By Maia Fleming @wwwmaia
Who makes it: Partida Creus
What is it: Xarel-lo
How is it made: Direct press, initial tank fermentation, 10 months in bottle on the lees then disgorged. Practicing organic.
Everyone’s a sucker for good packaging. Wine is no exception. Even professional wine-drinkers (yes, I have a great job, I know!) fall for branding. Earlier this year, Rebel Rebel put Partida Creus’ wine “VN” Vinel-lo Blanco on the list. The second I saw the bottle I knew I was in love. Wax top? Check. Enigmatic, simple, bold label? Check. Slightly clear bottle, fine lees a seductive cloud rising from the bottom? Oh, hello there... And then I tasted the wine. Holy Shit! A fangirl was born. Wine so good it doesn’t need to rely on its packaging, distinctive as it may be.
That being said, I recognized the Xarel-lo Ancestral immediately as the work of Partida Creus, its large “XL” a homing beacon from the Rebel Rebel shelves. Xarel-lo is a white grape variety of Spanish origin best known for its use in the production of Cava. The word “Ancestral” refers the method used to make the wine sparkling. Ancestral is one of the earliest methods of sparkling winemaking, the grape must bottled while fermentation is taking place, trapping the CO2 as the fermentation finishes. The wine is then disgorged but no yeast, sugar or dosage is added. This method is also known as petillant naturel, aka “Pet-Nat.”
Partida Creus wines are made by Antonella Gerona and Massimo Marchiori, ex-architects that stumbled into wine-making after retiring and buying a farm. The husband and wife team fell in love with the farm, roughly an hour south of Barcelona, for its lush almond and olive trees. The rare indigenous grape growing wild on the property? That was a surprise. Eighteen years later, after starting with the Sumoll they discovered, they now make a business of buying old, abandoned, low-yielding vineyards and farming obsolete grape varietals.
This “XL” Ancestral isn’t made with a rare varietal, but Xarel-lo is a classic Catalan grape, perfect for the clay limestone soil. Barely bubbly, tart and bright, the wine has exaggerated minerality and intense acidity. The nose: summer straw piled high, drying in the sun, lemon curd cold from the fridge, banana cream pie, homemade limoncello. Something sweet and something golden. Drink this with ceviche, fish stew, pasta with puttanesca. Or by itself on a patio!