2014 Alta Alella Lanius, Catalonia
Alta Alella’s wine range offers a variety of sparkling Cava wines, as well as red, white, and rosé.
At the winery, most dry white wines are made with the autochthonous Pansa Blanca (Xarel-Lo) grape variety, famous for its contribution to the typical Spanish Cava blend. While the other whites are fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks, the Lanius is aged in barrel for 6 months after it is fermented in tank.
We much enjoyed Alta Alella’s entry-level Pansa Blanca called PB and were curious to experience how the variety would be expressed under the influence of oak.
Like all Alta Alella wines though, Lanius is a certified organic wine.
For the context, the 2014 vintage was rather difficult in the region, with rains, high humidity, and not as much sunshine as is usual for the Mediterranean coast.
The winemaker commented that “it has been necessary to choose and sort out in the vineyard and in the cellar, in order to get fresh and aromatic wines”.
So how good is this Alta Alella Lanius barrel-aged still Xarel-Lo?
The answer is in the tasting notes:
The wine has a slightly pale but shiny yellow color.
A rather restrained nose reveals subtle aromas of citrus (lemon and lime), brioche, apricot, and fennel, with a shiny and appealing minerality.
The palate is driven by a good acidity that is well balanced by the right amount of body and a very discrete sweetness sensation (the wine is most likely dry but alcohol, oak, and other compounds provide a balancing impression of sweetness). Together with the lemony flavors, the acidity provides an overall experience of freshness. This wine actually has got something of a Limoncello feel to it.
But the fermentation and aging in barrel has provided additional layers of oaky tones: vanilla and smoke. More importantly it’s brought depth, spiciness and complexity. The wine tastes rather leesy, positively so, but also slightly oxidative in a balanced way (from the barrel maturation that allows oxygen to shape up the aromatic profile of the wine).
There’s a touch of aromatic notes that are reminiscent of a Fino Sherry, the saltiness of the wine doesn’t contradict this feeling!
This almost-salty minerality is quite typical of the granitic Saulo soil found on the Alella D.O. and particularly on Alta Alella’s estate.
A wine that is fresh, refreshing, and pleasing to sip simply, but with layers of oaky, leesy, and mineral depth towards the finish. With a great balance driven by an enjoyable acidity, it will satisfy lovers of fresh mineral styles of white wines, as well as amateurs of an oaky, smoky, long and flavorsome ones.
When to drink?
Drink now and within the next couple of years. The oak might be integrated a bit more in little while, but nutty oxidative notes that are well in balance now and provide complexity, may become a too dominant for some palates with too long a cellaring.
Given the location of Alta Alella winery on hills directly facing the Mediterranean, and the iodine minerality found in all the winery’s wines including this one (most probably from the Saulo granitic soil characteristic of the Alella D.O. appellation), one can’t stop thinking that seafood dishes or entrees is what this wine needs.
The distinctive smokiness and lemony feel to this wine suggests grilled seafood or white fish dishes or tapas.