Welcome to the August edition of the l’Art du Vin wine club!We are big sporting fans at l’Art du Vin and often take our influence for tastings and events from current affairs within the world of sport.
This weekend sees cycling’s Vuelta a España kick off in Barcelona on a three-week route that takes the world’s top riders around many lesser-known regions of the country.
When it comes to wine, many drinkers will cite Spain as one of their preferred regions. However, as a nation, we tend to drink quite narrowly. Take Cava, Albariño and Rioja out of the equation and, all of a sudden, the quantity of Spanish wine consumed in the UK diminishes rapidly.
Therefore, this month, we thought we would draw inspiration from the Vuelta a España route and shine a light on some of the lesser-known wine-making regions and grape varieties this vast, varied country has to offer.
We have a pair of Catalan whites for you along with a red from the arid region of Bierzo in the north-west and finally, a 100% Tempranillo from Rioja that doesn’t bear the Rioja name on the bottle.
This particular wine is a fine example of a route that many producers are choosing to go down when it comes to labelling and marketing their wares. Tired of the sometimes over-zealous and restrictive controls imposed by official bodies (in this case the Denominación de Rioja), an increasing number of Spanish producers are choosing to simply label their wines as ‘Vinos de España’.
In the past, this terminology was often used to describe wines that weren’t deemed of sufficient quality to truly ‘represent’ their region. However, nowadays, more and more quality producers are utilising this labelling terminology and in some cases, it means their wines can fly a little under the radar. And that is where we come in – to do our research and uncover these hidden gems for you!
So with that, I hope that you enjoy this month’s selection. As always, I welcome any feedback you have and I thank you for your continued support.
Cau d’en Genis, Alta Alella, Alella 2020
Alta Alella is the closest winery to Barcelona, located 2 kilometres from the Mediterranean between the towns of Alella and Tiana.
It is a family-run project that began in 1991 with Josep Maria Pujol-Busquets and his wife Cristina Guillen. Now the estate is headed up by their daughter, Mireia. Alella is one of the smallest appellations in Spain yet it possesses a fascinating terroirs that the Alta Alella team have harnessed in their journey to being recognised as the premier estate in the region.
All the vines are planted on slopes and terraces overlooking the Mediterranean, between 100 and 250m above sea level.
One of the key elements is the Sauló soil found throughout the vineyard. Particular to this region, Sauló is an acidic and sandy soil with a low limestone content, low organic matter and good natural water drainage – ideal for the production of clean wines with a mineral edge.
‘Cau d’En Genis’ refers to the name of the single vineyard, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, from which all the fruit for this wine is produced. It is the estate’s oldest parcel. As a result, yields are lower than elsewhere in the vineyard but the grapes produce more concentrated flavour profiles.
It is crafted using 100% Pansa Blanca, which is known in other areas as Xarel-lo. In many ways, this wine is the ultimate example of what a premium Pansa Blanca wine should be: bursting with white fruit notes backed up by hints of fennel before a long, salt-laden and silky finish.
Simply delicious with simple salads or shellfish. Equally great as an aperitif.
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‘Cora’, Loxarel, Penedes 2022
Can Mayol, which bottles under the trademarked name “Loxarel,” is a winery that has been farming organically for more than a decade.
Owned by the Mitjan family, the winery is relatively primitive in design, due to their desire to concentrate all their time and energy simply on winemaking, not on fancy gadgets or architecture.
The key focus at Can Mayol is Cava production, yet they also produce a range of high quality, single varietal wines that all display a distinctive elegance and minerality.
Their ‘Cora’ is a blend of Muscat and Xarel·lo grapes hailing from vineyards situated at an altitude of 500-700 metres above sea level. It is a delicate, elegant and highly aromatic wine. Expect notes of white flowers, almonds and peach with honeysuckle highlights.
Ideal for serving with lighter, Mediterranean dishes such as grilled fish, oysters, prawns or seafood paella.
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Tempranillo, Gran Cerdo, Vino de España 2022
Gonzalo Grijalba was born in Logroño, the regional capital of La Rioja, and grew up among the vineyards that their parents cultivated in Fuenmayor. After several years of training in various parts of the wine-making world, they returned to start their own project.
Fiercely protective of the terroir of their family vineyards, Gonzalo rejects market driven fashions, formulae, chemical treatments and conformism. Instead they have sought out methods with respect for the land, vineyards, and the traditions of their forefathers.
Gonzalo then balances this respect with formal training in the latest oenological techniques and methods.
‘Gran Cerdo’ is all about the purest expression of fruit with whole bunch fermentation, no filtration, no stabilization and minimal sulphur. This is a red made with real character - all the juicy elements of Tempranillo but with no dirty oak to mask its charm.
With its cherry-red, purplish, brilliant colour Gran Cerdo reveals primary notes of fresh fruit, strawberries, raspberries, cherries and violets with clean mineral tones from the granite soils of Gonzalo’s vineyards.
Will feel most at home when partnered with lamb, charcuterie or, for something a little different, sweet potato-based dishes.
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Petit Pittacum, Bodegas Pittacum, Bierzo 2021
The region of Bierzo, inland of Galicia in the northwest of Spain, benefits from a unique microclimate which aids the winemaking process. Head winemaker Alfredo Marques and his team are blessed with the valuable combination of mild temperatures and vineyards at a low altitude which prevent frosts – allowing Alfredo to complete his harvest before many of his contemporaries.
Based in the historic town of Arganza, the Pittacum winery presides over 90-year-old vines that produce wonderfully rustic wines dominated by the Mencía grape variety. Organic fertilisers are used and eco-friendly methods are employed throughout the estate to promote the health of these ageing vines – a strategy that is clearly working as their produce improves with every harvest.
This Mencía is medium bodied, dominated by cranberry characters with hints of herbs and spice. The finish is soft, with light dusty tannins. A wonderful example of the value for money to be found in Spanish reds by going slightly off the beaten track.
Mencía pairs best with herbal driven dishes or roasted meat & veggie dishes such as chorizo, beef stew or fajitas. At this particular time of year in Scotland, it is also one of the wines that many sommeliers reach for to pair with grouse.
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