Sweet Garnatxa in the sun, waiting for deliciousness to happen to it.
Cantallops, Spain. The name for English speakers might sound like, “cantaloupes”, but it couldn’t be further from that in meaning. If you take it at face value, in Catalan it means, “singing at wolves”. But it appears if you dig a bit deeper that the name has an old Latin root to it that
Elusive Masia Serra
means something more along the line of “wolves’ rock” which makes much more sense given that the town is built on a massive rock outcropping and they had a big problem with wolves up until the 19th century.
Probably the best thing about this small hamlet sitting on the edge of Pyrenees is that they have two (count ’em) two wineries. One is Masia Serra, which it seems only has its information on the Empordà wines website. It’s a gorgeous place, but not often open, which makes it hard to judge the wines as getting a tasting is tricky.
The other winery is Vinyes dels Aspres. Now, this is a winery that we actually encountered back in 2007 at a Spanish wine show in San Francisco.
2006 bottled and waiting.
I can’t say enough good things about this winery. For starters, the owner, David Molas Albertí is a very enthusiastic guy. He’s restarted his family’s winery after decades of their not producing wine. With the exception of picking the grape harvest, he does everything himself. He bottles, ages, and sells about 40,000 bottles of wine a year.
With all this exuberance, he is producing some incredibly top quality wines. This is the only winery I’ve ever found a White Garnatxa. The red version is everywhere in Catalonia, but no one seems to want to make a white wine of it, possibly due to price disparity with the red fetching more than the white. This is a serious error as in white form it is simply unlike any white that I’ve ever tasted before. Minerally yes, but with a strong, succulent body and light sweetness to it, that makes it great for both white and red drinkers alike. At €12, it’s more expensive than the vast majority of wines in the area, but oh, oh so worth it.
A tough to find White Garnatxa
There is also a young wine that he makes, which was unfortunately a 2008. I say unfortunately because he says (and I completely agree) that it shouldn’t have been released so early. He did so because he sold out of the 2007 long before the holiday season as it was his most reasonable wine at €5.50. Just like in the rest of the world, there is economic crisis in Spain as well and his distributors pushed him in to releasing the 2008 before it was really ready. The problem this caused was that the nose is quite off and needs another three months or more in the bottle to develop. The body however is luscious and smooth, which makes the clumsy nose even more of a shame as many folks might be easily put off by that alone, when it is and will be a great wine.
The other standouts for me were the S’Alou, which is a high-end red made primarily of Garnatxa. It’s a hearty, complex red.
David in the cellars
There is a lot of strawberry in the nose once it opens up properly and the oak in the body is subtle without really being overpowering, yet at the same time strong enough to be appreciated. At €23, it’s getting rather pricey for the region, but is a wine that is very much worth every euro.
But the #1 wine that David is producing is the Bac de les Ginesteres. It’s a sweet wine make from the raisin grapes late in the harvest. If left to age normally, these Garnatxa raisins would produce a sweet wine just like the lower cost Negre de Panses. But, to punch it up another notch, David places the wine in large, clear glass bottles that he then ages them in the sun of all things. I thought they were a joke when I saw what you see at the top of the article, sitting outside the winery, but no, they were the newest release of the wine aging. Again, at €30, it’s a decently high priced sweet wine, but it is transcendent. I have gotten a new appreciation of dessert wines in successive trips to Spain, but this wine, this creation is so above and beyond and Moscatell and Garnatxa sweets that I’ve had before.
The high end S’Alou
The wine is nutty in the glass and like the best sweet Sherries that I’ve ever had. It ceases to be like a normal sweet wine and reaches some other level that I don’t even know what to call it. All I can say is wow. Of course with only 500 bottles a year being produced, it is not easy to come by.
If the wines didn’t speak enough for the winery, David is doing other things to make it stand out. For one, there is the website which is a really nicely done site. He understands marketing, which, while something that California vintners know very well, is not something that European winemakers do that much of. He also sources all of his grapes from his own lands. He doesn’t buy any grapes from outside growers, which is nearly unheard of due to it limiting your production volume. And of the grapes the he grows, Garnatxa is predominant. Every wine that he produces has Garnatxa in it. He does this because it is a local varietal and he feels a good deal of pride in growing it. He doesn’t grow anything like Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay because they aren’t local. David wants to be a Catalan winemaker first and foremost and in this he is doing exceeding well. If Cantallops doesn’t know it now, he will be their star citizen in the coming years which will replace the current star, who was a farmer that shot six wolves in one year back in 1868. I’m joking,although it might not be far from the truth…