Xarel·lo is a white grape native to the Catalunya region of northeastern Spain. It is one of three varieties notably found blended in the sparkling wine Cava. It is used in the traditional blend for Cava because it adds a high level of acid that balances out the richer texture of the grape Macabeo. Cava also gets aged for some time on the yeast cells that have died after the secondary fermentation. The secondary fermentation results in the wine’s sparkling character. The dead yeast cells create a fuller textured wine, which the acid from Xarel·lo is needed to help balance. Xarel·lo is also an aromatic grape known for its strong earthy and herbal aromas. With all of this said, Xarel·lo is not commonly found as a single varietal wine.
This week I drank 2017 Pardas Pur Xarel·lo. First, I was intrigued because it was a white wine that was 5 years old, indicating it is capable of aging. When I checked the notes from the winery, they mentioned that about half of the wine used in this bottle was aged for 8 months in new french oak. This aging process increases the body of the wine (because of a controlled exposure to oxygen) as well as providing tastes of baking spices, vanilla, smoke, toastiness, or coconut to the final wine. Also, the grapes were grown on limestone soils. Limestone increases minerality and acidity in some white wines, such as Chardonnay from the Champagne region in northeastern France or Puligny-Montrachet and Chassagne-Montrachet in the Burgundy region in central eastern France. Taking this into consideration, I was curious how it would compare to a chardonnay (which is a non aromatic grape). As soon as I pulled the cork, the aromatics were immediately evident. The wine was a bright, deep brassy lemon color. The notes of lemon pith, sour green apple, apple cider, lemon thyme, and a crisp minerality jumped from the glass. This bone dry wine had a tight acidity that made me pucker a bit. The acid was beautifully balanced by the fuller texture imparted from the oak aging. While the alcohol content was moderate, it was enough to cause a slight warming after drinking it served at a chilled temperature. In addition to the notes I got on the nose, there was also a touch of fennel at the back of the palate before the extended finish. There were hints of coconut from the oak aging and a marzipan nuttiness from the bottle aging. All of this was combined with the wet stone minerality from the aforementioned limestone soil. As my glass warmed up while typing this, I caught the faint aroma of maple syrup also! This complex wine was a complete departure from a chardonnay, in a fascinating way. It is bottles like this that make me love trying unique and uncommon wines.