I regularly get asked if I have tasted anything surprising or if my wine world is dominated by styles and producers that I know well. The latter is certainly true, but I am always keen to taste new things and dig out wines that might easily be overlooked. I actually held a blind tasting for some clients just recently and it was a joy to showcase some of the unusual wines we have offered over the last 12 months – so many showed so well and their qualities shone out to my tasters. It is a great way to taste as, without the label, there are no preconceived ideas.
This is a wine that stunned me when I tasted it in Spain earlier this year; a pure Parellada Montonega. Ever heard of it? Don’t worry if not. Parellada is a grape variety that is used in the production of Cava and, unsurprisingly, this wine comes from Penedès in Catalonia in north-eastern Spain. It comes from one of the great Spanish, or should I say Catalan, producers, Nin-Ortiz. I love the ambition of Ester Nin and Carles Ortiz. I met with Carles in Priorat earlier this year and was immediately taken with his natural enthusiasm as well as the direction he wants to head with his wines. They have three hectares of vines in Pla de Manlleu in Penedès at an altitude of 700 metres. The Terra Vermella (vermella meaning red in Catalan and alluding to the red clay soils it is grown on) is a striking wine – completely head-turning. It shows terrific complexity and had my mind thinking of Riesling as it has a lively acidity and a certain tautness, and this beautiful purity. It captures notes of tangy citrus oil, peach, apricot, maybe a nutty, kernel-like quality too. There is that viscous touch that also nods towards Riesling and such a tangy, almost tropical character to the finish that had me thinking of pineapple juice and blood orange. And all of this underscored by a taut, mineral acidity that carries it to an amazingly long finish…sounds really good, doesn’t it? Well, it is, and it comes in at 12% alcohol despite the grapes typically being harvested late. This is an organic wine, made following biodynamic principles, produced in small quantities to the exacting standards of Ester and Carles and it is just mesmerising. And all of this for a relatively humble price in the grand scheme of things.
It proves that there are many more ‘discoveries’ for me to make and this is one of those wines that encourages me to keep looking. I read Luis Gutiérrez’s note with interest; I agree with so many of his comments, but I would be inclined to suggest the wine could age further. Extraordinary stuff that should encourage all of us to venture off the beaten track a little more often.