Monday, April 11, 2011

White Grenache From Spain

Back in 2006, English wine writer Julian Jeffs called the Terra Alta district of the Catalunya D.O. “a place to watch.” As is the case with other continental climate regions, Terra Alta is brutally hot in the summer, very cold in the winter, with an average rainfall of just under 20” a year. Most vineyards are planted at elevations of between 1,000 and 1,500 feet. Until recently, this was the back-country, with little in the way of highway access. Things are changing, and one example of how they've changed is Celler Xavier Clua, now in its fourth generation of family ownership. Xavier Clua got his degree in oenology in 1994, got some experience working in Bordeaux, and returned to Terra Alta a year later to announce that he would get the winery out of the bulk wine business and concentrate on producing bottled wines of good quality. To the great good fortune of all concerned, he also married a local girl, Rosa Domènech, herself an oenologist, and also from a vineyard-owning family.

All this by way of introducing a wine that arrived on my doorstep last week, courtesy of Chad Turnbull, head of Brooklyn-based Savorian Wines. Called “Bogatell,” after the beach (and subway stop!) of the same name in Barcelona, this is a 100% garnacha blanca, made from 100-year-old vines and produced by Cellers Xavier Clua. The wine isn't labeled organic, but Clua makes it clear that he is following “natural” precepts: “I don’t like to interfere with nature,” he says. “I just grow ripe fruit, and get out of the way.”

I brought the bottle to Vinsite, to get another palate involved, and the notes reflect both Les's and my own reactions.

Bogatell Garnacha Blanca, D.O. Terra Alta 2010: On the nose, spring pea, herbs, a hint of citrus zest; a bit angular at first. With time, the citrus zest takes center stage, some tropical fruit notes emerge, and the texture becomes fuller and smoother. The wine finishes with the barest snap of acidity and refreshing mineral character. This was very clearly a Spanish take on the grape; we found little family resemblance to grenache blanc, a common component of whites of the southern Rhone. Bogatell is promoted as something to accompany light summer fare; we're inclined to agree. No idea what the pricing on this stuff will be; from talking with Chad Turnbull, it sounds like he's still in the early stages of finding wider distribution for the wine.

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