175/365 – Catalonia – D.O. Penedes – Olerdola – Finca Viladellops – Xarel.lo XXX 2012
On the Champs Elysées……,
….., there’s all you want and then some, somehow it applies to Penedes as well. Great Cava, delightful reds and excellent whites. Sometime my fellow wine lovers forget that Penedes is not all about Cava and as I am embarking on my summer 2014 promotional tour of Catalan wines in Sweden, I have the car full of a wide range of fine wines from both Penedes but also from other regions of Catalonia. I really like the song, and even though the Franks are considered to be the an-fathers of the Catalans, I don’t need the Champs Elysées!
Xarel.lo XXX 2012, 40% Xarel.lo from plot 19, 30% Xarel.lo from plot 13 and 30% Xarel.lo Rose from plot 103! How’s that for a grape specification!
Three times Xarel.lo (XXX)! This is a very cool wine! It contains the super grapes of the estate of Viladellops and in addition to that the wine maker added the very scarce Rose Xarel.lo Grape, the so called Vermell! All vineyards have been worked with organic principles in mind and it shows in the wine! Lovely bright golden colour. The nose is floral and buttery, the oak notes are well integrated although it has been aged for seven months in new French oak barrels of 300 and 400 litres. There is a strong presence of mineral elements, enhanced by the permanence of the wine on the lees during ageing. The palate is full and complex, but maintains its freshness and balance due to its good acidity. The evolution of this wine, once in the glass, is remarkable as it is slowly divulging different levels of aromatic complexity. 4.750 bottles produced. Another Super Catalan, this time a white from Penedes! Enjoy!
Viladellops is a small village in the hills between Vilafranca del Penedès, the capital of the famous wine-making region and Sitges, down on the Mediterranean coast. Looking across the valley from Finca Viladellops, one can see the castle of Olèrdola, renowned as the earliest settlement in the region, and which was home to all of the people who have colonized Spain during its history—the Ibers, the Romans, the Goths, the Arabs, the Franks (who finally became the Catalans!). Wine-making has always been a significant part of local agriculture, becoming of overwhelming importance to the Penedès in the second half of the nineteenth century, when the export trade of wine grew and still is growing.
In recent times, the Cava industry has demanded that more and more white varieties be planted, but traditionally both red and white have been planted for a long time. Parellada, Macabeo and Xarel·lo make up the bulk of the whites, whilst the Mediterranean staples Garnacha and Cariñena were also widely planted. The Penedès covers an extensive area, from sea level up to around 800 meters above sea level. This means that there is a wide range of climates and soil types as well as many different local and international grape varieties; in consequence, it is difficult to clearly define the style of wines from this area.
The area of the Garraf lies in the arid, calcareous hills between Vilafranca and Sitges. The village of Viladellops all belongs to the estate; at its centre is the old manor house, directly across the valley from the castle of Olèrdola. The estate of Finca Viladellops is at around 300m above sea level and is about 15km from the Mediterranean. It covers around 500 hectares altogether, of which some 65 are vineyards. These are on generally calcareous and poor soils, which mean that traditional Mediterranean agriculture has always been practiced here: vines, olives and almonds.
The cellar was first built in 1877, a witness to the growing export markets for wines from this region at that time. In more recent times, the vineyards had been planted with Macabeo and Xarel·lo, the staple varieties of the Cava industry. However, in the last ten years they have decided that they wish to make their wines again, according to “what once was” and to make wines which are worthy of the historical name “Viladellops”. Of the 65 hectares of existing vineyard, some 20 have been redrafted or retrained. They posses something that money cannot buy, and that is vines with a great root structure, adapted to the terrain and climate.
For the white wines, principally the Xarel·lo grape variety is being applied, using an innovative system of hoops to train the foliage upwards, giving greater exposure to the sun and improving the flow of air around the grapes, or retraining the vines to a Cordon system. The reds are mostly grafted onto existing roots, and already in their second year, they produce grapes and therefore wines of excellent quality. The key to quality wine making is always the quality of the grapes, and this is no different in Viladellops. The building where the wines are made was built in 1877, but it now contains the simple, modern technology which will help turn their excellent grapes into wines which are at the same time both traditional yet made with the modern consumer in mind. Full, rich and complex but still easy to drink.
The aim is to get the most out of the grapes, adding as little as possible to them. To this end, they will stay in an inert atmosphere at a low temperature from the moment they arrive at the vineyard until they begin to ferment, so that there is absolutely no need to add any sulphur. Both reds and whites begin their fermentation in stainless steel tanks, but the best whites (Xarel·lo and Xarel·lo Rose) will finish their fermentation in French oak. The reds, made from Garnacha, Syrah, Marcelan, Merlot and Cariñena are fermented and then also aged separately. As the Garnacha here in the Penedès is light and perfumed and does not have the structure of a Priorat, for example, it is blended with Marcelan half-way through the ageing process to make sure that the wine is properly balanced. All the wines age in French oak, of which one third are new barrels, in order to avoid an over extraction of woody flavors. Welcome to my world!
204 to go!