Let’s go Organic with Albet I Noya, Evidence in D.O Penedes

319/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Penedes – Sant Pau d’Ordal – Albet I Noya – La MiLana 2011

Evidence……..,

lamilanaLa MiLana 2011, Caladoc, Ull de Llebre (Tempranillo), Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

Dark garnet color, bright with high layers. The primary aromas are those of new wood, they clearly stand out. Once aerated, lots of ripe fruit (red and black) shows their presence. Toasty but well integrated. Mineral notes and hints of vanilla. The palate has a very powerful attack, full-bodied and sweet. Very well integrated tannins. Roasted notes are very present in the mouth as well. Long and persistent. Nice one! The variety Caladoc was created by grape breeder Paul Truel in 1958. The grape is a crossing between Grenache and Malbec that Truel created with the aim of having a vine that could grow in southern France that was less prone to coulure than either of its parents.

La Milana vineyard are 11 terraces that make up 7 ha. around the Can Milà de la Roca farmhouse. 150 years ago this land was farmed directly by Mr Milà’s wife and hence became known as La Milana. The blend of the four varieties is the same proportion as the makeup of the vienyards, making this a true single vineyard wine. Perhaps this is what gives it such harmony and a clear expression of place. Hand picking with a vineyard selection is followed by a triage grape by grape after destemming. The winemaking process is centred on the utmost respect for the fruit of these vineyards..

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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. Albet i Noya continue to research new methods and grape varieties. They are currently experimenting with seven pre-phylloxera grape varieties with 500 vines of each type. They have looked for varieties that had survived naturally in the wild, indicating a high natural resistance to diseases. They are looking for both sensorial and ecological qualities in these vines. Early results indicate two varieties with considerable possibilities. They also work with Incavi (The Catalan institute of Vines and Wine), to select authoctonous varieties that have greater resistance to parasites whilst producing quality fruit.

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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.

 

72 to go!

 

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