WINES OF THE WEEK
Independent wines from Catalonia
Albet i Noya Curiós Xarello, Penedès, Spain 2016 (£9.99, Vintage Roots) It will come as little comfort to Catalonia’s jailed leaders, or to the hundreds of people beaten up at polling stations in October, but the brutal suppression of the independence referendum has had at least one small positive local effect: piquing interest in all things Catalan. That curiosity extends to the region’s wine industry which, contrary to the sometime stereotype, is not solely concerned with cheap Mediterranean versions of champagne. Cava from Gramona, Juvé y Camps and Recaredo, among others can, in fact, be magnificent, but such bottles are only part of a vinous story that includes such delicately aromatic, vibrantly citrusy and mineral still dry whites as Albet i Noya’s take on the local grape xarello.
Vinyes de l’Albà Sumoll, Catalunya, Spain 2014 (£14, Red Squirrel Wine) One of the trio of grapes usually used to make cava, xarello is for me the star white Catalan grape variety, with Celler Credo Miranius, Alt-Penedès 2014 (from £12.50, Joseph Barnes) a cleansingly pure, herbal example. Another of the cava triumvirate, macabeu, is generally at its still best round these parts in a supporting role in dry white blends, such as the fabulously rich, luminous, scrubland herb-infused Acústic Blanc, Montsant 2015 (from £12.48, Cambridge Wine), where garnatxa blanca takes the lead. When it comes to reds, the most distinctive local variety is the relatively rare sumoll, from which Vinyes de l’Alba fashions a deliciously dusky, tangy, vivid, plum and cherry-juicy style.
Frares Priorat, Spain 2015 (£14, Marks & Spencer) The grape varieties used in the darkly brooding reds of Catalonia’s most famous red wine region, Priorat are familiar throughout Spain and southern France. But there’s something special about the interaction of grenache and carignan with the local llicorella slate soils that gives them a really distinctive mineral character that freshens and quickens the heat, spice and dark, brambly fruit. Try Morrisons’ chewy, liquorice-scented The Best Priorat 2014 (£10) or M&S’s intensely black-fruited Frares – although for the full, multilayered expression of stone, black olive, liquorice and black fruit, splash out on Mas Doix Salanques Priorat 2014 (£30, The Wine Society).