188/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Alella – Alella – Alta Alella – Merla 2012
Tell Me If You Still Care……,
Merla 2012, (Natural Wine)
Cherry coloured wine with good aromatic intensity which highlights fruit aromas, amongst which blackberry’s stand out. Some nice licorice notes of well integrated oak ageing and slight woody notes but not at all overwhelming. On the palate, its acidity makes the wine fresh and again, loads of fruity notes. Soft tannins that are very pleasing, long and persistent after taste. The Cavas from Alta Alella are some of my favourite Cavas but this is certainly a great and different natural wine! Lo and behold the crux of the issue and the great secret of Merla: the raw material with which this wine is made. Interspecific grape: a hybrid designed from clones crossing a few varieties that have proven resistant to various vine diseases. A grape-name-in-time, resulting from genetic engineering but is capable of delivering a very noble expression wine with rich fruit load (blackberries, plums) on a mineral background, delicate tannins and with fresh acidity and generous mouth. I LIKE!!!
I have to say that Alella was something that I never heard of during my first year and a half here in Catalonia. I guess I was fully busy covering Priorat, Montsant and the “famous” wine making regions here. Opened my eyes when I first came in touch with wine makers from Alella during a wine fair in Barcelona. Off course all of them were raving about their own region of Alella and the wines produced there. That is and will always be the case with wine makers, my region is the best and my wines are certainly the very best. No need to drink anything else! Full stop!
Here in Catalonia and the rest of Spain, as well as most, if not all Mediterranean countries, local products are the best! Originating from Croatia, having a mother that always held to her principles of all things from my island, as well as the island it self, is the best in the world! That’s it! No discussion! Mother dearest, have you been to all other parts of the world? Have you tried products made in other parts of the world? Truth being, my parents always spent their summer vacations in Croatia and in their opinion, why bother going anywhere else when the best was right there?
Now, I grew up in Sweden. Whole different ball game. In Sweden, you can’t say that all things Swedish are the best, it’s a rule! Stick with it! Good thing about Swedish alcohol politics (having a state monopoly on alcohol), is that the Systembolaget provides wines from all over the world. And due to this fact, I dare say that Swedish consumers are knowledgeable and picky when it come to wine. This is my background, now back to D.O. Alella!
I keep discovering wineries all over Catalonia. I have been enlightened when it comes to the DO:s and know most of them quite well. I do not know all the producers and I guess it will take another lifetime to visit them all and try their, in most cases, wonderful wines. Is Alella the best in the world? Well, the day you are there, the day you sit in the sun outside the winery, you are visiting that day, having a glass of wine or Cava in your hand, YES! That very day, Alella s the best wine growing region in the whole world!
D.O. Alella is conveniantly located only 15 km to the north of the city of Barcelona, which makes it the closes wine making region to this bustling city and perfect for a day trip. It is one of the smallest DOs in Spain as the vineyards have been encroached upon by urban development. Presently it only covers one third of the area that it covered in 1956 when it was established.
Wine production has existed in the area since the time of the ancient Romans, mentioned by Pliny the Elder in his Naturalis Historia and by Martial in his Epigrams, during this time known as vins laietans. Structures have been found at the archaeological site of Veral de Vallmora, near Teià, showing that wine was made there from the 1st to 4th centuries AD. During the Middle Ages Alella wine was served at the court of the Kings of Aragón. As all wine making regions in Europe, Alella to suffered from the phylloxera at the end of the 19th century but the vineyards were successfully replanted using rootstock from the New World.
During the 1920s the region was famous for its Cava. In the 1980s new varieties were introduced and the wine-making methods modernized. The wineries are urban mansions that are built on the slopes overlooking the sea. The height above sea level of the vineyards determines the variety grown and thus the type of wine produced.
There are two distinct areas within the DO:
Maresme, on the foothills overlooking the sea, is influenced by the sun and the Mediterranean breezes. The hills protect the vines from the cold winds and condense the humidity caused by the sea. The wines from this area are smooth with low acidity levels.
Vallès, on the interior slopes facing inland, has a more continental climate. The wines are stronger and more acidic.
The most interesting feature of the D.O. of Allella is the distinctive topsoil which is known as sauló in Catalan. It is basically a white granite-based sand which is very porous and retains heat very well. This helps the grapes to ripen, while the low water retention properties are compensated by the local humid microclimate. The older vines grow freely while the newer vineyards have been planted on trellises. Planting density is between 2,000 and 3,500 vines per hectare.
The winery of Alta Alella is a family business project that started in the early 1990’s. Wine entrepreneur and enologist Josep Maria Pujol-Busquets and his wife Cristina Guillén began this winemaking adventure with enthusiasm after purchasing the art-deco Can Genis Estate, located in the agricultural part of Serralada de Marina Natural Park between the towns of Alella and Tiana.
In 1991, Alta Alella planted its first vines alongside the other traditional variety of Alella, Pansa Blanca (Xarel·lo), followed by a diversity of grape varieties, including the long forgotten Mataró grape which had not been cultivated since the phylloxera epidemic. During the 1990’s the winery and the laboratory were built and the main house was renovated.
After a period of ten years, in 2001, Alta Alella was about to produce its first still wines, the fruitful result of the 6 hectares distributed over terraces and slopes. Currently, in the DO Alella, Alta Alella has 17 hectares situated at an altitude of 100-250m above sea level. Since the undertaking the entire production of Alta Alella has been based on certified organic farming, consciously preserving the biodiversity of the surrounding Natural Park. Therefore, many of the techniques used are as ancient as winemaking itself. The harvest is carried out manually — the grapes are carefully selected– over a period of about two months.
Today, Alta Alella has evolved into a highly mature vineyard and as a prestigious brand. The newly-built Visitor Center where wine lovers have a chance to discover Alta Alella’s privileged location while tasting the still and sparkling wines. This beautiful site is overlooking the magnificent view of the Mediterranean Sea.
193 to go!