Xarel.los from Penedès that everyone needs to taste

Javier Luengo (@JavierGuiaPenin)

(Leer en español)

There are grapes that have managed on their own merits to make their way onto the list of must-haves to be tasted and researched. Although known by professionals, they can go unnoticed for many wine lovers, and it is a pity as they own some singular features, which translate into rich, different wines, and who does not like tasting distinct wines?

Northeast of Spain is the home of xarel.lo variety, specifically in a small denomination of origin of barely 2,500 hectares of vineyards. This grape of compact clusters, fine skin and medium sprouting and ripening, is today the great white lady of Barcelona's vineyards. However, this has not always been the case. The xarel.lo grape is mainly recognised for its role in making Cava sparkling wines. It is one of the three varieties of the trinomial varietal of Catalan cava; xarel.lo, macabeo and parellada, and is undoubtedly the most important of the three for its power, degree and acidity.

The Penedès is a production area that has reinvented itself. It began as producer of bulk wines, with a wide range of foreign varieties such as chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon or merlot. Varieties still present in these lands and source of great wine, everything said. The repositioning of this denomination of origin (D.O.) was such that its production area changed considerably. In the Peñín Guide 2011, we reported that the number of hectares of vineyard in the appellation amounted to over 25,000, which has nothing to do with the current data. However, the major conversion was not in its size but rather in the change to a model of wine region focused, although not exclusively, on white wine and more specifically on the native variety xarel.lo.

The projects developed in recent years, have been opening the range of the styles of xarel.lo. If, at the beginning of this reconversion, the wines were centered in the freshness and a greater or smaller herbality, winemakers have sharpened their wits and work, now, with elements that somehow help to obtain a greater degree of differentiation, either by means of aging of lees, with elaborations in containers different from the steel like for example the vat or the concrete and with elaborations little intrusive, that border on the concept of natural wine, some more or less success.

Today we propose 11 xarel.los to bring to your table, a way to learn about this unique white wine typology through some singular wines, all of them of great quality and very linked to their origin.

Castellroig So Blanc Magnum Ecológico 2011 B - 94 points

Sabaté i Coca – CastellRoig

Production area: D.O. Penedès

Varieties: xarel.lo

Retail price: 185 euros

Alcohol: 12º

 

The plots of land of Finca Sabaté i Coca are located along the Valley of river Bitlles. This river is in the centre of the Upper Penedès, crossing the towns of Sant Pere de Riudebitlles and Torrelavit, and joining the river Anoia. The xarel.lo for this wine comes from the assembly of three plots: Rigolet and Boja provide structure as stated by the producers themselves and the third, Marges, provides freshness through its deeper soils. The wine has been aged for 5 months on its own lees in stainless steel tanks. It is a tasty, deep, earthy wine, with freshness and a certain youthfulness despite being a 2011 vintage. The magnum format, we understand, helps preservation. A powerful, singular and very complex wine, from which we can glimpse the ageing capacity of this variety, a capacity that has been little explored so far by the winemakers of the area.

COLOUR

Bright yellow.

AROMA

Expressive, ripe fruit, floral, fine lees, mineral, with character, powerful.

PALATE

Full, complex, spicy, long, elegant.

Cultivare Xarel.lo 2017 B – 93 points

Vallformosa

Production area: D.O. Penedès

Varieties: xarel.lo

Retail price: 21 euros

Alcohol: 13º

We now bring you a singular xarel.lo. It has strength and structure, despite being a white wine, and it shows wild aromas, like dry herbs and a touch of flowers. In our view, these are typical descriptors of a good xarel.lo.

The winery has macerated the must with the skins for approximately 4 hours to extract the aromatic precursors. A part of the must ferments in stainless steel, another part in a cement egg-shaped tank and a part in new lightly toasted French oak barrels, where it has remained for approximately 3 months. Afterwards, the wines are blended and bottled.

COLOUR

Bright yellow.

AROMA

Expressive, stone fruit, ripe fruit, floral, wild herbs, dried herbs, mineral.

PALATE

Full, complex, spicy, long, elegant.

Electio Xarel.lo Ecológico 2017 B – 93 points

Type: Blanco fermentado en barrica

Parés Baltà

Production area: D.O. Penedès

Varieties: xarel.lo

Retail price: 28 euros

Alcohol: 13º

Electio is a great white wine from xarel.los, over 80 years old, cultivated following the biodynamic works, which the third generation of the Cusiné family decided to explore. The grapes come from their Hisenda Miret estate, where the main feature is the deep limestone and clayey soil. The must ferments in new and second wine barrels for approximately 18 days. This wine is part of the Microcuvées collection, where they have a collection of wines with a low production, some of them less than 500 bottles.

This winery, like many other wineries in the area, works not only with the native xarel.lo and macabeo, but also with others such as chardonnay, syrah, merlot and cabernet sauvignon, many of them with great success.

COLOUR

Bright yellow.

AROMA

Powerful, creamy oak, ripe fruit, spicy, nuts, aromatic coffee.

PALATE

Greasy, structured, long, toasted, fine bitterness.

Avgvstvs Microvinificació Xarel.lo de Mar 2015 B FB – 92 points

Cellers Avgvstvs Forvm

Production area: D.O. Penedès

Varieties: xarel.lo

Retail price: 13,85 euros

Alcohol: 12,5º

A few years ago, the winery opened a line of wines made from small plots of land which they named Microvinificació, and where they freely give way to the processing, in some cases, of varieties and plots of land that are particularly important to them, such as this Xarel.lo de Mar 2015, making less than 1,600 bottles. The vineyard that gives rise to this wine barely exceeds one hectare and is in the municipality of Sant Vicenç de Calders, in Tarragona, less than two and a half kilometres from the sea. It is a vine over 50 years old planted in a goblet, on shallow clay-loam soils. The most interesting aspect of this wine is the excellent and measured ageing process: 4 months on lees in stainless steel tanks and 300L and 500L French oak barrels and then four years in bottle. The wine remains young, very intense on the nose and very enveloping in the mouth, a wine with strength and structure meant to be enjoyed at the table in the presence of the main course.

COLOUR

Bright yellow.

AROMA

Dried flowers, candied fruit, fine lees, pastries.

PALATE

Round, spicy, long, persistent.

Antistiana Xarel.lo Ecológico 2017 B - 92 points

Mas Comtal

Production area: D.O. Penedès

Varieties: xarel.lo

Retail price: 13 euros

Alcohol: 13,5º

Mas Comtal is a family winery led by Marta Milà, that gathers 40 hectares of organically grown vineyards, located in the easternmost part of the Penedès, at the foot of the Garraf. Geographically, it is located at an altitude of 350 metres above sea level, on quaternary sand-based soils, silt and clay. It has very calcareous soils of medium type and characterized by a great permeability to water. Antistiana Xarel.lo surprises you not only because of its marked varietal character, like all these wines we are sharing with you so far, but also because of its mineral background (dry stones), its freshness and its long mouth, where it seemed a very interesting oily sensation, which makes the wine forceful, with a tasty, elegant and long finish. Of course, at this price you can't ask for more. Congratulations to the winery for such a good wine!

Only 2,800 bottles of this vintage have been bottled, so it is more than likely that if you don't hurry it will run out.

COLOUR

Bright straw.

AROMA

Expressive, ripe fruit, floral, fine lees, mineral.

PALATE

Full, complex, spicy, long, elegant.

Jané Ventura Xarel.lo 2018 B - 92 points

Jané Ventura

Production area: D.O. Penedès

Varieties: xarel.lo

Jané Ventura is a family winery with a long tradition of winemaking in the Lower Penedès. The winery is managed by the fourth generation of the family, in the hands of Gerard Jané, a quiet person who has a great knowledge of the environment where his vines grow, with which he produces Cavas and still wines. This xarel.lo is a complex wine that brings together aniseed-flavoured nuances, mountain herbs, together with ripe white fruit and a touch of spice. We do not know exactly how it was produced, but we do know that it is a special wine, which has been blessed by time. Let's remember that this same vintage was tasted last year by the tasting team (91 points), a year later it has improved, rounded off and has taken on nuances typical of the extra year of bottle ageing. It is a great success to present this wine again to the Guide's examination.

COLOUR

Straw.

AROMA

Ripe fruit, dried herbs, wilted flowers, sweet spices, pastries.

PALATE

Powerful, ripe fruit, balanced.

Albet i Noya El Fanio Ecológico 2018 B – 92 points

Albet i Noya

Production area: D.O. Penedès

Varieties: xarel.lo

Retail price: 12,5 euros

Alcohol: 13º

Josep María Albet i Noya, is an indispensable figure in the change undertaken by the DO Penedès in the last century. He is a pioneer in his area, an adventurous and restless person who has not stopped experimenting in order to find the best way to improve the quality of the Penedès DO's vineyards and wine. In all the producing areas there are enterprising people who contribute to the whole and Josep María is one of them, in this little producing corner. El Fanio is a wine that surprises us with each new harvest. This wine comes from the highest vineyard of the house, located in the Muntanyes d'Ordal, with vines over 80 years old, settled on calcareous and clay soils, with low levels of organic matter and rich in magnesium. At the production level, this wine is aged in cement eggs and acacia barrels. The result is a wine where the lees become the protagonist, with rich bakery maricas. It is not a light wine but just the opposite, it is vigorous in the mouth, tasty, so it will perfectly accompany more forceful dishes, including white meat in sauce.

COLOUR

Bright yellow.

AROMA

Ripe fruit, stone fruit, brioche, spices, dried flowers.

BOCA

Structured, tasty, full, oily.

Finca Viladellops Xarel.lo Ecológico 2017 B FB – 92 points

Finca Viladellops

Production area: D.O. Penedès

Varieties: xarel.lo

Retail price: 20 euros

Alcohol: 13º

The property of Finca Viladellops, where Marcelo Desvalls works, includes 500 hectares in the middle of the Garraf Mountains, composed of Mediterranean forest, cereals and 60 hectares of vineyards. Located 250 metres above sea level, it has very poor soils with a clay-limestone texture, with a high percentage of active lime, with a large amount of sediment and marine fossils. Finca Viladellops Xarel.lo Ecológico 2017 is a white wine fermented in barrels in a sweet tooth style, with wood present, but which shows part of the prominence of the xarel.lo grape. In it, the nuances of the barrel aging and lees are intertwined with a fruit between ripe and frosted representative of the 2017 vintage.

COLOUR

Bright yellow.

AROMA

Dried flowers, candied fruit, fine lees, pastries.

PALATE

Round, spicy, long, persistent.

Mas Codina Xarel.lo Ecológico 2018 B – 92 points

Mas Codina

Production area: D.O. Penedès

Varieties: xarel.lo

Alcohol: 13º

Mas Codina is an estate of 40 hectares located in the Alto Penedès, producers of sparkling wines with the seal of the DO Cava and still wines under the protection of the DO Penedès, such as the one that has brought us here. This xarel.lo is a wine from two old vineyards, one of 60 years old and the other of 36 years old. The orography of the land makes these vineyards 300m above sea level, facing north and with an extremely calcareous terrain. In terms of oenology, the wine was fermented in large French oak barrels, 500 lts, and then aged in contact with the barrel and its own lees for 5 months. This is a wine that can bring us closer to aromas of cava, with the presence of the notes of yeast , and with a very characteristic dry fruit background. This 2018 vintage has pleasantly surprised us, and for this reason the wine has reached 92 points, far exceeding the 90 obtained by its previous 2017 vintage. No doubt another wine worth of being part of our winery representing the Xarelian line.

COLOUR

Bright yellow.

AROMA

Ripe fruit, fine lees, dried flowers, mineral, nuts.

PALATE

Full, tasty, powerful, balanced.

Gisele Ecológico 2017 B – 92 points

Cava & Hotel Mastinell

Production area: D.O. Penedès

Varieties: xarel.lo

Retail price: 13,55 euros

Alcohol: 13º

Year 2017 will not be remembered as a simple harvest in the Penedès. The winter was mild and dry and the start of spring brought some rain. However, 2017 will be remembered for its great drought, which brought a significant reduction in production in the region. Still, there were exceptional wines, like this Gisele Ecológico, which shows us a more mature and sweet-toothed version of xarel.lo, but equally interesting, as it reflects another type of 100% xarel.lo wines, focused on the forcefulness and sweetness that bring us closer to the characteristic aromas of a pastry shop.

COLOUR

Bright yellow.

AROMA

Dried flowers, candied fruit, fine lees, pastries.

PALATE

Round, spicy, long, persistent.

Gramona Xarel.lo Font Jui Demeter 2016 B – 92 points

Gramona

Production area: D.O. Penedès

Varieties: xarel.lo

Alcohol: 12,5º

Gramona is already one of the great labels in the world of sparkling wine in Spain, and it is so on its own merits, for having been able to position Cava, when the times when it was bottled under its protection, at its qualitative peak. Let's remember that one of its sparkling wines was the first cava to reach 99 points, a real event in the Peñín Guide 2017, it was the Enoteca Gramona Brut NatureParaje Calificado 2001, a proverbial sparkling wine. It is true that in terms of still wines it has not achieved the greatness of wines from second fermentation in the bottle, but the truth is that they are increasingly making wine with a more personal and representative character. This Font Jui 2016 is a good example of this.

Font Jui is an estate located in the Alto Penedès subzone, with an extension of 4 hectares of xarel.lo, with a very particular clay-limestone soil. It is a certified wine with the Demeter seal, which means that the work in the field and in the winery is ecological and biodynamic. This wine is fermented and aged in 300 litre French oak barrels (fine grain and medium toast). They use 33% of new barrels and the rest of second and third wine. The wine is also aged on its lees for 3 months. The most striking thing about this wine is that it captures the uniqueness of the xarel.lo grape in all its expression, and does so accompanied by the freshness to which we are accustomed in sparkling wines, with a very particular citrus character and a mixture of dried flowers and herbs, which for us must show a good xarel.lo. It is surprising how young this wine of the 2016 vintage is, it would be interesting to follow its evolution closely to understand the scope of these still wines based on the xarel.lo grape.

STYLE

Representativo

COLOUR

Bright Straw.

AROMA

Ripe fruit, citrus, dried flowers, balsamic, spicy.

PALATE

Tasty, fresh, structured, long, toasted.

 

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