

His intense pace of work together with a long series of family conflicts led to a serious stroke in 1966. After a rapid recovery, towards the end of the sixties, Torcuato Fernández Miranda proposed that he head the Barcelona provincial authority. When the board of directors of Codorniu decided that this position was not compatible with running the firm, Josep María renounced the official position. 1970 brought a further blow.

The Codorniu board decided to prohibit sons of managers from joining it. Josep María saw in this decision a clear intention to cut the family line off for good. Thus, his position in the company for which he had done so much became increasingly difficult. He loved Codorniu and did not want to give up the tradition of continuity. He thought a change of generation might help to remedy the situation. However, he kept his problems to himself and never passed them on to his management team in Sant Sadurní. At the same time he thought it was time to help build up Sant Sadurní's prestige.

He accepted the position of mayor and threw himself entirely into that. He was a man who concerned himself with his country. He was part of the body responsible for the restoration of the monastery of Poblet, played a role in the Barcelona trade fair and for many years sat on the executive committee of the Caixa de Catalunya savings bank. His father, Manuel, died in 1977, and from that point on the situation at Codorniu S.A. became increasingly difficult, until on 30 June 1982 he was invited to give up his powers as general manager of Codorniu S.A. On 22 July 1982 he finally left Codorniu S.A., unwilling to stay in the firm as a figurehead with a salary but no executive role.

His departure from Codorniu S.A. did not mean that he left either the family home or the estate of Can Codorniu. From there he stood as an independent for the presidency of the cava regulatory council and was elected. From then onwards he threw most of his energies into the cava sector and the struggle for its denomination of origin within the EEC. In April 1985, together with his son Manuel, he completed the viability study for the building of new cellars on the estate.

On 4 March 1986, the firm of Josep María Raventós i Blanc, S.A. was set up to consolidate the project, the first blend of which had been decided in February 1986.

On 12 March 1986 he travelled to New Zealand to fish for the blue marlin he had sought all his life. Just after catching it, another stroke, caused by the effort, put an end to his life on the deck of the boat. His cremated remains were taken back to his birthplace, Can Codorniu. On his memorial his children wrote: “man can be destroyed, but not defeated”.

Thus a new cava was born in 1986, which was to bear his name. It is a noble, elegant cava, born out of the most intimate subsoil of his vineyards. It is his legacy: Josep María Raventós i Blanc, today Raventós i Blanc, Conca del riu Anoia.