Albet I Noya, Ella Era Mala in D.O. Penedes

191/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Penedes – Sant Pau d’Ordal – Albet I Noya – Lignum Blanc 2013

Ella Era Mala…….,

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Lignum Blanc 2013, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Xarel.lo

The grapes for this wine come from the estate in Costers de l’Ordal. The vineyards are over 300m above sea level, and are a selection of the oldest vines of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, growing in dry calcareous soils that have been organically farmed. Bright straw color yellow color. Aromas of white flowers, ripe fruit and some spiciness. The barrel, which only the Chardonnay has spent time in, is noted but just slightly in the background. Almost equal parts Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc (with a small portion of Xarel.lo) makes this a crisp, medium-bodied and fruit driven wine. In addition you will note intense floral notes and light herbal notes. The palate is rich, fruity, fresh and well structured. Slightly bitter which is quite appealing and good persistence.

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The Can Vendrell modernist cellar of Albet I Noya was built in 1925 and houses the principal vinification processes. The Xapallà cellar next door was finished in August 2004 and houses the temperature-controlled warehouse, the barrel hall and a new bottling plant. The new gravity-based l’Era cellar was opened in 2010 to produce the Albet I Noya top wines separately.

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Organic wine is largely wine from organically grown grapes, but the regulations primarily limit the quantity of sulphur dioxide that can be used, approximately half the levels permitted in a conventional cellar. This means that the Can Vendrell cellar is required to maintain a level of hygiene far superior to that of a conventional cellar. Nonetheless, once more we can see that the key to making great wines lies in the quality of the raw materials: the grapes.

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By working only with grapes in optimum sanitary conditions, Albet i Noya are able to work largely without using SO2. They use authoctonous yeasts from the Albet i Noya vineyards, selected from the Xarel·lo variety and they are working in the selection of other yeasts for the remaining varieties. The fermenting vats have an inert gas system (a mix of nitrogen and CO2) to prevent potential alterations in the wine. Once again, the emphasis is on prevention rather than cure: as the wine cannot be chemically corrected, the hygiene of the cellar is key to avoiding disappointments. The cellar equipment is cleaned using high pressure hot water (up to 90°C) instead of chemical products.

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Of the 145 hectares they control, 80.5 are given over exclusively to the cultivation of vines. The estate vines cover the western slopes of the Ordal mountain range known as “Costers d’Ordal”, following the curves of the terrain in stepped terraces or on slopes exposed to the midday sun. As in all good wine-growing land, the soil in Can Vendrell has low organic content, with a variable content of clay and sand on a bed of calcareous stone, a permeable base with good moisture retention. Leaving aside for a moment the suitability of the land for wine growing, there are other factors which intervene in the selection of the most suitable vines for cultivation, such as the lie of the land, the hours of sun, the humidity and altitude of the terrain.

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The white varieties are Chardonnay (1.1ha) Macabeu (9.7ha), Xarel·lo (19.1ha), Parellada (10.5ha), Moscatell (0.4ha), Viogner (1.5ha), Sauvignon Blanc (0.3ha), Riesling (1.5ha), Garnatxa Blanca (0.2ha) and 4 experimental varieties (0.8ha). The red varieties are Cabernet Sauvignon (10ha), Tempranillo o Ull de llebre (8.3ha), Merlot (5.4ha), Syrah (6ha), Garnatxa negre (2.2ha), Pinot Noir (2.9ha), and 6 experimental varieties (0.8ha). Whilst the Xarel·lo, Macabeu and Parellada are the varieties traditionally planted in the Penedès region, the others had been lost at the end of the 19th century with the Phylloxera crisis and the growth of Cava, until their reintroduction to Can Vendrell by the Albet family in the early eighties.

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Josep M. i Toni Albet i Noya, started a ambitious project in 1998 collecting 7 lost grapes varieties. The aim of the project is to test seven ancient grape varieties, both from a point of view of vineyard management and of winemaking potential. The grape varieties have been recovered from old and abandoned vineyards, including one found in Albet i Noya’s estate. The search for old varieties has been so successful that they have extended it to a second phase of the project with seven more varieties that started in 2012 and will last until 2020.

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The belief is that some of these varieties date from before the phylloxera plague. When Phylloxera hit Europe’s vineyards, the price of grapes and wine in the Penedès went sky high. As a result a lot of the less productive varieties were abandoned in favor of higher yielding ones. In the Penedès it is believed there were some 30 varieties more than are currently cultivated. As we now know, which often is the case, these lower yielding plants produce more concentrated fruit, these could be excellent candidate for winemaking.

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Once the seven varieties (four whites and three reds) were selected, they grafted 500 vines of each, 250 with vigorous rootstock (Richter 110) and the other half with a less vigorous strain (41-B). The idea is to pick and vinify each strain separately. The wines are made in a small cellar, specifically designed for micro-vinifications with small 500 litre tanks, but all the technological advances of the main cellar.

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To make the project as parcipitative as possible, and to get a feel for the real potential of these varieties, every year they send samples of the wines to 165 people in 24 countries: importers, distributors, sommeliers, wine critics, renowned winemakers, as well as the Consell Regulador de la DO. Penedès and the Institut Català de la Vinya i el Vi (INCAVI). The participants then return their tasting notes and impressions of each wine.

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With this feedback, and their own internal data over five years, they decide which of the varieties have the potential to be planted more extensively to produce wine on a commercial scale. To date they can announce that after the fifth vintage in 2006, they finished the first phase of the project with two white varieties (Marina Rión and Vidal) and one red (Belat) that show both excellent quality and good farming potential. They plan to plant a hectare of each and officially request their approval by the Denominació d’Origen Penedès.

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In the coming years they will work to encourage the official organisms to accelerate the process of approving these three autochthonous varieties that they consider to be important to the future of the Penedès region.

190 to go!

Catalan Wine 365 and the SweetEasy Lifestyle

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